Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey can be challenging. Especially if this is your first time! I remember my first turkey years ago. It was a huge turkey, that took forever to thaw. And of course, half of the turkey was still frozen after it was done cooking! Luckily, the turkey was large enough that we had a half cooked turkey! We probably each have had some sort of turkey fail story LOL. There are so many questions on making a turkey that there is even a hotline! Although, I’ve never used it. Anyway, my favorite turkey recipe is herb and citrus. Here are the steps I take to make a delicious Thanksgiving Turkey! *Note, I figured it would be easier to write all the steps without a recipe card, as there a lot of steps.
Thaw your turkey!!
Make sure you thaw your turkey. If you can, get a fresh turkey, then you don’t have to worry about thawing. The downside is you have to get it a few days before vs buying a frozen turkey weeks before thanksgiving. Either way, figure out how many pounds you need and then you can determine how many days in advance you need to buy the bird. You need 24 hours, per 5 lbs to thaw in fridge. I usually try to get a smaller turkey. 12-15 lbs. Enough for leftovers but not too much. It can get tiring to eat turkey for more than 2-3 days in my house. Even with all the different meals I make with turkey. Although I do freeze what we don’t use right away.
Herb and Citrus
I use dried herbs and fresh herbs, along with citrus.
For Dried Herbs, you will need:
- 1 tsp of Salt
- 1/2 tsp of Pepper
- 1 tbsp of Cilantro
- 1 tbsp of Dried oregano or powder
- 1 tbsp of Rosemary
- 1 tbsp of Thyme
- 1 tbsp of Garlic powder
- 1 tbsp of Onion Powder
Fresh Herbs and Citrus, you will need:
- Fresh rosemary (a bunch)
- Fresh thyme (a bunch)
- Cilantro (a bunch)
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Lime
- 1 Orange
Other Ingredients you will need:
- 1 stick of Unsalted Butter, sliced into 8-10 slices
- 1 Bell Pepper, cut into 4 large pieces
- A few Habanero Peppers (optional)
- 1 whole Garlic, peeled
- 1 Onion, quartered
How to Season Turkey
Now time to season your turkey! Remove gizzards and the plastic that holds the legs together. You can use twine to tie legs later. But I must admit, every year I forget the twine and my turkey comes out fine without this step.
Pat dry your turkey with paper towels. Mix all the dried seasonings in a bowl and massage your turkey all over with the herb mix. Also, add some of the seasoning under the skin. Squeeze the citrus juice all over the turkey and again massage to make sure the turkey is fully seasoned all over.
Next, take a stick of butter and slice. About a 8 -10 slices of butter. Stuff some slices of butter under the skin and add random slices all over the turkey. Then stuff the cavity of the turkey with the leftover lime, lemon and orange peels, fresh herbs, peppers, garlic and onion. Whatever does not fit in the cavity, put on top of the turkey.
Now this last step is crucial. Cover the turkey in plastic wrap, NOT foil, as the citrus and foil don’t like each other much. I did this one year and it was a pain getting all the small pieces of foil off the turkey. Put the turkey in the fridge to marinate, up to 2 days. The second day, remove the plastic and let the turkey skin completely dry out in the fridge.
Time to cook! Remove turkey from fridge and let it rest for about an hour or two before cooking in oven. Move the fresh herbs sitting on the turkey and put them on the sides on the turkey. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, in the meantime. An important part is to use an oven safe thermometer to leave in the thickest part of the turkey, while it cooks. The breast is a good place for it. Once turkey is ready to go in the oven, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
Cook turkey in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then lower heat to 325 degrees. After the first hour of cooking, baste the turkey every 15 minutes or so. You can wait a little longer of course. The instructions are on the turkey bag. For a turkey of 12-15 lbs it will take about 3-3.5 hours. Make sure to follow it, per how many pounds you have. It always takes longer than it says. You want a nice brown top. 173 degrees, means your turkey is done!
How to Carve
Once turkey is done, rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. This is essential to keep the juices in and not let the turkey dry out. You also want the turkey cool enough to not burn your fingers when carving!
I won’t take create, on how to carve a turkey. The credit goes to THIS youtube video. Carving a turkey is a must. You get all the meats and can beautifully decorate a platter of meat instead of ripped pieces of meat. I love to decorate my turkey with fresh rosemary.
Lastly, save your broth/stock to make gravy and leftover turkey soup!