Brining shouldn't be a technique reserved for chefs and restaurants. By doing a little wet-brining at home, dry turkey will no longer be an inescapable fact of the holiday season, for your birds will turn out juicier, tastier, and more aromatic than ever before. This recipe is for my favorite lemony, gingery roast turkey, which gets added lemon notes thanks to lemon zest and juice, lemongrass, and lemon thyme—perfect for Thanksgiving Day. —Yi Jun Loh
Pour around a quarter of the water in a large pot, add in the salt, brown sugar, lemons, lemongrass stalks, lemon thyme, black peppercorns, garlic, and ginger, and bring to a boil. Stir as it heats up to dissolve the salt and sugar. When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, pour in the rest of the water, and let the brine cool to room temperature.
Place your turkey in a large container, and fill it with the brine. You don’t have to use all of the brine, as long as you make sure that the turkey is fully submerged. (If you can’t find a large enough container to fit the turkey, a ziplock or plastic bag works nicely too. Just make sure to secure it tightly so it doesn’t leak in the fridge!) Cover the container and leave it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
When done brining, remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry and remove any bits of garlic or peppercorns stuck to the bird. Leave the turkey uncovered in the fridge to dry for 2 to 3 hours before roasting.
Roasting the turkey
Take the turkey out of the fridge an hour before roasting to bring it to room temperature. Then, stuff the turkey with the onion, garlic, lemongrass, lemon thyme, and half of the lemon. Truss up the turkey and place it onto an oven rack, breast side up, ready to be roasted. You can preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) at this point.
Juice the other half of the lemon, and add it to a saucepan along with the butter and honey. Heat on low until the butter melts. Brush this glaze onto the skin of the turkey before roasting. Then, roast the turkey in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, basting it every 20 to 30 minutes with the extra glaze. At the 2-hour mark, check the doneness of the turkey by piercing it between the drumstick and thigh. The turkey is cooked if its juices run clear. If it’s still pinkish, roast it for a little while longer. If you find that the chicken skin is browning too much at this point, you can cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes, and then carve it up to serve.