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Turkey Recipe

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This is the turkey recipe you have been searching for! We've got you covered with instructions on how to cook your Thanksgiving turkey, because you have arrived at the #1 turkey roasting how to guide on the internet!

The technique described in this Instructable resulted in the beautiful 15 pound bird pictured below. It turned out to be one of the juiciest, most delicious turkeys to ever grace the delicate taste buds of Noah's family and friends since the pilgrims got all antsy in the pantsy more than 500 years ago.

This method has been thoroughly tested year after year at Thanksgiving dinners everywhere. Following the tips in this Instructable, you can make one that's just as good, if not better!
 
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Step 1: Gather materials

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I find that I don't roast turkeys too often, so when I do, I put in the extra effort to make them come out as good as I can because they'll be feeding a lot of people, and I might not be making another one until next year.

With that in mind, gather the following ingredients, and don't skimp on quality if you can.

  • A 15 - 25 lb turkey depending on how many people you'd like to feed. Figure on 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of the whole turkey per person.

I prefer fresh, unfrozen turkeys if possible, but often you'll have to get a frozen bird. If it's frozen, give yourself at least three or four days lead time in the refrigerator for the turkey to thaw before you plan to roast it. DO NOT roast a frozen bird, you'll be sorry.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh sage
  • fresh parsley
  • chicken stock
  • meat thermometer (this is the key to telling when your turkey is done cooking. I don't trust the red pop-up dot)
  • turkey baster
  • butchers string (cotton string safe for cooking with)
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • suitably sized roasting pan with a rack

Step 2: Wash sink and pull out bag of organs

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Once you've gathered everything you'll need to roast the perfect turkey, it's time to start working.

The whole turkey is going to need to be rinsed, rubbed down with kosher salt, and then rinsed again in cool water. The best place to do this is in the sink, so I did all my dishes and then washed the inside of my sink with soap and water to make it food safe.

The turkey will likely come with the neck, liver, kidneys and heart wrapped up in a bag or piece of paper, or plastic bag stuffed inside the body cavity. You can use these to make stock, feed to your pet, or simply throw them away, but whatever you decide, we won't be using them in the roasting process so set them aside.

Some factory farmed turkeys are sold with piece of plastic holding the legs in place. Cut this off with a knife or scissors and throw it away.

I also throw away the red pop up thing because they can be inaccurate from time to time and are not nearly as helpful as an actual meat thermometer.

Step 3: Rinse the turkey, rub with salt, and re-rinse

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With the turkey sitting inside the clean sink, rinse the surface of the turkey's skin and inside the body cavity with cool water.

Then, take a copious amount of kosher salt and rub the whole turkey down. This step helps to flavor the turkey initially and helps clean out any turkey juices that may have accumulated during the defrosting process.

  • Some may feel that the salt dehydrates and toughens the meat ever so slightly, however I have never found this to be the case. My grandmother always gave a quick salt rub to fowl while rinsing them and she cooks a mean bird.

When the whole turkey is rubbed down, turn on the water again and re-rinse the bird thoroughly washing away all the salt.

Step 4: Prep ingredients and stuff bird

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Cut the carrots, onions and celery into large chunks. Chop 1/2 of the sage, 1/2 of the parsley and 1/2 of the thyme, leaving the rest of the bunches intact.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. As you can see from my picture, setting my oven temperature is a bit of a guessing game at my house. I use a thermometer that lives inside the oven to know how hot is in there for sure. This is a good idea for anyone, since many ovens don't have the best thermostats.

With the oven pre-heating and ingredients chopped, it's time to stuff the turkey.

Start by taking one quarter of an onion, a piece of celery and a chunk of carrot and stuff them inside the body cavity. Continue stuffing some of each items inside the turkey until the turkey is full. Don't jam too much in there. A stuffed turkey will quickly give you diminishing returns since the more you put inside, the longer the turkey will need to cook for, and the dryer it will be.

Tie the remaining bunches of parsley, sage and thyme together using a piece of butchers string and place them inside the turkey with the rest of the stuffing.

I've moved away from stuffing turkeys with an actual bread based stuffing. The increase in mass slows the cooking process down, forcing the turkey to cook for too long, and thus dry it out. The onions, carrots and celery are just really there to impart flavor to the meat and drippings, not to be eaten as your typical Thanksgiving stuffing. To learn how to make a great stuffing that's prepared entirely outside of the turkey, check out scoochmaroo's Stuffing.

Step 5: Melt butter and herbs and rub the turkey down

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Take the stick of butter and melt it in a small pot over low heat. I thinned my butter a bit with 1/4 cup of olive oil. I normally thin out butter with olive oil since it keeps it from browning as fast, a feature that will be useful when roasting a turkey for several hours in a hot oven. We want nice crispy brown skin, but we just don't want it to form before our turkey is finished cooking. More on this later.

Once the butter has melted, turn off the heat and add in in the chopped thyme, parsley and sage. Then add a generous amount of salt and pepper, and mix well.

Pour the butter mixture over the entire turkey, rubbing it all over the turkey's skin and body cavity.


Step 6: Tie it up

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Cut three lengths of the butchers string.

Wiggle one piece of it under the back of the turkey between the turkey and the rack on the roasting pan. Take the ends of the string and make a bowtie knot on top of the turkey breast tying the wings to the turkey's sides.

Take the second piece of string and do the same thing, only this time tying the legs in position a bit lower down on the turkey.

Finally, take the third piece of string a tie the ends of the turkey legs together, tucking the flap of extra skin and fat underneath the legs, thus holding it in the position seen below.

Some turkey roasters suggest tying, or sewing the entire body cavity shut. This seems unnecessary to me and even undesirable since it will impede the flow of juices and drippings into the pan.


Step 7: Add stock, cover in foil and roast

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Pour in a bit of stock, 1 or 2 cups depending on the size of your roasting pan, to keep the drippings from burning on the bottom of the pan.

Then, cover the entire pan in heavy aluminum foil enclosing the turkey inside, with as few seams in the foil as possible.

I use toothpicks to keep some space between the aluminum foil and the turkey so that the foil doesn't get cooked on to the turkey breast and rip off some of the delicious crispy skin when the foil is removed later on.

Your oven should have reached the correct temperature by now, so make note of the time, and put your turkey in to roast.

Alternative Method:

There's another method to consider at this point.

Many people support cooking the turkey breast side down for the first hour or two of cook time, and then flip the breast up for the remainder of the roasting. I like this idea in principle, but not actually in practice.

First of all, flipping a 15 pound 350 degree turkey is a real challenge. Second, from the times I've experimented with this method, I haven't really been convinced that it results in a juicier turkey breast. The juices from the turkey don't really begin flowing heavily during the first hour of cook time anyway, so the turkey breast doesn't receive as much extra basting in this position as people believe. Plus, turkey basters aren't just for artificial insemination - we've got those things in the kitchen for a reason, so grab it and do some basting of your own.

If you'd like to experiment, cook your turkey breast side down to start and find out for yourself. But, be warned, the breast will have the imprint of the rack on it when you turn it face up again. So, if you're planning on having your turkey ogled at before it's carved, be aware that the breast might have some cosmetic damage.

Step 8: After 2 hours

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The first two hours of cooking are the easiest, and also the hardest. It's easy because you don't have to do anything, and hard because you'll need to resist the urge to look. It's not like there's a party going on in there, so just let it be.

After 2 hours you can take a peak and make sure that everything is going to plan. Peek inside, do some initial basting, if any juices have collected, re-wrap the aluminum foil and put the turkey back in the oven to continue roasting.

If you really want to know what the turkey looks like during the first two hours of cooking, check out the pictures below and spare your own turkey the disruptions.

Step 9: After 3 hours, check and baste

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Different size turkeys cook for different amounts of time. After 3 hours at 375 degrees, my 15 lb. turkey looked as pictured below. Now's the time to do some serious basting and ready the turkey for it's final phase of roasting.

During this final phase, you'll have some decisions to make, and what you decide will determine just how amazing your turkey will come out. I'd have to say it's the most influential part of the whole process.

So, take a deep breath, remove the foil completely, put the turkey back in the oven, and read on.

Step 10: Cook until meat is 165 degrees

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This is the final and most important phase of roasting. The whole house will be smelling like glorious juicy turkey, family members that you haven't seen since last year will be chewing your ear off, there'll be 15 other dishes being cooked at the same time, and so it's easy to get distracted. If you take the bird out too soon, you'll be serving undercooked turkey. Take it out too late, and everything will be dry and tough.

In order to hit it just right, get yourself a meat thermometer and check the temperature of the turkey every 15 minutes during the final phase of cooking.

The goal is to get the turkey to reach 165 degrees in the thickest section of the thigh. Plunge the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and take a temperature reading. Try not to have the tip of the thermometer touching the turkey bone, but just nestled deep inside the meet.

While you're getting the temperature of the turkey to hit its mark, you're also trying to brown and crisp the skin. With the foil removed, this will happen rather quickly. You've got only a few variables to manipulate. Basically, there's the foil covering, the temperature of the oven and the time you cook the turkey for. Thus, it becomes a balancing act between these three things in order to reach the final perfectly cooked turkey.

If the skin is browning too quickly, but the meat is still less than 165 degrees, cover the turkey in foil to slow the crisping process.

If the meat reaches 165 degrees before the skin crisps to your liking, remove the foil, crank the oven up to 400 degrees, and take the turkey out as soon as the skin crisps up, so as not to overcook the turkey.

If all has gone to plan, after 3 hours of cooking, the turkey should be fairly close to 165 degrees in the thigh already, and so that final 30 - 45 minutes of foil-less roasting should really just be to crisp the skin, baste the bird more often, and impart that final savory roasted flavor onto the flavor profile.

Step 11: Eat the tastiest turkey ever

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Once the turkey reaches 165 degrees at the thickest section of the thigh, and the skin has thoroughly browned crisped to your liking, remove it from the oven and simply let it sit.

The turkey will need to cool for at least 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Remember, don't throw away those great pan drippings, use them to make some delicious Gravy.

Marvel at the wonderfully roasted turkey you've just prepared, share it with your family and friends, and reward yourself as the turkey roasting hero that you are!
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nagutron6 years ago
I have friends who swear that it's all about brining the turkey first. Here's their recipe:

Brine Recipe for Turkeys
For each 2 gallons water

  • 2 cup Kosher salt (less salty than table or sea salt) or 1 ½ sea salt
  • 2 cup sugar
  • sage (Fresh herbs where possible)
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • 8 bay leaves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cardamon seeds
  • large chunk of ginger cut up
  • peppercorns
  • juniper berries
  • garlic cloves
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Let cool, add 1 gallon apple cider. Brine bird for 24 to 48 hours. Rinse off well and cook.
Been looking for a brine recipe...so, does it take 2 gal. of water to do just one bird? How big must the container be to soak that sucker in the frig? Or can you put it in some sort of bag and do it in an iced-down beer cooler? Thanks, JJ
To hold turkey+brine, we used a plastic file container we bought at Big Lots for $2. Worked perfectly!
ndana1 year ago
Awesome instructable thank you soooo much I placed the toothpicks like you do in the photo but what exactly is the purpose?? great finished product thanks again!!
viktorbeat1 year ago
This is disgusting! Celebrating what you have, Thanksgiving, killing an animal just for pleasure? Would you like someone else did that to you with the excuse of "Christmas"?
radratonly1 year ago
sounds tasty
My school of thought here is that since the veggies are crammed inside, they lack the proper temperature to cook fully. You could achieve the same goal by placing them around the bird, allowing them to swim in the broth you have created by adding all the herbs to the cavity and flushing it with baster every hour.
A cold turkey inside means a raised risk of salmonella and we can't run that risk.
Simply stuff two sliced lemons inside and squeeze them and they will help keep the bird moistened while it cooks they absorb the broth and give off steam.
The process of rubbing down a turkey with salt and then rinsing it off again is obligatory, it serves no real purpose since the salt being rubbed on, and then rinsed off actually gives no flavor to the finished product.
My suggestion:
When the turkey is ready for the oven, spread a layer of good olive oil on the bird, rub it down, then a handful of Kosher Salt, pepper, and various seasonings, (thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley) whatever you choose.
This way at least when you baste the turkey with the chicken broth, you retain flavor and spread all these herbs throughout the turkey cavity and on the skin as well.
Teachable1 year ago
delicious looking turkey.
SD4562 years ago
I've roasted my first turkey in my life. My Dad was speechless when he tasted it. Thank you very much for this recipe! :) It was a complete success, my family loved it!
Wow. It looks very delicious.
kpromo4 years ago
So nice, so interesting. I will make this on my birthday
scot.hacker4 years ago
Just wanted to say thanks. At age 46, I finally cooked my first turkey, using this recipe, and it came out fantastic! Really easy, actually. Used an 11-lb bird, and amazingly, it was cooked perfectly in 2:15' (so plan accordingly for smaller turkeys!)

The only difference was that we used a roasting pan with lid, so no tinfoil involved.

Also made my first gravy and first stock - all came out great.
magic19694 years ago
this is my way for years.good anyway you do it yuuuum.happy turkey day to all.
doc_howell4 years ago
I recommend leaving the pop-up thermometer in place until the bird is completely cooked and rested. If you remove it before the juices have redistributed, juices will escape from the hole. Doesn't really matter if it's popped or not. Remove it just before you serve it.

Also, if you brine, I found adding apple juice or cider to the brine makes the bird a deeper reddish-brown...very GBAD.
JeannieW4 years ago
This looks like a really good recipe. I'm going up north for Thanksgiving, so we're doing turkey Mom's way this year... will try this next time. :) We usually do it the way Grandma did:

Melt 1/2 to 3/4 cup of butter in a pan, add 2-3 cups of flour and mix in. Cool it a bit. Use your hands to cover the top and sides of the turkey, including the legs and wings. Bake it. Right before its done, make a pot of water with onion soup mix. When the bird is done, scrape the flour/butter mixture into the pan. Add the pot of onion soup and cook on a low heat while you loosen all the pan drippings and mix the flour in. You now have a very nicely crisp and browned turkey, with tons of sumptuously rich gravy. :)

Thanks for sharing Grandma's method of making the turkey, most importantly, GRAVY !
Just to clarify, melt the butter into 2 to 3 cups of flour? Seems like it would be very stiff.
Please reply if you see this sandyrubicz@gmail.com
Thanks
Gobble-Gobble !
Melt the butter in a pan, then add the flour. This makes a roux paste which will stick very nicely to the outside of the turkey. You can also add some seasonings to this if you want, like salt and pepper or poultry seasoning. The butter and flour roux will take on a nice golden brown color and flavor, adding flavor to the gravy. Add extra water if needed. From a large bird, you can easily get 10 cups of gravy. It takes some time to dissolve all that flour, so someone needs to be working on gravy, while someone else does the turkey slicing and getting all the food into bowls, but its well worth it. We usually end up with enough gravy to last as long as the leftovers.
daemonkrog4 years ago
I love this instructable. I do a very similar Turkey and do only one thing different.

I rub the herb butter between the skin and meat. You just use a spatula to gently peel the skin away from the meat, load it up with herb butter, and rub it around inside. It really adds flavor to the meat. Try it sometime. The skin is much stronger than it seems so don't worry too much about it breaking.
frogmama4 years ago
My 7 year old was dissapointed that she has never seen a turkey, either on Thanksgiving or the 2 or 3 times each year I cook one, all laid out on a platter with the veggies around it. She really wants me to do it that way next time. I chuckled and told her that you only see that on TV - it gets too cold to let it sit there on a plate to carve, etc.

....But I'll have to do it this way because (1) it looks yummy and (2) I'm kinda a sucker for indulging my daughter on these little things :)

Thanks!
ivonce774 years ago
Sounds good to me!Thanks
scot.hacker4 years ago
How would you adjust these instructions if cooking the stuffing separately? I assume the bird would cook from inside more quickly? (and if so, how much more quickly?)

Also: What would you estimate would be the total cooking time for a 11-lb turkey?
happyguy545 years ago
I used a Jennie-O (already injected) 18 lb. turkey....added green onions with bulbs to the cavity.....didn't peek for 3 hours.....basted uncovered for 2 more hours....the digital thermometer read 175 degrees......made a gravy with corn starch.....best turkey I have ever roasted in my life!!!!   Next time I'll quarter my carrots and cut the celery stalks smaller too....the veggies will be an addition to the other food....best recipe ever in my book....I didn't apply the Kosher salt but once....no need to rinse....added garlic powder to the seasonings......perfect!
happyguy545 years ago
Since my 18 lb. Jennie-O came already injected I decided to go directly with the Kosher salt and ground black pepper.  I added garlic powder to the bird as well.  I foiled the pan and did not peek until the 3 hour mark and basted away for the next 2 hours.  The digital thermometer showed 175 degrees and it was cooked.  This is the best turkey that I have ever cooked.  The fresh herbs and veggies really made the difference!  Thanks for sharing with us!!
HappyGuy54
rocklocker6 years ago
Be careful when brining a turkey. It must be a fresh, unprocessed bird. Most of the commercial brands have been injected with a salt/water solution to allegedly make them juicer. If you brine this type of bird you will be sorry. Remember fresh is best.
Why will I be sorry? What happens when you Re-Brine a Turkey? 
The amount of salt will be too high. A fresh, unprocessed bird soaked in a brine you make will give you much better results.
bscleveland5 years ago
okay seriously, best turkey recipe ever.  I don't know if we tented it really really well or something but our 21.4 lb turkey cooked in 2 hours to 170 degrees, it was juicy and delicious but we had to crisp the skin so we just took the foil off.  We didn't add stock because we forgot but the veggies and butter with herbs provided so much we had a ton of gravy.  Thank you so much!  Know any more?
 
flyatsky5 years ago
it's very nice
tanx
WILL625 years ago
WHEN THE THEMOMETER THAT LIVES IN YOUR OVEN SAYS 375 YOU COULD TAKE A PENCIL AND MAKE A MARK AND 375 BY THE OVEN DIAL SO YOU'D REALLY BE IN THE BALLPARK, FOR EASY REFERENCE AND ONE LESS THING TO MESS WITH...
turkeylover5 years ago
Wow! First, I've never seen such nicely written description of a recipe in any other site. My favorite have been the turkey recipe at 123Recipes.com. But I am gonna try this one next... The pic looks so inviting.
tireswing6 years ago
1) 155 F in the breast and rest to get 160. Use a wire rack and the thigh will be just fine. 2) Good idea with the flavored butter but get nearly all of it under the skin even if you brine. If you brine use unsalted butter. 3) Try to brine with an un-injected turkey. You'll know by the label. 4) Reduce a large amount of your favorite beverage that goes with turkey to nearly a syrup and combine with the compound butter; in the past I have used sherry, chardonnay, gewurtzraminer, liebfraumilch, and American Pale Ales with great success. 5) I get that you feel under scrutiny at these holidays but cut yourself some slack...........roast, fry, smoke, grill........whatever you want as long as you and the family have fun. Otherwise, go out to eat and give someone else the money and satisfaction of a job well done.
crg11096 years ago
where is this stock listing needed in step 7 in the 'gather materials' step????? attention to detail... might cost me my turkey dinner...
noahw (author)  crg11096 years ago
I just added it in. A thousand pardons, I really hope I didn't cost you your turkey dinner.
JellyWoo6 years ago
great instructable!
Hunnyb89756 years ago
That is without a doubt the most beautifulest looking turkey Ive ever seen in my life. Looks like the meat just falls off the bone. Hmm hmm, im coming to YOUR house this year! LOL
ElChick6 years ago
NOM NOM NOMilicious!!!!!! (8O)>
jhorton6 years ago
Step 3 seems like a waste of salt to me. But otherwise, awesome Instructable!
roof rack6 years ago
The USDA recommends that all fowl be cooked to a minimum of 165F in the center of the thickest parts of the meat to eliminate, or at least make improbable, the likelihood of food born illness. The temperature should be checked in the thickest part of the breast and the thigh. This should be done even if there is a "pop-up" thermometer installed in the bird. When a bird is stuffed you must also insure that the center of the stuffing reaches a minimum of 165F. In my 4+ decades of turkey roasting experience (we serve turkey 6-8 times per year in our home), the center of the stuffing will not reach 165F until long after the breast and thigh have reached 165F. This results in an over cooked bird. Heating the stuffing before it goes into the bird helps. I also insert a 5/16 in. dia. x 16 in. stainless steel rod into the stuffing to help transfer heat into the stuffing. Stuffing the bird also increases roasting time so I seldom stuff one anymore. In fact, now that I have a turkey frier, I seldom oven roast a turkey. Here is the USDA site for roasting turkey safely:
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey/index.asp

HAPPY TURKEY DAY EVERYONE!
Borat6 years ago
It's all in the quality of the turkey, and you must use fresh. This is the same basic recipe as found anywhere, and has always ended in disaster for me using frozen.
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