Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! If you’re here for my Thanksgiving Turkey post, and the pictures look a little different, do not be confused, for I have updated them from the pictures I took in the dark with a camera sitting on a book on my kitchen counter 4 years ago.
Remember that scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold cuts open the very dry turkey? I have detailed directions (with photos) for you to keep that scene from playing out in your own dining room.
I did the math in my head, and I’m betting I’ve made about 4 dozen turkeys in the last 15 years. I’ve tried a ton of different recipes, and about 7 years ago, I finally perfected a turkey with white meat so moist, my husband and I always have to triple check it to make sure it’s actually done. I now use a combination of The Barefoot Contessa’s, and Martha Stewart’s recipes, and this. turkey. is. perfection.
I mean, seriously. Look at this breast meat. Breast meat.
The biggest trick (Ina Garten’s) is to loosen the skin on the breast meat and put a herb butter mixture underneath it. Basted with white wine and butter (Thanks, Martha!) this is sooooo much better than any turkey cooked in a bag! Bonus points that it gives your whole house that magical Thanksgiving fragrance of turkey and sage.
1 Turkey, thawed (I usually wind up with a 30 pounder. Today, it’s just a 14lb)
Stuffing (of your choice *see note below)
2 Sticks of room temperature butter
1 bottle of dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
If you’re stuffing your turkey, make your stuffing, and set aside. * This recipe used to use a stuffed turkey, but because of articles I have read about bacteria and stuffed turkeys, I have started leaving my turkey unstuffed, and cooking the stuffing in a separate casserole dish. I am still including directions for if you would like to stuff your turkey, but I don’t have a picture, because I didn’t do it when I updated the photos. 🙂
Pour the bottle of wine, and one stick of your butter into the bottom of your roasting pan. This is going to combine with the juices and the fats and seasonings of your turkey to make the basting liquid. I used to use Martha Stewart’s more pretentious method of melting the butter and wine in a saucepan before using it to baste, but then I realized I get identical results if I just do this, and I dirty one less dish, which is awesome on Thanksgiving.
Clean your turkey. This is best done over the sink, but I had to do it on the counter in a bowl to get the picture. Rinse out the inside, pull out all the guts and gizards, do with them what you will (Some people put them in their stuffing. I throw them away, they give me the willies) Mine often comes with a bag of gravy. Do people actually eat that gravy that they pulled out of the butt of their turkey?
Check all openings, including the butt, and make sure you get them all- I once forgot a bag in there, and it was NOT pretty.
Pat the turkey down dry with a paper towel.
Salt the inside cavity. I use about a tablespoon of salt for a 30lb turkey. For a 15 lb turkey, two teaspoons. It doesn’t have to be exact.
In a measuring cup, put one stick of butter, a tablespoon of salt (It’s a lot, but you’re seasoning an entire turkey here) 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning, 1/4 tsp sage, and 1 tsp garlic powder, and mix it all together. Set aside.
With your hands, loosen the skin of the turkey. Slowly work your hands underneath the skin until it is completely loosened. This is Ina Garten’s trick, and it is magic.
Spread about half of the butter mixture on the breast, underneath the skin. If your turkey is very cold, the butter is going to clump up a little when you put it on the turkey. That’s okay. It will melt and go all over.
Spread the rest of the butter mixture over the top of the turkey.
Top the turkey with a sprinkle of more salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.
Stuff your turkey, if you’re doing that.
If your turkey’s legs aren’t already tied together, tie them together with cooking twine. Most turkeys these days come with their legs pre-tied, which is nice.
Bake at 325°, for as long as needed (chart below) basting with the wine/butter liquid ever 15-30 minutes. (I do it every 15 minutes, but ever 30 would be fine) If you notice parts of the turkey getting too dark while you’re in there basting, (hello, wings!) cover them loosely with aluminum foil.
Let your turkey rest for at least a half an hour before eating. (Gives you time to make the gravy!)
Cooking time for a Turkey at 325° F
These times are approximate. Always check with a meat thermometer. Turkey should be a minimum of 165° when a thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours
24 to 30 pounds 5 to 5 1/2 hours
to 12 pounds 3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4¾ to 5¼ hours
24 to 30 pounds 5 1/4 to 5 3/4 hours