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To Brine or to Bag? That is the question...

Just a wild guess, but this is probably not the turkey you would want to be serving to a gaggle of hungry friends and family

“Gee, do you think it might be just a bit overcooked?”

There is nothing that will induce a mid-afternoon swig of Chardonnay like the stress over the fear of having undercooked turkey thighs or dried-out, overcooked turkey breast onThanksgiving!

What to do? Moisture insurance!

That’s right, just take out some very safe “Moisture Insurance”! You have two paths you can take and both are lifesavers when it comes to keeping your turkey moist! Brining and Bagging, (but NOT both!)

Brining 101

The basic necessities of brining are salt and water. That's really all you need, but most people add a little brown sugar, (in the South it’s very common for people to add Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper to their brine!), herbs and spices because of the magical effect of brine. If you recall basic chemistry from school, you might remember the term "osmosis". That's what happens when you brine a turkey. The imbalance of salt in the brine causes the turkey to absorb that salty water (along with the herbs and spices). It will NOT make turkey salty! It WILL enhance the flavor!

You can make your own brine but it's much easier using the Turkey Brine and Rub Kit from Urban Accents, which we have in the Spice Department. It comes with a brining bag so all you need is a large container. Most people use a cooler with ice. Place the bagged, brining turkey in a cooler, add as much ice as will fit and leave it in the garage overnight.

DO NOT Over-Brine!

Yes, you can "over-brine". The best is simply overnight which translates to 12-18 hours max. Remove the turkey from the brine, RINSE WELL and dry. Discard brine.  Chill in the frig if needed, otherwise, let the turkey come CLOSE to room temperature before roasting.

At this point, you may roast your turkey as you would traditionally.

If you want it fool-proof, “Bag” your turkey!

If you want completely foolproof Thanksgiving Turkey, use an Oven Bag, (along with a recyclable Aluminum Roasting Pan, or your own roasting pan), which we also have in the store in a few locations but you can always find them on Aisle 7 with the foil and plastic wrap. Using an Oven Bag will virtually guarantee your turkey will be very moist! It will even brown in the bag! You may want to take it out of the bag near the end to crisp the skin. This works especially well if you have a convection oven.

Bagging 101

The basic process is simplicity defined. Prepare your raw turkey by removing the giblets and neck bone. Salt and Pepper your turkey all over the skin and internally, and as you prefer, add herbs like Sage, Thyme and any of your favorite herbs and insert the turkey into the bag.You can also add chopped fresh Celery, Onion, Carrots and Garlic into the bag. They will cook down and add tremendous flavor. You can serve the vegetables in the bag or discard them as you wish. Seal the bag with the supplied ties and place the entire bagged Turkey in your pan.

Important! DO NOT USE your brining bag for baking! Oven bags are a special high-temperature food-grade plastic. Also, DO NOT Brine your Turkey AND use the Oven bag! You must choose one or the other!

The easiest way to roast your turkey:


  1. Make sure to have your Turkey fully thawed and leave it out on the counter to come as close to room temperature as possible. You will get more even cooking this way.

  2. Preheat your oven to 325º F.

  3. When the oven is fully up to temperature, place the turkey, which should be in the sealed bag and in the Aluminum Pan or your own roasting pan, into the oven.

Roasting Time Guide:

• 10-12 lbs — 2 - 2.5 hrs

• 12-14 lbs — 2.5 - 3 hrs

• 14-16 lbs — 3 - 3.5 hrs

• 16-18 lbs — 3.5 - 4 hrs

• 18-20 lbs — 4 - 4.5 hrs

• 20-22 lbs — 4.5 - 5 hrs

• 22-24 lbs — 5 - 5.25 hrs

• 24-28 lbs — 5.25 - 5.5 hrs

Always, always ALWAYS, let your Turkey REST for 30 minutes after roasting! Do NOT skip this step!!! If using the Roasting bag method, you may want to remove the turkey a few minutes early, pull away or cut, the Roasting bag and finish roasting to crisp the skin. This works especially well if you have a Convection Oven.

Important: Invest in an Instant-Read High-Quality Digital Thermometer!

The critical temps you want to hit are:

Breast (White Meat) 160º MAXIMUM. If the Thermometer reads 155º you can remove the turkey as carryover will bring the temperature up to 160º

Thigh (Dark Meat) 180º MAXIMUM! If the Thermometer reads 175º you can remove the turkey as carryover will bring the temperature up to 180º.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Scotts Valley Market!


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