Thanksgiving Turkey (domestic)

My way of cooking a domestic turkey is loosely borrowed from Alton Brown of Food TV’s “Good Eats”. The key is the brining process. Brining adds flavor and moisture, both good things when it comes to turkey, Another important element is roasting the bird breast side down. Don’t place the turkey in a rack. Just cut some wedges from an apple and an onion and use them to keep the bird from falling over while cooking. It’ll also add flavor to the pan drippings.

I use a 5 gallon bucket to brine a turkey. You can use a small cooler or any large non-reactive container. While brining, keep the water cold with a zipper lock bag full of ice cubes, cold packs (in zipper lock bags also) or a frozen bottle of water. Don’t add additional ice to the brine or it will dilute the solution. You may also additional flavors to the brine – allspice, Italian seasoning, etc. How many gallons of water you need will depend on the size of the turkey. Make certain that the whole bird is in the brine.

I’m not a turkey stuffer. Stuffing a bird increases the cooking time and encourages overcooking. Stuffing keeps the heat from getting to the inside of the breast. Very often, by the time the inside is finally done, the outside of the breast is overcooked.


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5 from 1 vote

Thanksgiving Turkey (domestic)


For every gallon of water used to submerge turkey, add:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 T garlic powder
  • 3 T onion powder
  • 1 quart ice


  • Heat 2 – 3 cups of the water in a saucepan. Add salt, sugar and seasonings and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool and add to the rest of the water. Add ice. Place turkey, breast side down, in brine. Keep cold for 6 – 8 hours.
  • Remove bird from brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with vegetable or canola oil. Place turkey breast side up in a roasting pan (see info above).
  • Place pan in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and flip bird over on to the breast. You’re going to cook it breast side down. All of the juices will go to the breast and that’s good. Cover with foil. Roast until internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast is 160 degrees. If desired, flip the bird over for the last 20 – 30 minutes to crisp up the skin.
  • Let the bird rest for 20 minutes before carving. It’s been through hell, literally. Place the turkey on a carving surface and, starting at the breastbone, remove both sides of the breast completely. Don’t slice while on the body. Carve along the breastbone and remove the whole breast on each side. Then carve on the cutting board and arrange on a platter. Carve leg and thigh meat and add to platter.
  • Save the carcass and use to make the best soup ever!


  1. Dan on December 23, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    Used this recipe since 2009, best turkey ever. Decided to try it with a spatchcock turkey today on my green mountain grill.

    • Scott Leysath on December 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Love to hear this!

  2. Robert Harman on November 19, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    I love this Recipe, and have been using it for years ever since I heard you talk about it on the radio while I was driving to work one day…
    The only change I have made is I will inject it with chicken broth, and use Apple juice instead of water with the brine ingredients, I get a 15 pound turkey then put it in a two and half ziplock bag, it fits perfectly and then put it in an ice chest and ice it down anywhere from one to two days…
    then when I place it in the smoker/BBQ I will coat it with honey…
    cook to 162 degrees any more it will start to dry it out..
    I know you say you don’t like stuff it, but I normally add apples in the cavity, and have used onions before also, either way I have NEVER had any complaints!
    Thank You for this recipe!!!

    • Scott Leysath on November 19, 2021 at 2:17 pm

      A good recipe made better. THanks!

  3. Philip Gilbert on November 23, 2022 at 4:07 pm

    5 stars
    I use your brine recipe every year and it always come out great! This year I substituted honey for brown sugar as I need to get rid of 75# of last-year-honey. I also put the bucket outside the kitchen door. I may have to put a blanket on the bucket if it gets too cold tonight. Lots of bucket ice in San Diego; need to keep from freezing in Montana. Tomorrow the spatchcock turkey goes on the BG egg.

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