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Brined to retain moisture, then basted with butter and wine while roasting, this turkey, the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, is golden and juicy. The bird is brined for 24 hours, so leave plenty of time for this recipe. If you don't brine yours, skip steps 1 and 2.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 2005



Cook's Notes

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees. For a moister bird, we cooked ours to 165 degrees; it will continue to cook outside the oven as it rests.

Martha made this recipe on Cooking School episode 406.

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How would you rate this recipe?
  • angelandaida
    23 NOV, 2018
    This was my first time making a turkey (2018), I used the recipe, minus the leeks and due to a smaller turkey (14lbs), I cut back on the amount of salt & sugar. To make sure the brine was good and not to salty, I tasted a small sample and it was good. For those that live in the North East, if you don't have space in your fridge, as I read from some of the post; I placed the turkey in the bag with the brine and placed it outside on my balcony for 24 hours.
  • morell2006
    22 NOV, 2018
    I've been using this recipe since 2003. This brine works great, although I do add a head garlic cut in half, skin and all and lemon cut in half. The cheesecloth is my go to method whether we make a whole turkey or do a deconstructed turkey --(good for a small party) every part cooks as it should because you remove the breast from the oven when its done and leave the dark meat to cook up. The cheesecloth does give the turkey a lovely deep brown color.
  • kcribbs8811306
    25 NOV, 2017
    I prepared the brine precisely as directed, soaked the expensive organic free-range turkey exactly as directed, and roasted the bird as directed by the recipe. The result was a beautifully-browned, moist, but INEDIBLE, extremely over-salted disaster. None of my nine dinner guests could get past the first bite or two because of the mouth-burning saltiness. (None of us arere on no-salt or low-salt diets, and none of us are salt-averse.) I trusted the Martha Stewart name, but will never do so again.
    • morell2006
      22 NOV, 2018
      This recipe is for an 18-20 lb turkey. Could it be they had a smaller bird? I rationed the salt and sugar based on my turkey which was smaller. And yes, never use table salt for brine.
    • JohnR101
      15 NOV, 2018
      I’m sure that’s exactly what the original poster did, used table salt instead of kosher salt. So obviously, they DID NOT follow the recipe exactly! There is a HUGE difference between table salt and kosher salt, I’ve been using Martha’s turkey brine and “Turkey 101” recipes every year for well over ten years, as well as using the pan drippings for gravy, and have NEVER had a “salty” outcome.
    • SLJoubs
      10 NOV, 2018
      I also make this brine every year (for the last 10 years or so). The results are the BEST TURKEY ever. Even if you go with an inexpensive, store bought and/or frozen Turkey, your guests will think you purchased an expensive farm fresh bird! This recipe never fails me, and I agree with the previous comment about using table salt. Also, I eventually replaced the water with cooking wine. Either way you choose, you can't go wrong with this brine recipe!
    • MS10022250
      9 NOV, 2018
      i make this every year and it amazing! did you perhaps use table salt? It must be kosher salt or similar, table salt is a smaller grain and should never be used for cooking.
  • rittenhousec
    24 NOV, 2017
    This worked really well. The turkey was very tender and juicy. Since I have to eat Paleo, I made a different stuffing, but everything turned out really well. The cheese cloth seemed to be the perfect method for basting and keeping it from drying out. This is be my next year's method.
  • MS11433616
    15 NOV, 2017
    love the receip
  • dava5722
    23 NOV, 2014
    Brining is the best thing that ever happened to turkey. I have used this method since Martha's initial presentation with consistently excellent results. Dry the brined bird very, very well to insure a crisp golden skin. I completely submerge frozen bird in ice cold (ICE COLD) brine in an ice chest 7 days before Thanksgiving. I add ice daily to maintain a temperature of 35 - 40 degrees. Cavity is stuffed with onion, garlic, citrus and herbs. Perfect every time!
  • lgid
    4 NOV, 2014
    Let me start this review by saying that I've never brined a turkey and probably never will. However (and that's a very large "but), I have used this recipe beginning at Step 3 for well over 15 years. Ever since I made my first Martha Stewart turkey, my family (who would rather have passed on the turkey) requests that I make this one. It's the best turkey ever. I also make Ina's cornbread stuffing. My gravy is Martha's using winter vegetables (lots of work but worth the effort).
  • Terri Bretch
    30 NOV, 2013
    Alton Brown disagrees inasmuch as he brines the whole turkey, not just the breast. It turns out just fine brining the whole thing.
  • Cookies-Tea
    1 DEC, 2012
    I used this recipe last Christmas on the first turkey I have ever cooked. I bought an 18 lb. turkey and followed the recipe to a "T". It turned out moist and delicious! My family has requested that I make it again this Christmas. The drippings make into a fantastic gravy too!
  • Christopher Fill
    25 NOV, 2012
    My first time brining a turkey and it turned out superb! The recipe only calls for 10 cups of water because the only part of the turkey that is submerged is the breast (the water does not cover the entire bird). Remember to use a fresh turkey with no additives, the frozen birds often have salty injections in them. Also remember to use kosher salt (not table). I used a 14 pound bird and took the measurements down proportionately. It only took 2 hours and 45 minutes, but I did not stuff it.

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