(Note: For the 2007 version of this post, visit this page.)
It’s beautiful! It’s stunning! It’s the centerpiece of the whole Thanksgiving meal!
And here’s the great news: It’s not hard to make at all. Promise.
The secret to roasting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is planning: First, you have to get the turkey in the brine the day before the big feast. Second, you have to make yourself get up early enough on Thanksgiving morning to get the bird in the oven for a noontime feast. I’ve had many a year when I’ve pushed the snooze button a few too many times and we’ve had to eat an hour or two late.
I’m a cautionary tale. Don’t let this happen to you!
First you need a turkey! I brine my turkey; Here is my homemade turkey brine recipe, along with brining instructions.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it under cold water. After that, fill the sink with cold water and soak the turkey for 15 to 20 minutes. This will remove any excess saltiness on/under the skin and just leave you with wonderfully brined, tender turkey.
Related: See my post on how to control saltiness after brining.
Next, place the oven rack is on its lowest level and preheat the oven to 275°F.
Place the turkey breast-side up in a roasting pan with a rack, tucking the wings underneath the body. Cross the legs and tie them with kitchen string to secure them.
Cover the turkey completely…
In heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure the foil tucks under the pan. Then, for the first stage, roast the turkey for about 10 minutes per pound (so for a 20-pound turkey, it would roast at this temperature for about 3½ hours).
While the turkey’s in the oven, make the rosemary-citrus butter. Use a vegetable peeler to slice off the peel of 1 orange.
With a very sharp knife, slice the peel into thin strips…
And throw them into a bowl with softened butter and rosemary.
Stir it a bit, then sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Set this aside until the turkey is finished with the first stage.
After the turkey has roasted for the first stage, remove the foil and smear the butter mixture all over the skin of the turkey. Note that because the turkey has been covered, it will still be very pale. That’s totally normal! It’s getting ready to get gorgeous here in a bit.
Get the butter mixture in all the crevices! Tickle it a little! Then insert a meat thermometer into the thigh of the turkey, raise the oven temperature to 350°F and put the turkey back into the oven, uncovered, basting it with the juices/butter in the bottom of the pan every 30 minutes.
Roast the turkey until the temperature registers 165°F. For a 20 pound turkey, this should take an additional 1 ½ to 2 hours. Keep basting it every 30 minutes during this stage so that the skin will turn a deep golden brown. (This turkey needed another 20 minutes or so to get totally done.)
Remove the turkey from the oven, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Serve the turkey on a big, pretty platter with orange slices and greenery if you wanna be fancy.
Omit the citrus and add a combination of chopped herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme to the butter.
Use plain butter. Still totally delicious!
Start with a slice on either side of the breastbone…
Then slice on either side to loosen all the breast meat.
Next, just cut neat slices…
And lift ’em right out! (You could also remove the breast sections, then slice them on a cutting board.)
Then cut the drumsticks at the base . . .
And lift the leg to slice it off at the joint.
“I get one of the drumsticks!”
After that, just make your way around the turkey, grabbing as much of the white and dark meat as you can find. Arrange all the meat on a platter…or just serve it straight off the bird.
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