Over the years I have tried many complicated methods for cooking my Thanksgiving turkey. I’ve brined, deep fried, and stuffed them. In the end, I decided cooking a turkey does not have to be complicated. I settled on the same technique I use to roast a chicken. It’s an easy way to prepare a moist and juicy turkey. It hasn’t let me down and I know you can count on this method too.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature but not melted
3 - 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup of finely minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, sage, and/or rosemary. About equal parts but any combination will do.
Adjust the quantities of the ingredients to the size of your turkey.
If your turkey is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator. Note: It can take three days for a 12-pound turkey to thaw.
The turkey likely has gizzards on the inside. Remove these and discard them. Rinse the inside of the turkey with cold water. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with a paper towel.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan and preheat the oven to 425° F.
Sprinkle sea salt or Celtic salt and fresh ground pepper inside the turkey.
Poke the lemons with a knife several times. This will allow the juice to flow out and season the turkey. Then, place the lemons and the whole sprigs of thyme inside the turkey.
Finely chop the herbs. Add the herbs to a bowl with 1 stick of butter, sea salt, and pepper. Mash with a fork to blend.
Take off your rings, and here comes the fun part. Lift the skin on the breast side of the turkey and place the herbed butter mixture under the skin. Press on the skin lightly, and use your fingers to move the herbed butter around underneath the skin. Aim to evenly distribute the butter and herbs on the turkey breast and in as many areas as you can. This will help prevent the turkey from drying out.
Spread the remaining tablespoon of butter on top of the turkey, and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Note if the outside of the turkey is not dry, it will be difficult to spread the butter. If the butter doesn’t spread well, you can baste the turkey when the butter melts into the pan.
Truss the turkey by wrapping kitchen string around the legs, then looping the string around the neck. Pull the string to close the opening to the cavity and tie a knot. This step helps to keep the moisture in the turkey while cooking. I skipped this step, and it still yielded a good result.
Bake the turkey at 325 degrees F, basting frequently. Cook the turkey until the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees F. Then let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. The recommended internal temperature for turkey is 165 degrees F, but it will increase about 10 degrees after you remove it from the oven. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
The type of turkey impacts the time it will take to cook. A conventional unstuffed turkey takes about 13 minutes per pound to cook at 250 degrees F. A pasture-raised unstuffed turkey will take less time, about 8 - 10 minutes per pound.
Gravy Two Ways
In the past, I have used Ina Garten’s gravy recipe. You can find the recipe here. I skip the step of adding onions. I start with step two and always add the cream and wine.
I’ve never been a huge fan of gravy, so I’m not very motivated to make it. One year, I took a vote among my family and friends, and no one was very intent on having gravy at Thanksgiving, so I started making “easy gravy.”
Instead of making gravy, I serve the pan drippings the same as when serving a roast chicken. The pan drippings are deliciously flavored from butter, herbs, and lemon, and there is no extra work. I pour the pan drippings on the white cuts of meat on the serving platter. You can also place the drippings in a serving bowl to serve alongside the turkey.
Be sure to check out the Classic French Roast Chicken Recipe. You can use it all year round, and the leftovers are fabulous.
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