Monday, November 22, 2010

Herb-Butter Rubbed Roasted Turkey

This is my tried and true, no-fail Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Moist and juicy with no laborious basting or brine. "Don't open the oven!!" I can hear my mom warning me. I rub it with my Simon and Garfunkel spice mixture. I stuff the cavity of the bird with an onion, orange, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs so that they perfume the meat with fantastic flavors and rub it with butter to keep the bird tender and moist. I love cooking a turkey this way because it is really simple and comes out cooked properly every time. Also, it leaves the most delicious juices in the bottom of the pan so that your gravy is a sensation. This is also nice because it is very passive turkey making. I took a nap while it was in the oven and woke up to my thermometer alarm telling me that it was done. No, no, no...I did not make a gigantic turkey for Mark and me for a weeknight dinner. We had a potluck Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday with Kelaine, Lizzie, and Co. I made the bird and our friends brought some delicious side dishes. We had some seriously fantastic sides dishes from this very talented crew and some of them took pictures and agrees to share them for the blog so that you can enjoy my countdown to Turkey-time!
Herb-Butter Rubbed Roasted Turkey
20 lb. turkey*
1 stick butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion
1 orange
6 cloves garlic
bunch flat leaf parsley
bunch fresh sage
bunch fresh rosemary
bunch fresh thyme

*A note on buying your turkey: I plan for about 1.5 lbs per person. As with many things, the more you spend, the higher the quality. Pick out a turkey that is the highest quality you can spring for. This method will dress up a $0.49/lb. bird and will also be a hit with an expensive, organic one. Also, roast your turkey in a dark roasting pan, uncovered.  You want a pan that has a roasting rack so the juices have somewhere to go.

1. Make your butter rub by setting out a stick of butter until it is very soft (or nuke it for 30-45 seconds.
2. Finely chop about 1 Tbs. each parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. You can do it with dried herbs too, just add about 1 tsp. each instead. Since fresh herbs are so often on sale around Thanksgiving, it is a good time to use them, though.
3. Mix together the soft butter, olive oil, chopped herbs, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  You can make this in advance and refrigerate until you are getting ready to use.  Just bring it out and let it get to room temperature so it is easy to rub on the bird when the time comes.
4. I like to prep my onions and orange before I take out my bird so that I don't have to worry about chopping anything when I have turkey hands. I slice each in half and then I slice the half into 3 pieces so that they will fit into the cavity of the bird.
5. Put about 3 Tbs. salt and 1/2 Tbs. pepper into a small dish so that I can use that to season the turkey when I have turkey hands. Then I just toss whatever was leftover.
6. Take your bird out of the fridge and wash it thoroughly with cold water. REMOVE THE NECK AND GIBLETS!! Pat your turkey dry with a paper towel and sprinkle generously inside and out with about half of your salt/pepper mixture.
7. Stuff the cavity with onions, orange, whole garlic cloves, 3-4 sprigs of each of the fresh herbs.
8. Rub the bird all over with the herbed butter. Get plenty on the breast, legs, wings, and all over the bird. I very gently lift up some of the skin on the breast and rub the herbed butter under the skin as well. Then sprinkle the top generously with salt and pepper mixture. This is a big bird, so you need plenty of salt to keep it flavorful.
9. I tied the legs together with some kitchen twine and I also tuck the wings under the turkey so that they don't burn.
10. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put the turkey into the very hot oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 325. I use my thermometer to cook the turkey until the thickest part of the breast registers at 165 degrees which took about 4 hours.
11. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent tightly with foil for at least 30 minutes so that they juices redistribute into the meat.
12. Slice up and enjoy!
I am not an expert carver, but I try to remove the legs and wings and then take off each breast in two huge pieces. Then I slice the breast into pieces so that everyone gets some skin and white meat. This is how I once saw Ina slice a chicken and I figured it should work for a turkey too.

Not too many leftovers with this crowd!


  1. Thanks again for hosting, Emily. What a pretty bird. Yum. Thanks for lunch today.

    Pictures and accompanying words forthcoming for my dessert...

  2. how did you get the butter to stick?!? *sigh* mine did not look like the picture.