Thanksgiving is inching closer and closer. The holiday is only 15 days away. Don’t fret though! I’m here to help!
Making a perfect turkey isn’t tough. You are fully equipped to make it if you have an oven, turkey pan, tin foil, appropriate spices, and a meat thermometer. Not joking. I was very apprehensive the first time I tackled baking a turkey and, to my delight, it came out perfectly without any basting.
You might need some more convincing that it’s easy. Everyone believes that the turkey requires hours of basting in the kitchen and watching it like a hawk. For this recipe, you need to get your hands dirty prepping the turkey then you just let it bake. The only attention the turkey will need while baking is to take the tin foil off the turkey when it’s 45 minutes to 1 hour away from being done so the skin has a chance to brown up. It’s really that simple.
First things first, you will need to defrost your turkey. This is best done in the refrigerator. Please allow several days for this and follow the rule of needing about 24 hours for each 4-5 lbs. So, if you have a 12 lb. turkey to defrost, you will to have it sitting in your fridge for approximately 3 days.
If you are cutting it close, you can plop the turkey in hot water in your kitchen sink. This really isn’t recommended, but if you are desperate, this is an option. Keep flushing the hot water to limit the amount of time you leave it in the sink. Best option, plan ahead and let it defrost slowly in the fridge.
Quick tip: defrost your turkey in your turkey pan in the fridge. Then, cut the bag the turkey comes in with the turkey still sitting in the pan. The extra juices will stay in the pan and won’t make a mess all over your kitchen. The juice can stay in the pan as you will be adding some water or broth to help keep the turkey moist before baking.
Once your turkey is defrosted, you will want to get your spices ready. I use a combination of olive oil and butter.
Stir and set the buttery spice mixture aside.
Next, you will be getting your hands dirty. Wash your hands and half way up your forearms. If you are skittish about this part, find a friend or your significant other to help. Reach in a find the extras included with the turkey, the giblets and neck. Discard.
Notice where I’m pointing in the photo below? You will be pulling the skin up from the meat, starting at the neck.
Slowly (you don’t want to tear the skin), lift the skin away from the meat.
Keep going. You need to make a pocket for your buttery spice mixture to go in. This allows you to sit back and relax while it cooks. Remember: ABSOLUTELY NO BASTING REQUIRED! You want to make the pocket extend as much as possible over the top of the bird.
Take your buttery spice mixture with a spoon or by hand and start shoving it in your pocket between the skin and the meat. Use about 2/3-3/4 of the mixture on the inside of the bird and try to evenly distribute it under the skin.
Tuck your wings underneath the turkey as shown above. Use the remaining buttery spice mixture to run on top of your turkey, including the legs.
Once you’re done, wash your hands and then sprinkle a little paprika on top. Add some water or chicken broth to the pan. Optional: add diced onions and minced garlic to the liquid in the pan and into the chest cavity. If you are stuffing the turkey, remember you will need longer to bake the turkey.
Cover the turkey with tin foil. You will likely need 2 sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 3-4 hours, until the thickest part of your turkey reads 180 degrees F. When you have approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour left of baking time, remove the tin foil and let the skin crisp and brown up.
VOILA! Look at that perfect Thanksgiving turkey you have baked. Be proud!
See! That wasn’t too difficult right? Yes it requires some upfront dirty work, but look at the result! TOTALLY WORTH IT! (Especially since you could have enjoyed a drink while the turkey cooked instead of basting it every 15 minutes!)
Is your mouth watering yet? It should be, this turkey is scrumptious! (It will knock your socks off!)
1 turkey (approximately 12-lbs. If you are going bigger, 1.5x or 2x the spices).
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. butter, softened (1 stick)
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. basil
1 t. ground sage
1 t. salt
1 t. poultry seasoning
1/2 t. pepper
1 can chicken broth (or 1-2 cups of water)
1 whole onion, chopped
minced garlic, approximately 3-4 T.
1. Defrost your turkey. Follow the rule of letting it defrost in your fridgerator 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs of turkey you have. If you are doing this last minute, you can defrost in your kitchen sink with hot water. This is not recommend, so plan ahead! In a small bowl, mix the butter, olive oil, and spices listed above, minus the paprika and set aside. Discard the giblets and neck.
2. Wash your hands and half way up your forearms. Peel the skin away from the meat of the turkey, starting at the neck. My hubby loves this job and he feels as if he contributed to making the turkey. Be warned, you are going to get a bit messy. (I didn’t promise this was a clean recipe!) You are creating a pocket for the buttery spice mixture to sit in.
3. Once the skin is separated from meat, shove about 2/3 the buttery spice mixture in the pocket you just created. Then, rub the remaining spice mixture on the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle outside of turkey with a little paprika.
4. Tuck those little chicken wings underneath the turkey. This will prevent them from getting burnt. This requires a little finagling of the turkey.
5. Place onions and garlic in cavity of turkey and around the turkey in the pan. Add the chicken broth to the pan. If your turkey came with a way to keep the legs together, reattach it to the legs for baking.
6. Cover the turkey in tin-foil. Uncover for the last 45-ish minutes of baking. This will allow the turkey to brown-up, but not burn and dry out.
7. Bake the turkey at 325 degrees F for 3-4 hours (depending on the size of the turkey) or until the internal temperature is at least 180 degrees F.
8. Once your turkey is cooked, remove from oven and allow to stand 10-20 minutes before carving.
**This link should help plan out cooking times, based on your turkey’s weight:
Good luck! You can do it!
Notes: You can take the juice from the pan and strain through a mesh strainer to remove the onion and garlic chunks. Then add to a saucepan on your stove and heat with a little corn starch to make some homemade gravy!