Countdown to a Perfect Bird

One of the pleasures of eating at Thanksgiving is the succulent centerpiece of most holiday tables—the turkey. At the Huffman house, we do things a bit differently. We brine the bird first, to give it its unmistakable moistness and deliciousness. This requires some thought aforehand, because its preparation begins several days in advance.

We also cook our turkey the night before—there’s no need to stress over the bird on the big day itself!  You begin by roasting it on high temperature for a short time on Wednesday night, then turn the oven completely off and go to bed. The slow-decreasing temperature in the oven will perfectly cook the bird the rest of the night. On Thursday morning, open your oven and voila! The tenderest, most wonderful turkey ever.

Our timetable begins the Saturday/Sunday before Thanksgiving. Here’s the gist of it:

1) Saturday/Sunday before the big day: Begin thawing frozen turkey in refrigerator. (If you’re using a fresh bird, ignore this step.)

2) Tuesday before: This is the day you start the brining process. Most commercial brine preparations tell you to boil the contents of the brine mixture in water and then let it cool to room temperature. (Please don’t add an uncooked bird to the hot brine. That will just be a hot mess!)

Be sure to adjust the amount of brine you use from the package. I don’t always buy a 20-24 pound bird but usually buy one in the 10 to 12-pound range. I divide the commercial brine mixture in half and store the second half for the next year. Be sure to read the directions on the package to make sure you’re getting the dilution right!

You will also need to buy/procure plenty of ice for the ice chest you’re using (one big enough to store the bird).

3) Tuesday night: After the brine cools and you’ve cleaned the bird inside and out, you enclose the turkey in a special brining bag (think super-sized, heavy-duty Ziploc) that is made for this purpose. Most commercial brine products usually include one of these bags in the box of spices. You can also buy these turkey-size brining bags at the store.

Pour the brine over the bird in the bag. Seal the bag well. Place into ice chest and cover with ice. We leave ours outside on the deck.

4) Wednesday morning: Turn the bag over once or twice today during the day, to allow the brine to soak well into all surfaces.

5) Wednesday night, about 10:00 p.m. or so: Remove the turkey from the brine. Butter/oil the skin, if desired. Inject additional flavoring into the turkey under its skin with a commercial syringe also, if desired.

Follow the rest of the directions in the recipe below.

6) Thursday/Thanksgiving  morning:  The turkey’s all done! So get busy with the rest of the meal. . .  you can print out the roasting portion of the how we do it below.

As Al is wont to say, this is good enough to make your tongue slap out your brains-Enjoy!

Lookin’ up,


Baked Turkey


  • 1 turkey (any size)
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 apple, whole
  • 1 large onion, whole


  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees, very hot, about 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. the night before your feast. Place the turkey on the rack off the bottom of the pan. Nestle celery, apple, and onion around the bird. Add 1 quart warm water. Cover with roaster lid or tent well with aluminum foil.
  2. Bake 1 hour on 475 degrees, then turn oven off. DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR.
  3. Leave all night. In the morning your turkey will be golden-brown and you’ll have plenty of broth for making dressing and gravy.


**From Bell's Best Cookbook, 1981

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