I’m a huge believer in brining your Thanksgiving turkey. This year I’m cheating a bit by using a brining salt and seasoning mix that someone gave me as a present last year. However, if I didn’t have something like that on hand, I’d make this Vanilla Brined Thanksgiving Turkey recipe that was sent to me by the folks at Spice Islands. While I’ve used honey, maple syrup and agave in my brines, I haven’t used this many seasonings or vanilla extract, so I bet the flavor’s unique and fantastic.
I’ve also included their recipe for Vanilla Bourbon Butter for the outside of the turkey and their recommended aromatics for the inside of the turkey along with directions for roasting it. We smoke our turkey in our Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, but I bet this recipe will be fine for either cooking method.
When it comes to brining, you can use a large bucket or cooler. Make sure it’s super clean by washing it with hot soapy water. Wash down the container with a bleach solution, then rinse it several times. Or you can brine in a brining bag (sold at gourmet shops and places like Bed, Bath and Beyond) and keeping the brining bag and its contents in a large cooler with lots of ice to keep everything cold. If you live in a cold area, keeping the brining bucket or cooler in the garage (assuming that temperatures in your area are around freezing) instead of a refrigerator works well, too.
Vanilla Brined Thanksgiving Turkey
Recipe courtesy of Spice Islands
- 1 whole turkey (16 to 20 pounds), giblets removed, cleaned and patted dry
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup Spice Islands Old Hickory Smoked Salt
- 2 tablespoons Spice Islands White Pepper, Ground
- 1 tablespoon Spice Islands Cardamom, Ground
- 2 Spice Islands Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 teaspoons Spice Islands Mustard, Seed
- 1/2 gallon vegetable stock
- 1/3 cup Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 gallon heavily iced water
Vanilla Bourbon Butter:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
- 2 tablespoons sweet bourbon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 green apple, halved
- 1 yellow onion, halved
- 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
- 1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
- 1 Spice Islands Cinnamon Sticks
- Preheat oven to 450º F.
- Place the first 8 ingredients of the brine in a large pot and simmer until the spices dissolve. Allow to cool completely. Pour the cooled stock mixture into a large container (bucket) and stir in vanilla and ice water. Completely submerge the turkey into the liquid, breast side down, and brine for 10 to 16 hours, refrigerated.
- While the turkey is in the brine, make the vanilla bourbon butter. Place the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until completely combined. Set aside.
- When ready, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with aromatics and rub the skin, both under and over, with the vanilla bourbon butter. Season the turkey with salt and pepper.
- Tie the legs together tightly, tuck the wings under the back, and transfer the bird to a roasting pan. Place the turkey into the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, allowing the skin to brown. Remove the turkey from the oven and cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent burning.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350º F and continue to roast the turkey for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes.
- 30 minutes before the turkey is ready to come out of the oven, remove foil from the breast and continue to roast until an instant read thermometer reads 161º F. Remove the turkey from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
Picture courtesy of Spice Islands.