The Washington Post

White House Thyme-Roasted Turkey

White House Thyme-Roasted Turkey 16.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Nov 14, 2012

With plenty to give thanks for, the Obamas and their guests will sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner 2012 that stars this bird. White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford puts the thyme in the brine rather than on the bird because, she says, the leaves would burn in the oven during roasting.

Make Ahead: The bird needs to soak in the brine for 12 hours.

Servings: 16
  • For the brine
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 4 whole heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • Ice
  • For the turkey
  • 20-pound fresh turkey, neck and giblets removed, rinsed
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


For the brine: Heat the water, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt and brown sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the salt and sugar dissolve. Transfer to a clean 5-gallon bucket. Add enough ice to total 3 gallons of liquid, and mix until incorporated. Add the turkey to the bucket and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. (Alternatively, place the turkey in a large brining bag and fill with enough of the brine to cover the turkey; seal the bag and refrigerate. Or place the bird and brine in a cooler, cover and add ice bags periodically to keep the temperature of the brine below 40 degrees.)

For the turkey: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a large roasting pan with a rack.

Remove the turkey from the brining liquid and use paper towels to pat it as dry as possible, inside and out. Rub the turkey with the butter all over, including the cavity, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Fold the wingtips underneath the turkey.

Place the turkey in the roasting pan, breast side up. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and fold the neck flap under.

Roast the turkey for 1 hour to brown it, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.

Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving. Use the pan drippings for gravy, if desired.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford.

Tested by Jane Touzalin.

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