The flavors of Fall are brewed into this beer brine, creating a moist and juicy turkey (for chicken: scale to 4 servings or Cornish game hen: scale to 1 serving per hen used). The melanoidin malt profile of a brown ale combine with a touch of smoke from the Sierra Nevada brew infuse together with caramelized onions, leeks, and brown sugar really pack a punch in complimentary flavors. Sage, thyme and tangerines also impart their own identity to the brine, creating contrast to the rich caramelized essence resulting in an updated classic flavor that is perfect for the Thanksgiving feast! Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale can be found in their Fall Pack.
This recipe makes 10 quarts of beer brine, perfect for one 16 – 26 pound whole turkey.
At least 2 days in advance of Thanksgiving start the brine.
In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil, onions and leeks. Sauté the onions and leeks, stirring frequently, as you do not want them to burn or the brine will become too bitter. After approximately 10 minutes add the carrots and bay leaves, sautéing for an additional 5 – 8 minutes or until the onions are caramelized and have turned a dark brown color. The caramelization process will enhance some the melanoidin flavors from the crystal malts used in the Tumbler beer. Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic and brown sugar; stirring to combine and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. The sugar will dissolve into the vegetables and help to them be fully caramelized. Add the thyme and sage, cooking for another minute as they release their herbal flavors into the onion mixture. Deglaze the pot first with the tangerines (squeezing their juice into the vegetable mix, and then adding the rind) and stir for a minute, then add a quart of water. Stir in the salt and pepper, increasing the heat to high and bringing the brine to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes to infuse all the flavors together. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit to further infuse the flavors for 30 minutes. Add the ice or cold water, stirring to cool down the liquid. Once the liquid is cooled, add the Sierra Nevada Tumbler to the stock pot. It is important that the mixture is cool to preserve the flavor integrity and alcohol of the beer. Mix to combine and take the temperature of the finished brine. The thermometer should read 40°F/4°C or lower before adding the turkey. If the brine is not at the desired temperature, place the pot into a refrigerator until 40°F/4°C or lower is reached.
Take the fresh turkey and remove it from its package in a large sink. Remove the neck, gizzards and liver, setting aside (for stock or gravy). Rinse the bird under cold water, turning the bird over a few times, washing any blood from the cavity and under the neck flap. Remove any remaining quills from the skin, if visible. Remove any excess fat from around the inside cavity. Turn off the water and lightly dry the turkey off with paper towels.
If cold space is an issue, use a large cooler and sanitize it with a bleach water solution (1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water or 200ppm) or Star San (1 ounce of StarSan per 2 gallons of water). Place the cooled beer brine into the now clean cooler and add the turkey. Use several gallon size seal-able bags fill with ice, to keep the bird and brine ice cold, but not diluting the salinity or flavor of the brine. This will also work if you are beer brining multiple turkeys at once and have doubled or tripled the beer brine recipe to fill the cooler size you are using.
If you are using a Ziploc XL HD Big Bag hold the bringing liquid and bird, place the sealed bagged turkey in the cooler and surround the bag with ice, to keep the turkey and brine ice cold.
Beer brine the turkey for at least 24 (for a smaller bird 16 pound) to 48 hours (for a larger 22+ pound bird). Keep the turkey and brine cold during this marinating process. Every 12 hours, rotate/flip the turkey in the brine to evenly marinate it.
Preparing the Finished Beer Brined Turkey for Cooking:
Remove the turkey from the brine and dry well with paper towels, both inside and out. Repeat this several times, to get as much of the moisture removed. This will help the browning of the skin, as moisture will steam the skin instead of roast it. Place the turkey, back side down, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Place the bunch of sage inside the cavity, as the herbs will release their aroma into the meat as it roasts. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 2 hours prior to being cooked. This will let the turkey warm up, allowing it to cook more evenly. Discard the brine, as it has done its purpose and not safe to re-use.
Oven Roasting Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F | 177°C, convection roast/bake if this setting is an option. Truss the bird with twine, to help hold its shape and to aid in cooking the turkey evenly. I highly recommend using a temperature probe to make sure the turkey is cooked to a certain temperature (160°F | 71°C) verses a length of time. Insert the probe into the middle of a breast or in one of the thighs. Make sure the tip of the probe isn’t touching a bone, as the temperature reading will be false.
If you don’t have a probe thermometer, a 16 - 20 pound turkey should take between 3 and 3 1/2 hours to fully cook to 160°F | 71°C. Check both the breast and the thigh temperature to make sure the turkey is evenly cooked. Other recipes describe cooking a turkey until the internal temperature reaches 180°F | 82°C and this is one reason for a dry turkey.
Turkey is safe to eat after it reaches 165°F | 74°C. Its fine to remove the turkey from the oven at 160°F | 71°C, as the heat of the oven and the surface temperature is higher than the internal temperature. As the turkey rests, the carryover heat will finish cooking the turkey and bring it to a safe final cooking temperature of 165°F | 74°C.
Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 20 - 30 minutes before carving. This is critical in keeping a moist and juicy turkey. This resting will relax the muscle fibers, helping re-distribute the juices and allow the bird to be easier to handle when carving. Cover the turkey with a large sheet of aluminum foil.
Other Beer Brined Turkey Recipes and Cooking Techniques: