Holiday Turkey By: Nick Hack

The Holiday Season is the best time to bring people together and to celebrate good food.  A relatively good meal can become exceptional with a few tricks of the trade. Whenever possible, I like to try new ideas and techniques, but I also like tweaking old recipes with the infusion of new flavors.  In the past, I have brined turkeys using the basic brining techniques but decided this year that it was time to combine an old idea with a new one.  When I told my wife what I was going to do, she looked at me silently and the only thing she said was “as long as it tastes good” and left the room.  So I sat down with several beers, tasting and testing so I could come up with a complimentary flavor profile that would go well with a turkey. I tried some hoppy IPA’s and even some winter warmers (with my wife’s warning firmly planted in my head), and then finally settled on a combination of Stout and a homebrew Smoked Porter. The stout gave me a nice balance of flavor and the Smoked Porter gave a slight hint of the turkey being roasted over a nice charcoal fire.  How could my wife and family not like that?  I watched as my wife took her first bite of turkey and waited patiently until a big smile came across her face and she looked at me and said “this is the most deliciously moist turkey I have ever eaten”, to which my daughter agreed.  It turned out to be a Happy Thanksgiving after all.  I hope you enjoy this as much as my family did.  

This recipe is based on an 18-20lb. turkey and can easily feed a large group of people. Start a bird this large 2 days prior to cooking as it needs time for the brine to fully flavor the meat thoroughly. Be sure to have either a large stock pot big enough to hold the turkey and brine or purchase a disposable brining bag at your local supermarket or specialty store (I got mine at Wegmans).

18-20 lb. turkey

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 large onion

4 ribs celery

4 carrots

1 large bunch thyme

1 package bacon

4 12 oz bottles stout

4 12 oz bottles smoked porter

1 gal. water

In a large saucepan combine 2 cups water, the kosher salt and brown sugar. Heat to a simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

After the sugar and salt has dissolved turn off the heat and let cool. Meanwhile start preparing the turkey. Take the turkey out of the packaging and remove the giblets and any excess fat from the cavity opening. Place the turkey either in a pot large enough to hold the turkey or a brining bag.

Once the turkey is in the bag or pot cut the onion, skin on, and place on top of the turkey along the thyme. Add the cooled pot of salt and sugar and all of the beer. Top with enough water to fully cover the turkey. Seal the bag or put a lid on top of the pot and put into the refrigerator.

If you cannot fully submerge the turkey in the brine, that is OK. After the first 18-24 hrs.,flip the turkey so the other end has time to soak in the brine, thus the 2 day brining method that I use.

Preheat oven to 325°. Once the turkey has brined for 2 days, remove it from the brine and pat dry with paper towels and place in roasting pan. Remove the onions and thyme from the brine and stuff into the cavity of the turkey along with the celery and carrots.

Once the cavity has been filled with herbs and vegetables use butcher twine and tie the cavity closed and lay slices of bacon over the breast and legs of the turkey.

Place the turkey, covered, in the oven for 2 hrs. After 2 hrs. remove the lid from the turkey and place back in the oven for an additional 2.5-3 hrs. being sure to baste the turkey every 30 min. with the juices from the bottom of the pan. When the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees from a thermometer inserted into the thigh section remove from the oven and cover with the lid and let rest for 30min. It may sound like a long time but let the turkey “rest” so the juices can settle back into the meat of the turkey, if you slice it too soon you will lose all of the hard work of brining.


As you can see the turkey has a lovely brown skin and the bacon has become nice and crisp. I serve this with the traditional sides such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and several vegetable sides. So make your own favorite sides, sit together with your closest friends and family and be grateful for all that you have. Happy Holidays.

If you need any advice on sides or any help with your turkey feel free to contact or @snpr13 on twitter.