by Jon Emanuel, Executive Chef of Project Angel Heart
Serves 6-8

Several years ago, The Denver Post interviewed me, Noah Stephens of Vert Kitchen in Denver, and Mark Monette of Boulder’s Flagstaff House on how to make the perfect holiday bird. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to share our roast turkey recipe with you. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

P.S. You can read the full Denver Post article with more tips and tricks by clicking here.



  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 10-15 whole peppercorns
  • A handful fresh herbs, like sage, thyme, rosemary


  • 1 fresh natural turkey, preferably organic, about 12 pounds
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 2 heads garlic, halved
  • Roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery
  • More fresh herbs of your choice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Softened butter


  1. Stir together the brine ingredients until salt and sugar are dissolved. Immerse turkey in brine, add liquid if needed to cover. Place in refrigerator (or outside if it’s cool) for 24-48 hours. Remove turkey from brine at least four hours before roasting, or the night before. Rinse turkey thoroughly, then pat completely dry with paper towels. Place in refrigerator, uncovered, at least three hours or overnight.
  2. Remove turkey from refrigerator at least 1 hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place lemons, garlic and as many of the onions, carrots, celery and herbs as will comfortably fit in the cavities. Secure cavities with skewers, and/or truss with butcher’s twine. Season with salt and pepper. Rub softened butter all over bird, including under the skin. Scatter remaining vegetables in roasting pan and place greased rack over vegetables.
  3. Place turkey, breast side down, on rack. Roast on low oven rack for 45 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Carefully turn turkey over — taking care not to tear the skin — and roast breast side up, basting occasionally (be sure to close the oven door when you baste), until temperature measured at the thickest part of the thigh hits 160-165 degrees. Estimate about 12-14 minutes per pound total, depending on your oven. Start checking early to avoid overcooking.
  4. (Alternative: Start turkey breast side up and don’t bother with the turn. Baste occasionally. If the skin begins to get too dark, cover loosely with foil.)
  5. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before carving.