youtube pinterest twitter facebook instagram vimeo Bookmark Entries BURGER NEW Chevron Down Chevron Left Chevron Right Basket Speech Comment Search Video Play Icon Premium Nigella Lawson Vegan Vegetarian Member Speech Recipe Bookmark Comment Camera Scales Quantity List Reorder Remove Open book
Menu Signed In
More Nigella recipes

Spiced and Superjuicy Roast Turkey

by . Featured in NIGELLA CHRISTMAS
Print me

Introduction

For me the only turkey is a brined one. Not only does it tenderize and add subtle spiciness, but it makes carving the turkey incredibly much easier. You have only to try this method to be utterly convinced. And I mean to say: how hard is it to fill a pan or large plastic bin or bucket with water and spices and lower a turkey into it? At this time of year, it’s fine just to leave it in a cold place. I sit mine by an open window in the kitchen. It means everyone freezes, but who am I going to put first – my turkey or my family? Out in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one would also be fine, though the pan must be securely covered: if I’ve got a bucket or bin out in the open, I cover it twice with foil and then put my son’s skateboard on top to prevent foxy foraging.

And, though you might find it hard to believe sight unseen, a raw turkey covered in brine – with its oranges, cinnamon sticks, and scattering of spices – looks so beautiful as it steeps that I can never help lifting the lid for quick, blissfully reassuring peeks.

For me the only turkey is a brined one. Not only does it tenderize and add subtle spiciness, but it makes carving the turkey incredibly much easier. You have only to try this method to be utterly convinced. And I mean to say: how hard is it to fill a pan or large plastic bin or bucket with water and spices and lower a turkey into it? At this time of year, it’s fine just to leave it in a cold place. I sit mine by an open window in the kitchen. It means everyone freezes, but who am I going to put first – my turkey or my family? Out in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one would also be fine, though the pan must be securely covered: if I’ve got a bucket or bin out in the open, I cover it twice with foil and then put my son’s skateboard on top to prevent foxy foraging.

And, though you might find it hard to believe sight unseen, a raw turkey covered in brine – with its oranges, cinnamon sticks, and scattering of spices – looks so beautiful as it steeps that I can never help lifting the lid for quick, blissfully reassuring peeks.

Spiced and Superjuicy Roast Turkey
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Serves: 8-12

Metric Cups

For the Turkey Brining

  • approx. 6 litres water
  • 1 large orange or 2 smaller (quartered)
  • 250 grams maldon salt (or 125g / ½ cup table salt)
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 2 onions (unpeeled and quartered)
  • 1 x 6 centimetres piece of fresh root ginger (unpeeled and cut into 6 slices)
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons runny honey
  • stalks from 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 x 5½ kilograms turkey

For the Basting Glaze

  • 75 grams goose fat (or butter)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

For the Turkey Brining

  • approx. 6 litres water
  • 1 large orange or 2 smaller (quartered)
  • 1 cup sea salt flakes (or 125g / ½ cup table salt)
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 onions (unpeeled and quartered)
  • 2½ inches piece of fresh gingerroot (unpeeled and cut into 6 slices)
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • stalks from 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 12 pounds turkey

For the Basting Glaze

  • ⅓ cup goose fat (or butter)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

Method

  1. Put the water into your largest cooking pot or a bucket or plastic bin. Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the water before you chuck the husks in, then add all the other ingredients, stirring to combine the salt, sugar, syrup and runny honey.
  2. Remove any string or trussing from the turkey, shake it free, remove the giblets, if not already done, and put them in the fridge (or straightaway set about making the stock for the gravy), then add the bird to the liquid, topping up with more water if it is not completely submerged.
  3. Keep covered in a cold place, even outside overnight or for up to a day or two before you cook it, remembering to take it out of its liquid (and wipe it dry with kitchen paper) 1-2 hours before it has to go into the oven.
  4. Read the Important Note below, and preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/400ºF.
  5. Melt the goose fat (or butter) and maple syrup together slowly over a low heat. Paint the turkey with the glaze before roasting in the oven, and baste periodically throughout the cooking time.
  6. Roast for 2½ hours. When you think it’s ready, pierce the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the body meets the leg, and if the juices run clear, it’s cooked; if still pink, cook it for longer until they run clear, or use a meat thermometer.
  7. Then take the turkey out of the oven, and let it sit, tented with foil, for 20–40 minutes or even longer if you like, as I do.
  1. Put the water into your largest cooking pot or a bucket or plastic bin. Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the water before you chuck the husks in, then add all the other ingredients, stirring to combine the salt, sugar, syrup and honey.
  2. Remove any string or trussing from the turkey, shake it free, remove the giblets, if not already done, and put them in the fridge (or straightaway set about making the stock for the gravy), then add the bird to the liquid, topping up with more water if it is not completely submerged.
  3. Keep covered in a cold place, even outside overnight or for up to a day or two before you cook it, remembering to take it out of its liquid (and wipe it dry with kitchen paper) 1-2 hours before it has to go into the oven.
  4. Read the Important Note below, and preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/400ºF.
  5. Melt the goose fat (or butter) and maple syrup together slowly over a low heat. Paint the turkey with the glaze before roasting in the oven, and baste periodically throughout the cooking time.
  6. Roast for 2½ hours. When you think it’s ready, pierce the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the body meets the leg, and if the juices run clear, it’s cooked; if still pink, cook it for longer until they run clear, or use a meat thermometer.
  7. Then take the turkey out of the oven, and let it sit, tented with foil, for 20–40 minutes or even longer if you like, as I do.

Additional Information

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Turkey cooking times tend to seem quite short if you are used to the "standard" formula for calculating cooking times for poultry. However we have all been overcooking turkeys for years and complaining how dry and sawdusty they are. The table below gives my suggested timings for turkey.

The timings in the table are for a free-range turkey - these tend to have more fat than a lean mass-produced bird and the marbling of fat in the free-range turkey tends to conduct the heat faster meaning that it cooks more quickly. It also assumes that the turkey has been allowed to come up to room temperature before cooking (take the turkey out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you want to cook it) and that the turkey has no stuffing and is not trussed. If you are stuffing your turkey, then you must weigh the already-stuffed bird, and cook according to the table below.

When the turkey has had its allotted time in the oven check that it is cooked by piercing the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the meat is thickest, behind the knee joint of the thigh, if the juices that run out are clear then the turkey is cooked. If they are still pink then let the turkey have another 15-20 minutes in the oven and test again.

You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check if the turkey is cooked - this will be at 74ºC/165ºF. When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes, out of a draught. If you are still nervous about turkey timings then we would also suggest that you consider brining your turkey as this will keep the bird moist even after longer cooking times. If you are brining your turkey then do cook your stuffing separately.

We would like to mention that in the US the FDA recommends that turkeys are cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF.


Turkey cooking times - oven fully preheated to 200ºC/400ºF

Weight of Bird : Cooking Time

2.25kg/5lb : 1 ½ hours 3.5kg/8lb : 1 ¾ hours 4.5kg/10lb : 2 hours 5.5kg/12lb : 2 ½ hours 6.75kg/15lb : 2 ¾ hours 7.5kg/17lb : 3 hours 9kg/20lb : 3 ½ hours 11.5kg/25lb : 4 ½ hours

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Turkey cooking times tend to seem quite short if you are used to the "standard" formula for calculating cooking times for poultry. However we have all been overcooking turkeys for years and complaining how dry and sawdusty they are. The table below gives my suggested timings for turkey.

The timings in the table are for a free-range turkey - these tend to have more fat than a lean mass-produced bird and the marbling of fat in the free-range turkey tends to conduct the heat faster meaning that it cooks more quickly. It also assumes that the turkey has been allowed to come up to room temperature before cooking (take the turkey out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you want to cook it) and that the turkey has no stuffing and is not trussed. If you are stuffing your turkey, then you must weigh the already-stuffed bird, and cook according to the table below.

When the turkey has had its allotted time in the oven check that it is cooked by piercing the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the meat is thickest, behind the knee joint of the thigh, if the juices that run out are clear then the turkey is cooked. If they are still pink then let the turkey have another 15-20 minutes in the oven and test again.

You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check if the turkey is cooked - this will be at 74ºC/165ºF. When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes, out of a draught. If you are still nervous about turkey timings then we would also suggest that you consider brining your turkey as this will keep the bird moist even after longer cooking times. If you are brining your turkey then do cook your stuffing separately.

We would like to mention that in the US the FDA recommends that turkeys are cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF.


Turkey cooking times - oven fully preheated to 200ºC/400ºF

Weight of Bird : Cooking Time

2.25kg/5lb : 1 ½ hours 3.5kg/8lb : 1 ¾ hours 4.5kg/10lb : 2 hours 5.5kg/12lb : 2 ½ hours 6.75kg/15lb : 2 ¾ hours 7.5kg/17lb : 3 hours 9kg/20lb : 3 ½ hours 11.5kg/25lb : 4 ½ hours

Tell us what you think

What 18 Others have said

  • I took this recipe all the way to Trinidad, W.I, for Christmas, and it was an absolute success. The compliments were never ending, coming from both turkey and non-turkey lovers alike. Very succulent and tasty. It's a winning recipe. Thank you!

    Posted by on 15th January 2016
  • I can't recommend this recipe for turkey highly enough. This is the first time I have cooked my turkey as instructed and it's truly delicious. I will never do it any other way and it's so simple - thank you!

    Posted by Bella-marella on 26th December 2015
  • We made this turkey today and my family said it was the best, most succulent turkey we have ever had. Thanks Nigella, you are a goddess!

    Posted by Ralph GNNNHM on 25th December 2015
  • Tried this turkey last year and all 17 members of our falmily begged me to cook the same this year and many years to come!

    Posted by pinkel on 22nd December 2015
  • Anyone concerned about the cooking time of this turkey - DON'T BE. The brine makes it super moist, I literally can't believe how good it was. I know I'm writing the review 10 months late but just thinking about this year's Christmas menu and looking forward to having this on the table again. Whole family (including parents-in-laws, siblings, husband and kids) said it was the best turkey they've ever had. Everyone should be using this recipe! xx

    Posted by TillyD on 26th October 2015
  • It's a great recipe, use it every year! Lucifleur

    Posted by Lucifleur on 4th January 2015
  • For the last three years I have brined my turkey ... This is the way to go .... Everybody has a great giggle when I tell them I am gonna put the turkey in it's bath but trust me it works. Gone are the days of having a dry turkey try it you will never go back !!

    Posted by MariekeSpruitenburg on 25th December 2014
  • Followed this recipe for a Thanksgiving Dinner using a de-frosted, (bought frozen at Aldi) turkey and it was absolutely delicious. Moist, fragrant and very tasty!!!! Am going to use it again and again now.............

    Posted by lucyhayward on 3rd December 2014
  • We prepared our Christmas turkey using this recipe last year and WOW! It was the best turkey we have ever eaten. Don't think i'll have it any other way from now on!

    Posted by Tel1208 on 13th February 2014
  • Hi, saw the Turkey brine bucket of 'elixir' recipe on one of Nigellas Christmas shows. Tried it a couple of weeks ago for the first time - Marvellous - and I'm a complete novice in the kitchen. My prepping and cooking even looked like Nigellas on the TV ! Outstanding. Thanks Nigella.

    Posted by Grazzier on 17th January 2014
  • This is the second Christmas in a row I have used this recipe. Once you brine, you never go back! Simply delicious!

    Posted by loncccsb on 29th December 2013
  • I cooked using this recipe in 2011 and it was most delicious. So I was looking to find this recipe again. Thank you very much. Season Greetings Ana

    Posted by Anamcluhan on 17th December 2013
Show more comments