Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Three years ago after a friend gave me a subscription to Food & Wine magazine I decided that I wanted to try to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Over the years we ended up having a frozen smoked turkey and just all made the sides to go with it.  So when I volunteered to make one it was because I found this Herb-Roasted Turkey recipe from Food & Wine.

The first year I did the turkey, after doing the math I was told I needed to buy a 22 pound turkey.  Yup, you read that right, 22 pounds!  I can’t even begin to express to you how tricky it is to maneuver a 22 pound turkey especially once you bring a brine into the mix.  Also, I’d never heard of brining prior to roasting that first turkey.  To get all of the necessary ingredients for the brine I thought I had to head to Central Market, but I have since then found all of the ingredients at my neighborhood grocery store.

Thanksgiving Turkey Ingredients

(I don’t make gravy, we aren’t really brown gravy eaters, so I am omitting that portion of the recipe but it’s on the link)

2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
6 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 Cups kosher salt
1 Cup sugar
8 quarts cold water
18 pound turkey
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter softened
3 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped sage leaves
1 Tablespoon chopped Thyme leaves
Freshly ground pepper

Start by combining in a large sauce pan, the fennel mustard and coriander seeds with the bay leaves, salt, sugar and 1 quart of water.  Bring this to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Transfer the mixture to a very large bowl or pot and add the remaining 7 quarts of cold water.  Add the turkey, breast side down.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.  When I first read this recipe I just rushed over this part not really letting the reality of what I was being asked to do sink in.  I don’t know about you…but I don’t a. have anything big enough to hold 8 gallons of liquid plus an 18 pound turkey and b. I don’t have the room in my fridge for something that big!

Here is how I brine my turkey.  I have 2 roasting pans, thanks to a post Thanksgiving purchase.  I put the liquid from the sauce pan into the roasting pan I won’t be cooking my turkey in and then after I’ve gotten all the junk out of the inside of the turkey (the neck and gibblets) I put it breast side down in the pan.  Then I cover the exposed turkey with foil and put it in the fridge to sit over night.  One of my aunts suggested brining the turkey in the sink.  This works only if you have the turkey completely submerged in the liquid.  My sink isn’t actually deep enough to handle the turkeys that I buy, which I painfully found out last year.

I normally go ahead and make the rub for the turkey the night before so I have one less thing to do the next morning.  Take 2 sticks of softened butter, the parsley, sage and thyme and mix it together, season with black pepper.  You’ll want to get this out first thing Thanksgiving morning so that can start to soften again and is easy to spread.

Thanksgiving morning, remove the turkey from the fridge and preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Drain and rinse the turkey then pat it dry.  Discard the brine as you are now through with it.  Here’s where you have to get real hands on with your turkey.  Start at the neck of the turkey and slip your hands between the skin and the meat to loosen the turkey skin.  This will make adding the butter rub easy.  Spread the butter over the outside of the bird and under the skin; don’t be stingy with the rub, use it all up.

Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the pan and roast for 30 minutes.  Then lower the oven temperature to 325 and roast the turkey for about 2 1/2 hours.  I like to baste the turkey at least every 30 minutes.  This helps the skin get crisp and brown.  Even though I always get a turkey with a pop up button I still like to use a thermometer to ensure I cook it long enough.  You’ll want the temperature to hit 170 degrees.  One trick, if the skin of the turkey is starting to burn or get too crisp but the turkey isn’t ready, make a tent over the turkey with foil, this will keep the skin from burning.

Once the turkey has hit 170 degrees you’ll want to let it sit out for about 30 minutes to cool before carving.

This year, since I’m not in charge of stuffing, I think I might stuff the turkey with some halved onions and maybe a little garlic, since I’m obsessed with garlic.  Also,  I hear putting olive oil on the skin will help it get crispy so I may add that into the mix as well.

What I love about this Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe from Food & Wine is the meat on the inside stays so moist.  Every year I get a ton of compliments on this recipe which makes me feel like a rock star and also wonder why people find roasting a turkey to be so intimidating.  The hardest part about the turkey to me is wrangling that huge carcass, it can be tricky to move it around with the brine but everything else is pretty easy.

Everyone else is responsible for all the extras, the green bean casserole, sweet bread casserole, cornbread casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, piece and rolls.  It is quite a feast!

What Thanksgiving Turkey recipe do you use?  Do you brine your turkey?



  1. The Mr. is brining the turkey. He uses a 5 gallon paint bucket, purchased with out paint from Home Depot. He uses Apple Cider, garlic, rosemary (fresh), peppercorn and salt. It’s a “new” receipe so wish us luck!


  1. […] I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy some quality time with friends and family.  If you’re looking for a delicious turkey recipe, this is how I will be cooking my turkey (click here for recipe). […]

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