Rodriguez-Hakes Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner – Brining the bird for the first time….

I love to research recipes. Part of the fun of cooking is to see what everyone else had done, marry or pull it apart and make it my own. My sister does this as well – so perhaps you do too! I have some friends who follow recipes and directions to the letter, so I’m going to include my plans for those of you.

My goal for this blog post is to give you a little history of my research, and give you my step-by-step process for my Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner. You decide if you want to marry, pull it apart or follow along.

According to Cook’s Illustrated the core brining formula is 1 gallon of water and 1 cup of table salt for a 4 to 6 hour brine. For a 12- to 14-hour brine you would reduce the salt by half.

Most chefs’ today use kosher salt because it dissolves easier. This would change your 4 – 6 hour core brining formula to 1 ½ cups of Morton’s Kosher Salt with 1 gallon of water.

Researching other chef’s brining recipes, such as Alton Brown and Martha Stewart, I notice that they use a slightly different formula but they usually brine longer than 4 to 6 hours. They also add in several ingredients in order add flavor to the turkey. Add-in I’ve seen are: regular sugar, brown sugar, allspice berries, ginger, peppercorn, maple sugar, soy sauce, herbs and even bourbon! Alton uses vegetable broth and water in his brine.

So why brine? According to Rita Heikenfeld, “brining makes the bird more moist, seasoned and better able to withstand heat in the oven. Without getting too technical, brining allows a greater concentration of water, salt and flavorings to flow into the cells. It also cleans the bird of any residue. Once exposed to heat, much of the water is prevented from leaking out, giving you a better bird.”

So what is this queen of quick & easy going to do? I like the taste of turkey and don’t want to mask the taste with too many flavorings so I’m going to use some basics. My objective to brine this years’ turkey is to produce is a moist and succulent bird (and experiment on my family…). My turkeys in the past have been great without the brine – but I’m taking it up a notch and taking advantage of a rare occurrence of being in my own kitchen for Thanksgiving. Not to mention I am super excited about my mom, sister and her family joining us this year for Thanksgiving. (Wishing my brother and his family could join us as well… but I’m maybe next year.)

So here’s the basic plan:

Wednesday: Pick up my fresh pre-ordered 15 lb Turkey

Wednesday night before dinner (approx 5ish): prepare the brine and refrigerate. This is also a good time to make your cranberry sauce and refrigerate for the next day.

Wednesday after dinner (approx 8ish) submerge the turkey in the brine and put in the fridge overnight.

Thursday morning (8 – 10 AM): remove turkey from brine, wash and pat dry. Allow to air dry in the fridge until you are ready to prep.

Thursday 1:30 PM: Spread turkey with butter, place on roasting rack, add veggies to pan and cook for about 3 – 4 hours until thick part of breast reaches 165 F. ** note a leave in temperature probe with alarm is a great investment!

Thursday 4ish: prepare and bake the stuffing, prep the potatoes and veggies.

Right before dinner: make the gravy

Dinner time (5Pish): Serve turkey along with mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans, carrots, salad, and dinner rolls. Leave room for dessert 😉

So that’s the basic plan for our Thanksgiving dinner. I have provided some basic recipes below, as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or post any comments here.

For those seeking some safety guidelines and cooking time table from the USDA you can click here:

I pray you all have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

Peace to you,


————————– RECIPES ————————————-

Betty’s 12 – 14 hour (overnight) Brine:

2 gallons water
1 ½ cup Kosher Salt (Morton’s)
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of whole peppercorns
3 bay leaves
Add all ingredients over medium-high heat and cook until sugar and salt dissolve.
Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
When bring is completely cooled: submerge the turkey in a container/bag large enough to hold your turkey. Refrigerate overnight 12 – 14 hours.

Roasting your Turkey:

1 stick of butter
2 onions, cut in quarters
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 cloves of garlic
Fresh rosemary and thyme
Soften butter at room temperature. Slab turkey with butter. Insert 1 quartered onion and a couple of springs of herbs into the cavity of the bird.
Place the rest of the vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan. Make sure you use a roasting pan with a rack.
Place in the oven for 45 min’s at 425 F. Lower the temperature to 325 F, baste the turkey and allow to cook until the thick part of the breast reaches 165 F.
Allow to sit, covered with foil, for 15 – 20 minutes. In the meantime, make the make the gravy and finish up the vegetables.


Turkey Drippings
2 cups Chicken broth
¼ cup Cornstarch
After you have removed the turkey to allow to rest. Remove all the vegetables from the pan and pour the gravy into a gravy separator and allow to sit for a few minutes until the oil has separated. Discard the vegetables (or if you want a thicker & add to the flavor of the gravy you can mash them in a food mill or processor).
Deglaze the bottom of the pan with about ¼ cup of white wine and allow to boil for about a minute. Mix the cold chicken broth and cornstarch until dissolved, add into the pan and allow to cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until thick. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste and pour into gravy bowl.
note: add more cornstarch or liquid to create the desired consistency of the gravy.

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  1. I am so fascinated at how interesting the stuff is on this site. I have saved this page and I truly intend on visiting the site in the next few days. Keep up the great work!

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