It’s that time of year when turkey takes over as the main dish in almost every home in America. Yes, it’s time for Thanksgiving. There is a chill in the air, commercials for Christmas have started to run and rival football teams are practicing for that once a year showdown with their arch enemies.
So, just how do you cook a turkey? Well, there are more choices than you can shake a stick at as we say here in the South. I have cooked turkey in the oven in a All-Clad Stainless Roasting Pan with Rack and Turkey Forks and on a vertical roaster. I have rotisseried turkey using the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, deep fried turkey using the Masterbuilt Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer and grilled turkey. You can say I know my way around turkeys, lol.
My preference in brands of turkey is, hands down, Butterball. This is a link to the Butterball site, which is a wealth of information on everything turkeys. They have recipes, videos and how-tos to help you out. Their turkeys also come with “lifters” to help you get the turkey from the pan to the platter the easy way.
The traditional way of cooking a turkey is oven roasting and the recipe that follows outlines that method. There are many ways to season your turkey from just salt and pepper all the way to spices and fruit. My favorite for poultry is a combination of Lawry’s Garlic Salt, Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt, Oregano, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. I mix this in a bowl and use the back of a spoon to crush the mixture so that it releases the flavor and aroma. The quantity depends on what you are roasting. If you are roasting a 12 pound turkey, you’ll need about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture. I also cut lemons in half and stuff the cavity of the turkey with them after I rub a handful of the spices in there. This works for the pan roasting or the rotisserie roasting, either one.
One point that I would like to make is that you really need to have an oven thermometer, like the Taylor Precision Classic Oven Thermometer and check to make sure that your oven cooks at the correct temperature. If your oven runs hot or cold, you need to know this before you cook anything, much less an 18 pound turkey. They are not expensive and everybody should use one. They have a hook at the top and can easily be attached to the top rack and placed towards the back of the oven, out of the way.
If you are planning to use a frozen turkey, please defrost it using the refrigerator method. Allow one day of refrigerator defrosting per 4 pounds of turkey. Always put it on a shallow pan, like a baking sheet with low sides. So, a 12 pound turkey needs at least 3 days to completely defrost. You can do the cold water in the sink method, but I would avoid that one if I could. That one is 30 minutes per pound and a lot of water changes. Do you really want to baby sit a turkey and tie your sink up for 6 hours? I know that I don’t. Plan ahead and thaw that bird in the refrigerator.
So here we go Oven Roasted Turkey Recipe:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from bag. Remove giblet package. Drain juices and pat dry with clean paper towels. Add a handful of your spice mixture to the cavity and rub it in. Put the halved lemons in the cavity.
- Place turkey lifter across full length of flat rack in a shallow roasting pan, 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.
- Tuck wings back to hold the neck skin in place. This will help stabilize the turkey in the pan and when you are carving it.
- Place thawed or fresh turkey, breast side up, on the turkey lifter. Raise one loop over wings and breast, and the other loop over drumsticks. Rest loops on turkey, not over the edge of the pan during roasting.
- Brush skin lightly with vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray to keep the skin from drying. Rub the turkey with your spice mixture.
- Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle but not touching the bone.
- Place your turkey in the pre-heated oven at 325 degrees.
- When the turkey is about 2/3 done, loosely cover the breast and top of the drumsticks with a piece of lightweight foil to keep it from overcooking.
- Use the roasting schedule below as a guide and start checking for doneness about 30 minutes before the end of recommended cooking times.
- Your turkey is done when the Taylor Classic Style Meat Dial Thermometer reaches 180 degrees deep in the thigh. At this temperature juices should be clear, not reddish pink, when thigh muscle is pierced deeply.
- Lift roasted turkey onto platter with turkey lifter and discard lifter.
- Before carving, let your turkey stand 15 minutes to allow juices to set.
4½ to 7 Lbs. cook 2 to 2½ hours
7 to 9 Lbs. cook 2½ to 3 hours
9 to 18Lbs. cook 3 to 3½ hours
18 to 22 Lbs. cook 3½ to 4 hours
22 to 24 Lbs. cook 4 to 4½ hours
24 to 30 Lbs. cook 4½ to 5 hours
Now, you may have noticed that I did not include any instructions for stuffing your turkey. We’re Southern and we make cornbread dressing, which is prepared separately. I have never stuffed a turkey, but if you want, go to the link to Butterball that I provided for you and they will show you how. You must be sure that your stuffing is at the correct temperature before serving it and they will give you instructions for that.
Just remember, this ain’t rocket science. You can do this, so don’t be afraid. Just be sure to take that giblet pack out and you’ll be all right, lol. I’m sure you know someone that didn’t know to do that when they made their first turkey.
So what do you do with the giblet package? Make giblet gravy, of course.
Giblet Gravy Recipe
- Remove giblets from package and put in a stock pot. Add the neck if your turkey has one with it. Some brands don’t.
- Add 1 can of chicken broth and about 3 cups of water. Add salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- When giblets are done, remove from the broth and save the broth for the gravy. Cut giblets into small pieces.
- In a large sauce pan, make a roux. That would be a ratio of 2 tablespoons oil to 2 tablespoons flour per 1 cup of liquid. So the quantities above would be 1 can of broth = approximately 2 cups plus 3 cups water = 5 cups, so 10 tablespoons oil and 10 tablespoons flour. First, heat the oil until it is rippling in the pan, but not smoking. Add the flour and stir constantly until it is lightly browned and has the aroma of roasted nuts. This will take about 5 minutes. Do not skimp on this step. This is the essence of your gravy. Add your broth and stir until it is smooth and thickened.
- Last step, add the diced giblets. A lot of people like to add boiled, sliced eggs to giblet gravy and we do in ours. Add them after you mix the giblets into the gravy.
The basic roux formula is one that I learned many years ago and it never fails. You may be cooking for two or twenty, but the formula always works, so I wanted to give you the formula so you can tailor it to the quantity that you need.
Now go impress your family and friends and show them how brave you are.