Brined Lemon-Herb Aioli Style Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey

Lemon Aioli Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey
Do you have turkey for Christmas? If yes, do you also have turkey for Thanksgiving? Apparently about 22 million Americans have turkey on their Christmas table, as opposed to 46 million for Thanksgiving. That's still a lot of turkey! I was actually surprised by that number. What's funny is, turkey can be so bland, so dry, so blah...but remains so popular.

I have tried turkey so many ways. I do like the deep frying method because it frees up your oven and keeps the men busy outside...frying meat, in dangerously hot oil. They like that. And it stops your husband from hijacking your side dishes and trying to make them "his own". However, there is that $30-$50 worth of frying oil you burn through. It seems like a waste but the turkey does turn out very juicy.

Anyway, I have finally found my turkey recipe of choice. My family said this was THE BEST TURKEY they have ever had.....especially my pickiest, pickiest eater-child. And you know, this turkey was so full of flavor, so juicy, so moist. It really was off the charts delicious. Look at the beautiful color it had too! My family is begging me to make it again this season, I'm pretty sure I will because the leftovers were just as amazing.

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Maybe we'll have that iconic yuletide meal of turkey with gravy, stuffing and plum pudding, just like the Charles Dickens' novel, A Christmas Carol. Okay, that might be going a little too far. Our meal might not be iconic, but it will be good. Remember when Scrooge gave a Christmas turkey to the Cratchit family? Maybe this is where all the Christmas turkey business came about? Oh well, if you are going to make a holiday turkey, try this method. And no, it doesn't taste like mayonnaise.

Brining ~ It's Science, not Quackery. Just Do It.

Regardless of what method you choose to make your turkey, you need to pinkie swear with me right now, that you will always brine your bird. It makes such a difference in flavor and how moist your turkey will taste. You are going to spend so much time cooking this piece of poultry, why have it turn out less than awesome.

If you have a bit of a science background then you likely remember osmosis, diffusion and the denaturing of proteins. This is basically what is happening when we brine. 

With osmosis in play, the high salt solution (brine) passes through permeable meat cells when you soak your turkey overnight. Diffusion creates a balance of the salt and water in the meat and the salt and water from the surrounding brine. This results in a higher concentration of salt and water in the meat and less water loss during cooking. 

The salty concentration also denatures protein strands found in the meat, taking them from a tightly wound shape to an unwound and tangled state. It is this tangled up structure that traps the water molecules and holds on to them while cooking. The result...a very moist bird and many happy eaters.

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Look at this juicy, raw thing, right out of her 24 hour brine bath.

What Turkey Should I Buy ~ Is Bigger Better?

Here are some of the wild turkeys that run around my house. They get so big and are quite magnificent to watch. However, they are crazy dumb...that's a whole other post. Anyway, bigger is not necessarlity better. 

I find that the hens (about 12-14 pounds) are much more tender and flavorful, while the Tom's are much bigger and can obviously feed a much larger group. I always buy a young hen in the 12-14 pound range...always fresh and never frozen. I'm not even sure what I would brine one of those huge Tom's in...I guess I'd have to buy a special tub.

If you can, stick with a young, fresh hen for best results.

The Mayonnaise Method

I had been wanting to try this method for some time now. The mayo helps keep the turkey moist and browns the skin nicely. It stops you from having to continually open the oven door and baste the turkey. The mayo is a layer of fat, similar to slathering it with butter, except the mayo stays in place and browns nicely.

I mixed my mayo with fresh herbs from my garden, tumeric for color and the juice from a lemon. The result, an herb infused-mayo that was similar to an aioli dip. The lemon gave the turkey a great tang and flavor. And it smelled amazing in the oven almost immediately. I'm telling you it was so, so good!

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I chopped up rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage and mixed them into my mayo. I made this early in the day so the flavors of the herbs could meld with the mayo and lemon.

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I rubbed the turkey down with the mayo mixture, inside and out. Then I coated the inside of the turkey with a stick of butter...yes I did. Then I stuffed the cavity with some onions and celery.

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Liberal amounts of salt and pepper and she's ready for the oven. I know, it's weird...but it's delicious. 

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Please tell me you are not going to try and cook this bird without a meat thermometer? This is mine and I love it. You will never overcook anything again...and they are cheap. Put it on your wish list!

Lemon Aioli Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey NoblePig com via noblepig
This whole method would work well for roasted chicken, I'll be trying that next.

Print Recipe

Brined Lemon-Herb Aioli Style Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey

Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak for | Serves: 8-10 people



  • 1 gallon regular water
  • 1-1/3 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1 gallon ice water
  • 1 (12-14 lb) fresh, young turkey hen

Lemon-Herb Aioli

  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
  • 10-12 fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
  • 2-3 shoots fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons tumeric
  • Juice of one lemon


  • 1 large onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 stalks celrey, cut into 3-4" pieces
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, slightly softened
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • For the brine, in a large stockpot, combine regular water, sugar, kosher salt, rosemary, sage, thyme, peppercorns and marjoram. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, making sure salt and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  • When cooled, pour into a clean 5 gallon bucket. Stir in the ice water.
  • Make sure you have removed all of the turkey innards. Place the turkey, breast down, into the brine. Make sure the cavity gets filled. Place the bucket in a refrigerator overnight. (You can also use a cooler and leave in the garage if you live somewhere where temps are colder than your refrigerator.) Brine turkey for 24 hours.
  • Remove the turkey, draining off excess brine and pat dry. Discard brine.
  • For the aioli mixture, combine all ingredients and let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, letting the flavors meld.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place turkey in a large roasting pan, breast side down. Using a flexible spatula, rub mayonnaise mixture all over outside of turkey and inside of cavity. Salt and pepper the turkey well. Place onions, celery and butter inside turkey cavity.
  • Roast turkey at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. At this point you may want to cover the top of the turkey and the wings and legs with some aluminum foil as they can burn easily. Turn oven down to 350 degrees for another 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until thigh meat and breast meat both reach 160 degrees F on a meat thermometer. (This is where a digital thermometer comes in handy. You don't have to keep checking the doneness of the meat while it's in the oven. Start with the thermometer in the breast and when it reaches 160 move it to the thigh. Dark meat often takes longer to cook.)
  • Remove turkey from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Don't forget to make my Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with this awesome turkey.

Leftover Turkey Recipes

Post a Comment

27 Comments and 7 Replies

  1. Patty 1

    That is one gorgeous, perfectly browned, turkey!
    I like your unique recipe, it’s a beauty;-)

  2. pam 3

    This sounds fantastic. I usually do a ham a Christmas, but this is making me think…maybe a turkey!

  3. Cathy, this looks delicious! I’m with you on keeping the husbands out of the kitchen which is why I love that our turkey gets grilled on our charcoal Weber grill. Dry brined is my favorite way to do it. No messy clean-up.
    Hope you had a good holiday!

    • Cathy 6

      I’ve always wanted to try the BBQ method, but we don’t have a Weber, only a grill. It’s on my list of turkey methods to try. And yes…men outside with the dangerous fire and frying oil…ha-ha.

  4. I’ve seen a mayo roasted turkey once before and thought it looked good, but yours…WOW! I’m positively trying this with the next turkey I cook. And I can’t wait for it!

  5. I have NEVER heard of this method!! I’m soooo excited to try it though – I can imagine that it would make for a nice, juicy bird! We don’t ever have turkey on Christmas – it’s either ham or a prime rib or crown pork roast for us (but then I made prime rib on Thanksgiving this year, too…I know…blasphemy!). Had I known about your turkey recipe I may have been swayed though!

  6. Joan 10

    Sounds good~Looks like a lot of work. I have never cooked a dry turkey. I simply rub the bird with shortening, put about a cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and cook. Every half hour or so I use a turkey baster and squirt the juices over the bird. I get a nice brown turkey with no burning, and no dryness.

  7. Ashley 11

    If I left my husband alone to deep fry a turkey, our house would surely burn down.

    But I most certainly brined my turkey this year- and I always will. I could think of nothing better to do to it until now, that bird looks simply delectable.

  8. This does look delicious. My husband made the turkeys (yes two, we had a large crowd) this year and and he brined them both. One was roasted in the oven and the other smoked on a Komado grill. Both juicy and moist. I love the idea of an aoili coating and am thinking of trying it with some ginger to give in an Asian flair. I will let you know when I try it!

  9. What a delicious looking bird. My hubby made both turkeys this year ( we had a large crowd) and they were brined. One was smoked on a Kamado grill and the other Roasted in the oven, both juicy and delicious. Brining is the best! I love your aioli idea method and am thinking of trying it with Ginger to give the turkey an Asian flair. I will let you know how it turns out

  10. holy heaven of deliciousness!! that turkey looks so tasty…

  11. bellini 15

    It does sound flavourful Cathy and perfect for that holiday bird.

  12. Dave 16

    Looks delicious! I did something similar with a wet rub using olive oil, but I bet mayo would work eve better. I’ve already added this to my Thanksgiving recipes ideas for 2013. Thanks!

  13. Winnie 17

    I want to try this with a whole turkey breast. We just ate turkey for a week (only 3 of us) so I am thinking this would be perfect. Looks so delicious!

  14. This is such a perfect turkey for Christmas and totally unique – love it thank you so much for this recipe!

  15. Robert 19


    I love your recipes and the photography is marvelous. If you really want to take your Turkey to the next level, you need to get a Big Green Egg. Once you had food cooked over natural lump charcoal, you will not want to use your oven again.

    Keep up the great work,


  16. Kim in MD 20

    That is one gorgeous turkey, Cathy! I love everything about it…the brine, the mayo instead of butter, etc. I always serve beef tenderloin and ham for Christmas, but this recipe is making me re-think the ham! Maybe a whole turkey breast cooked per your recipe instead? Hmmm…I’m thinking yes! :-)

  17. Your turkey looks gorgeous! I bet this would make an amazing roast chicken as well.

  18. scott 22

    Lemon Thyme Turkey Bath Brine Concentrate can cut your prep down to 0.

    After brining the bird, strain and use the herbs and spices to season the aioli.

    Lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, ginger, white pepper, tumeric, onion, garlic, black pepper, brown sugar, etc. Very similar ingredients to your recipe.

  19. Stacey K 23

    Cant’ wait to try it!

  20. Rongee 24

    Great recipe. I have tried this for thankgiving this year 2015. I am cooking it again for December for leftovers. Brining makes a big difference!

  21. Linda 25

    Has anyone tried brining a Cornish game hen? Would the same techniques from this recipe apply to the smaller bird?

  22. Faith 26

    This was the first turkey I have ever made and it was a hit. Thank you thank you!

  23. Faith Foley 27

    I looked up this page to just post my input after making this recipe ..:) People, this is by far the best turkey recipe you will probably ever come across. When I made this a year ago, I was scared to be honest. I had no idea what the word “brine” meant. I had no idea how to cook turkey but I followed the directions and this turned out to be the best turkey I have honestly ever had in my life. I will make this for future Thanksgivings and Christmases. Thank you to whoever came up with this recipe!!

  24. Susie Carpanini 29

    Cathy, have you ever cooked a turkey overnight on really low?

    I am working on Christmas morning and wondered if anyone has done it – I would love to be able to put it in on Christmas eve and leave it to cook slowly…any thoughts?

    • Cathy 30

      Hmmm, I mean cookie is cooked to 165 and then it’s done…regardless of low/high…lots of variables to consider…temperature of the bird at starting, your particular oven.

  25. Samantha 31

    This looks delicious and I’m so tempted to try it but I have one question – are we sacrificing the crispy skin?!

  26. Jackie 33


    What’s the purpose of the one stick of butter in the cavity?

  27. Jerri 34

    You said breast side down. Then you said to rub the turkey with the aioli. How do you rub the breast if in is face down? Do you turn it over, then rub the breast? Do you then turn it over again breast side down and cook? If it is breast side up when cooking, do you put foil on the breast so that it doesn’t dry out during the cooking of the dark meat to temp?


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