We are officially on countdown to Thanksgiving, which is only about 2 weeks away, eek! If you are the lucky one that gets to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, then we’ve got your back! In the next week or so, we are going to bring you some great recipes and tips on how to make this Thanksgiving dinner a successful and yummy one. No quirky, unique recipes here folks, not this time. We are going for a good old, traditional Thanksgiving dinner! Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce… the works! Oh, and for dessert, there will be some amazing pie recipes – think pumpkin, apple, pecan. You know, the ones that make you dream of fall!
Today we are starting out with the star of the show – the turkey! I think we can all agree we’ve enjoyed some fantastic, uber delicious roasted turkeys for Thanksgiving in the past and then we’ve experienced some tasteless, dry turkeys before. Never a fun time, especially when you are the one cooking it! I’ve experienced this myself. The first time I ever hosted a holiday dinner at my home for some of my friends way back when Adam and I first got married, I made a very dry and bland turkey. Thank goodness my friends are wonderful and choked it down anyways.
No one likes a dry bird! Tips for a moist and flavorful roasted turkey
- Never stuff your turkey. It takes the meat longer to get to the correct temp due to the density of the bird. I usually only put a few sprigs of herbs, a wedge of onion or citrus in my turkeys and that’s it.
- Allow the turkey to come to room temp for 1 hour before placing in. This allows for more even roasting.
- Compound butter (butter mixed with spices, garlic or herbs) under the skin. I know it’s probably not the best thing for you, but it really helps make the meat uber moist and flavorful!
- Avoid opening the oven door to look at the turkey. I know this is hard, but it lets out all of the heat and making the cooking process longer. That means basting a turkey is not the best of ideas. I only open the door 2-3 times, if possible. Once after an hour and a half, to cover the breast of the turkey with foil and rotate for even cooking. A second or third time to insert my Range thermometer into the bird, so I can monitor the temp from my phone, as it’s getting close to being finished.
- Do not overcook the bird! I know this goes without saying, but it will suck out the moisture right away! 165 degrees and no more
- After roasting the turkey, allow it to rest for 30 minutes, loosely covered in tin foil. There are arguments about whether this really does make meat moister, but it’s been working for me, so I am not going to break away from that process.
- Always and whenever possible, brine your turkey! Skipping this step is not the end of the world, but it really does make a world of difference in the flavor of your meat. It’s incredible!
And keep in mind that not always does it turn out perfectly! It’s a lot to take on a full Thanksgiving meal and you should always be super proud of yourself for doing it! So make sure to pamper yourself in the process. Grab a glass of wine, take a moment to breathe here and there, chat with some friends and family – whatever it takes to relieve some of the stress. You deserve it!
The key to pulling off a successful party is doing as much as possible in advance. This recipe for Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy has 4 items that can be prepared in advance already, so you are off to a good start.
- Brining can be done up to 2 days in advance
- Compound herb butter can be made up to 3 days in advance
- Gravy base can be made up to 2 days in advance
- Inserting compound butter under turkey’s skin can be done 1 day in advance
That would leave you with simply placing the turkey in the oven, ready to go, the day of the event! Awesome!
- 8 cups very hot water
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 8 quarts ice water
- 1 14-16 pound turkey
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 4 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 2 tbsp brandy
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 apples, cored and quartered
- Small handful of fresh herbs for cavity of turkey (thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage)
- Combine 8 cups hot water, salt and brown sugar in a very large food-safe container or cooler (large enough to hold the turkey). Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add 8 quarts ice water to sugar/salt mixture. Reserve neck from turkey, wrap and place in fridge. Submerge turkey in water, cover container and refrigerate for 7 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse and pat turkey dry.
- In a bowl, add butter and whip until soft. Add in chopped herbs and minced garlic. Mix until fully combined. Scrape compound butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap and carefully roll butter into a 1 inch thick cylinder. Refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or overnight.
- In a large saucepan, add chicken broth and apple cider. Boil until reduced to 3 cups. Pour broth reduction in a bowl and set aside. In the same pan, add butter and melt over medium heat. Add in flour and whisk to combine. Add in broth reduction, cream and brandy. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until gravy base is thickened and reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Make sure to whisk often so that the surface of the gravy doesn't form a skin. Cool gravy base down slightly and set aside.
- Remove turkey from fridge, drain any accumulated juiced and pat turkey dry again, if needed. Allow turkey to come to room temp for 1 hour, on a large platter or sheet pan, this will ensure more even roasting.
- Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, taking the chilled compound herb butter, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Using your fingers or a very soft spatula, carefully separate the skin of the turkey from the meat. Do not tear skin. Insert all but 2 sliced compound herb butter rounds under the skin of the turkey, working all around the turkey as much as possible. Gently press the rounds of butter into the meat to flatten the rounds. With the remaining 2 rounds of butter, rub the entire skin of the turkey. This will help with the nice golden color of the skin when roasting.
- Insert 2 apple quarters and the small handful of mixed herb sprigs into cavity of turkey. Tuck wing tips under turkey and tie legs loosely together to hold shape.
- Place turkey in prepared roasting pan. Add reserved turkey neck and remaining apple quarters to pan.
- Roast turkey for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Rotate pan in oven and cover breast of turkey with foil, to keep from over browning. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165 degrees F. (About 3 1/2 hours total).
- Transfer turkey to a platter; let stand at least 30 minutes before carving.
- Discard apples and turkey neck from roasting pan. Pour pan juices into a glass measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of juices. Pour degreased juices into gravy base and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally, so surface of gravy doesn't create a skin. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Season gravy with salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve turkey with gravy.
- -Turkey can be brined up to 2 days before roasting. Drain, rinse and pat turkey dry. Store tightly covered in the fridge until ready to roast.
- - Compound herb butter 3 days in advance and stored tightly wrapped in the fridge until ready to use.
- - Gravy base can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored tightly wrapped in the fridge until ready to use.
- - Chilled compound butter can be added to the brined turkey 1 day before roasting. Stored in fridge, tightly wrapped. Pull out 1 hour before roasting to allow turkey to come to room temp.
Brine the turkey
Make the compound herb butter
Add compound butter to turkey
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With love from my kitchen to yours,