The Perfect Turkey

The Perfect Turkey

Nothing spells the holidays more than a beautifully roasted turkey on the table.

The smell. The presentation. And the taste.


The perfect roasted turkey on a white platter

To brine, or not to brine.

There is a lot of discussion about this, and I’ve tried both ways. We always feel brining makes the meat even more moist and flavorful. It truly is The Perfect Turkey.

There will be those who will tell you it’s not worth the effort, but we firmly believe it is!

We use a big ole cooler, large brining bags, and either lots of ice, or place the cooler outside, as long as the temperature is nice and cold.

Brining liquid being poured onto a turkey in a cooler


Apple cider is a wonderful ingredient to use for your brine.

The salt and other aromatics help make the bird so moist and so flavorful.

apple cider being poured into a pot for a turkey brine

Simple fresh herbs and citrus will deepen the flavor after they cook inside the cavity of the bird.

The smell is truly magnificent.

Herbs, onions and lemons for cooking the perfect turkey

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for about 15 years…and I feel pretty confident to call this The Perfect Turkey.  Although, next year…I’ll probably tweak some more, I just can’t help myself.

Most important…get an instant-read thermometer that you can insert into the turkey and watch the temp without having to open your oven.

This keeps it moist and flavorful!

Insta-read thermometer in the perfect turkey

Be sure to tent the breast and legs after the initial roasting.

Try and resist opening the oven as much as possible.

But do keep an eye on the bird to prevent any of the skin browning too much.

Perfect turkey with foil in the oven

I must say…I just made this, and the Loon nearly passed out when he took his first bite (which happens every year).  I’m a big believer in brining…it deepens the flavor of the meat, and makes it buttery tender.  Oh my.  You will be so thankful.

The perfect Thanksgiving feast takes time and pre-planning. It is wonderful with my Thanksgiving Dressing and Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Sherry Vinaigrette.   And incredible the next day with our Day-After-Thanksgiving Open-Face Sandwich!

Start thinking about this now.   Write down the time schedule.  And you’ll be perfect.  As perfect as this Perfect Turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all!

The perfect turkey on a Thanksgiving table

The perfect roasted turkey on a white platter

The Perfect Turkey

This Perfect Turkey recipe is fool-proof. The key here is brining (you can find a brine bag at your supermarket)...and an instant-read thermometer. No guessing...once the inner meat hit 160're good to go. Just get started a couple days before you want to serve...and you'll be golden...just like this turkey. You're guests will flip.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Thanksgiving
Cuisine: Poultry
Keyword: Turkey
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 286kcal



  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup ground allspice
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1 gallon cold water


  • 1 15 - 20 lb fresh turkey
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or unsalted butter
  • 2 onions quartered
  • 2 lemons quartered
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 cups chicken stock



  • In a large stock pan, simmer 4 cups of the apple cider, Kosher salt, allspice and bay leaves. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Add the remaining 3 quarts of cider and another gallon (4 quarts) of water.
  • Place turkey into a large brine bag and then put in a large cooler.
  • Now...gently add the cooled brine.
  • Either place in the fridge, or cover the brine bag in the cooler with ice...and let rest for 24 hours.


  • Pre-heat the oven to 500 F
  • Remove the turkey from the bag, and let drain in your sink.
  • Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
  • Rub canola oil (or butter) all over the turkey...about 1/4 cup.
  • Lightly salt and pepper the skin (not too's already soaked in salt from the brine).
  • Stuff the cavity with quartered onions and lemons, as well as the aromatics: thyme, rosemary and sage.
  • Place on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan, breast side up.
  • Insert the instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.
  • Add the chicken stock to the pan (use the drippings for gravy, later).
  • Place in the oven and bake on high for 30 minutes. Leave the thermometer temperature display on the outside of the oven, so you can keep an eye on the temp.
  • After the 30 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the heat to 350.
  • Add pieces of foil over the parts of the bird that have turned dark: wings, sides, etc.
  • Now, return the turkey to the oven, and cook until the internal temp reaches 161° F...about 2 1/2 hours for an 18 - 20 lb bird.
  • Remove from oven...carve. And be in heaven.


Calories: 286kcal
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!



  • Just found your site and I love it already. My question to you is do you use a store bought turkey, which I think is always pre-brined, for this method?

    • Hi Jay! So glad you found us and we found you!! We usually go with a fresh (store bought) turkey and then brine it ourselves. But, if you do get a pre-brined bird, then you can skip the brining portion of the recipe. It’s so good!! Let us know if you make the turkey and how it turns out!! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • Thank you so much for this recipe. I had not cooked a turkey in about 20 years and was a bit rusty. This recipe was very easy to follow and so amazing! Everyone at Thanksgiving raved about how delicious and moist the turkey was. It was a hit!

  • Thank you so much for this recipe. I had not cooked a turkey in about 20 years and was a bit rusty. This recipe was very easy to follow and so amazing! Everyone at Thanksgiving raved about how delicious and moist the turkey was.

    • Paula, that is so wonderful to hear. Congratulations! Sounds like you hit it out of the part. So glad the recipe was a success for you. Happy Thanksgiving, and please stay in touch. All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • Howdy,
    I am first time turkey maker with a firefighter husband and I wanted to get this perfect. I love your other recipes and know this is going to come out perfect but I wanted to get any ideas about putting the bird in a roaster to ensure it’s cooked throughout after the 500 degree setting. What do you think? And how would that work?

    • Hi Bree! I would definitely recommend using an Insta-read thermometer that you can insert to the thickest part of the bird, and keep the reader part of the thermometer on the outside. I’ve not cooked a turkey in a roaster, but my mother has to great success. The quick 500° setting just helps to create a quick crispness on the skin and lock in juices. Keep an eye on the skin to make sure it’s not browning too quickly.

      You’ll be great and let us know if you have any other questions! Happy Thanksgiving!! xo Kris & Wesley

  • Although I am a big believer of brining — I have now switched to “Dry Brining” ala J. Kenji-Lopez Alt (The Food Lab), “Meathead” Goldman (Amazing Ribs) and others. Have you guys tried that approach? I have and I will admit it’s just as juicy etc. as a wet brine and maybe 10% of the work.

    I also spatchcock the bird too to make sure it roasts evenly (and fast!) — which is fairly critical for dry brining I guess come to think about it. 🙂

    Anyway — love what you guys do — but give Spatchcocking and Dry Brining a try sometime — may change your life. LOL

    • We LOVE spatchcocking, and in fact..that’s what we’re doing this Thanksgiving! Dry brining is wonderful, too. As is a deep-fried turkey! That’s what’s so great with Thanksgiving, there are multiple ways to make classic dishes, and almost always…they are absolutely divine!

      Thank YOU so much for reaching out to us. Means the world to us. Please stay in touch and please have an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving. All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • You both are such a pleasure to watch and your videos are fantastic! Thank you for this gorgeous brined and roasted turkey recipe! It looks quite easy and certainly delicious!! I keep most all of your recipes I receive in my email and am always happy to get a new one from you!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

    • Lucy! Thank you so very, very much. We are so happy to hear from you and we hope you and your loved ones have the most lovely Thanksgiving ever. Please stay in touch! Best, Kris & Wesley

    • Hi Betsy! Absolutely, instead of stuffing with the lemon, onion and aromatics….just stuff it with your stuffing…but I would let it cook for another 15 – 20 minutes to ensure the inner most part to the bird if fully cooked. It’s delicious, we’ve done it both ways. Happy Turkey Day!!

  • Looks great. Just for clarity, what type (brand) of Kosher salt for brining? When measuring by volume as you do, it makes a difference in the total sodium levels.

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