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½ bunch fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
30 black peppercorns
1½ cup kosher salt
1½ cup sugar
3 quarts hot water
3 quarts ice
1 (18 lb.) fresh turkey
Note: Before you begin, make sure you have enough room in a refrigerator to hold the turkey and brine container. Alternative method: If you don’t want to brine the turkey, simply drizzle it with olive oil instead and season with salt and pepper, inside and out.
Place the thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and sugar in a large pot. Add water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add ice and let dissolve. Transfer to brine container and allow to cool (below 40°F).
Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cold running water. Reserve and use the gizzard and neck as desired. Then, fully submerge turkey in cold brine liquid. Press and weight down the turkey with a clean plate, or two, if necessary. It is important the turkey is completely beneath the surface of the brine liquid. Refrigerate turkey in the brine for three days (the third day being the day you plan to roast the turkey).
One hour prior to cooking the turkey, remove turkey from brine liquid and set onto a pan to drain. Discard brine. Rotate turkey to drain the liquid from inside. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place turkey in oven, uncovered, and roast for 2 hours. Carefully rotate roasting pan in opposite direction and continue to roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes. If your turkey is becoming too dark, cover with aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove turkey from oven and rest for 30 minutes, loosely tented with aluminum foil. Slice turkey and serve hot.
Total cooking time is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes (internal temperature of thigh joint should be 160°F). Oven temperatures may vary and effect cook time, be sure to use a probe thermometer to ensure proper temperature.
For advanced turkey tricks, please see the Kendall-Jackson Winery blog at blog.kj.com/results-of-the-harold-mcgee-turkey-experiment.