Last year, I roasted my first turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and had a beautiful group of friends and family together to give our gratitude for our lives, each other, and this wonderful world that we have an opportunity to create within.
I searched far and wide for good recipes and processes, and after significant hunting and reflection on my own experiences cooking chicken, I pieced together a formula that brought the best tips I found together in a single recipe. The results?
It was the most juicy, flavorful, and delicious turkey I’ve ever had. And fortunately (for everyone else), this assessment wasn’t just a reflection of this chef’s love and pride for his own cooking… One of my friend’s mothers was joining us, and she said it was the best turkey she had in 60 years. That’s confirmation enough for me.
This year, I was excited to offer it to one of my best friends in the whole Universe, who is hosting his own Thanksgiving dinner at his gorgeous new home overlooking the ocean. As I gathered my notes, I realized that I should share it with everyone else too!
As I’m not a professional recipe writer, this post reflects my best attempt to give you the hot details and tips without so much of the “extra info” you can find on any other turkey recipe. This assumes you have thawed your turkey, and hopefully are using a free-range, organic, or heritage bird.
Okay okay, here’s the magic steps:
1. Brine your turkey overnight.
It’s good to take a careful look at your brine mix ingredients, especially the type of salt. If the herbs in there don’t sound appealing, try another mix, or make one yourself.
2. Pat dry, remove giblets, and rub butter, garlic, a little salt and herbs under the skin and all over.
I melted salted butter in a pan and added some garlic, herbs, and sage and browned the butter slightly. Then I took a baster, cut open holes in the skin, lifted it up with my fingers, and spread this buttery rub all over underneath every part I could effectively get to. I also injected some in the cavity, thighs, etc. Add some truffle salt for extra magic.
3. Start at 375, turkey breast down, ~1 hour.
This period with a hotter temperature will seal the surface of the bird on the bottom. This will help keep moisture and juices in when we flip it over.
4. Oven to 325, flip bird breast up, tent with foil, ~1 hour
When you bring the breast up, inject more juices in the skin that have drizzled in the pan. Then make a tent above the bird to the sides of the pan, open on the ends, that covers the breast. This will protect the skin and upper breast meat from the heat while the inside cooks.
5. Stay at 325, remove foil. Smaller bird (10-16lb) breast up ~1 – 1.5 hrs. Larger bird (17-25lb) flip bird breast down, ~45 min – 1hr.
At this point, if you have a smaller bird just leave it breast up, take off the foil, and cook it till your thermometer hits the perfect temperature (thickest portion of the thigh at 165, careful not to touch bone!). If it’s a larger bird, you can flip it again for an hour or less, circulating the juices even more. Keep basting and injecting juices under skin!
6. Larger bird flip breast up, ~30 min – 1 hr.
If you have a larger bird this last phase will brown the breast meat and give it it’s final sheen and texture. Baste well early, but let the skin brown and crisp slightly during the latter part of this phase. Check it every 20 minutes or so till your thermometer hits the perfect temperature (thickest portion of the thigh at 165, careful not to touch bone!)
7. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let sit for 20 minutes.
This final step will keep the bird hot and moist, while allowing it to cool on the inside to a perfect temperature for carving and enjoying!
A few final tips: Make and cook the dressing on the side. Make the gravy while the turkey is roasting, and finish it when the turkey comes out by adding juices and fats from the pan. The Cooks.com recipe below has some great suggestions for ingredients.
Finally, I recommend getting a heritage bird for your next turkey feast, if you are not using one this time. Heritage birds are free to run, have sex, play, and enjoy their lives in open spaces under the sun. They are healthy, strong, and it is illegal to interfere with their growth process in any way. Most heritage birds were endangered breeds, and now they flourish in healthy farms due to the interest of putting them on the dinner table. Learn more on the Heritage Turkey Foundation website.
For more ideas, here are a two of the source sites that I pulled some of my techniques from:
And here’s a couple more sites I found today that confirm this process works, and add some other ideas like tenting the legs, or pinot noir gravy:
If you like to keep your laptop open to follow recipes while cooking, enjoy one of my newest mixes while you’re rocking it in the kitchen: