The first time I hosted a Thanksgiving, I had a turkey catastrophe. I was nervous and stressed out and overcooked my turkey. It was a lot like this:
Yup, my turkey was dry and gross. Thankfully, my sides were great so it was not a big deal. That seems to be the attitude that I take about turkey. Eh. I know that I have to make one, it is not a Thanksgiving dinner without one, but I really could take it or leave it. I really prefer it the next day. In sandwich form.
I roast a lot of turkeys at my house. All year long. So I guess that is another reason why I do not get excited about a Thanksgiving turkey. We eat turkey all the time. I always brine my turkey. I think that it adds moisture and flavor that you cannot get any other way. It is worth the extra step and I encourage you to do it.
When I make a whole turkey, I do not stuff it. I prefer the shorter cooking time, and not worrying about the stuffing temperature. I like to stuff it with onions, garlic, herbs, lemons, and oranges. I make an herb butter that I slather all over the outside of my bird.
Roasting a turkey is not hard, but like most things, it works better when you have a plan. Decide when you want to serve it and works backwards. I made an 11 pound turkey that I wanted to serve at 5pm. I knew that it would take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to cook and need another 20 minutes or so to rest, so I put it in the oven at 1:30. Butterball has a calculator that I use for all of my temperatures and times.
one whole turkey (I prefer a fresh, organic turkey)
for the herb butter:
1 stick of room temperature butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh herbs (I used sage, rosemary, and thyme)
zest of one lemon
Wash your turkey really well. I rub mine with salt and rinse it really, really well. The water needs to run clear. Dry your bird well.
Make sure you check the turkeys neck and behind and make sure that you leave nothing left inside. This is what you are looking for. Some people save these “treats” to make gravy. I do not, so I toss them. I know that some grandmothers just died inside by me typing that. I know that mine would.
Mix together the butter, herbs, salt, pepper, and lemon zest.
Quarter a few lemons, oranges and onions. The amount that you will need depends on how large your bird is. This is a pretty small turkey. I am using a ridiculously large roasting pan with a rack. I love this pan and the rack really makes this job a whole lot easier.
Stuff the inside with the citrus and onions. You want to pack it full, but not so full that air cannot circulate around the inside. I put some herbs in there because it looks pretty. If I can make uncooked poultry look pretty, I will try my hardest.
Criss-cross the turkeys legs and tie it with some cooking twine.
See this little wing sticking out? We need to tuck that underneath. Just stick it underneath the bum and cover the loose skin around the neck.
Slather the bird with butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven. When the turkey is about 2/3 of the way done, cover it in tin foil. This will help your turkey from getting too brown. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thigh (not touching the bone) reaches 180 degrees. The juices will run clear. And your house will smell amazing and like Thanksgiving.
Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before you carve. And there you have the gem of Thanksgiving.