I’ll admit it, I was a little bit intimidated by the turkey. I have never cooked a turkey before in my life. I had watched my mother do it every Thanksgiving and Christmas while growing up but had always refused to participate (raw poultry isn’t my favorite). After a few years working in the food service arena, raw poultry no longer make me take off running and after reading a couple recipes, it didn’t really seem that bad. I’m not sure what was left to intimidate me but I wasn’t going to let fear get in my way. The turkey is done now and I must say, it really was simple. Thaw it, rinse it, stuff it, butter it then bake it. The end. REALLY.
|11 lb.||whole turkey||$7.50|
|1 oval||aluminum roasting pan||$1.99|
|3 sprigs||fresh thyme||$0.63|
|3 sprigs||fresh rosemary||$0.63|
|4-5 leaves||fresh sage||$0.63|
|1 handful||fresh parsley||$0.25|
|8 Tbsp (1 stick)||melted butter||$1.04|
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and make sure the rack inside the oven is on the lowest level (birds are tall). If your bird is frozen, thaw it for two days in your refrigerator. I bought mine frozen the night before cooking so I had to thaw it under running water in my sink. Make sure it is cool running water, it will take about 1 hour.
STEP 2: Remove the wrapping and pull out the neck and whatever else might be stuffed inside (sometimes gizzards, mine had a bag of “gravy” that was near impossible to pull out – see picture). Rinse the bird and pat dry.
STEP 3: Place the bird in a roasting pan and tuck the wings (the long pointy ones) up under the body so they stay put. Chop the onion into sections and the celery and carrots into large pieces. Stuff a couple of each along with the fresh herbs inside the cavity of the bird. The cavity was much smaller than I imagined so I had to put the extra onion, celery and carrot pieces in the roasting pan around the bird. I made sure that all of the herbs got inside the cavity.
STEP 4: Melt the stick of butter in the microwave and brush it generously all over the bird (I used about half of the butter). Save the rest for the second coating. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the roasting pan and bird with foil and put in the oven to roast for 2 hours.
I never knew a raw bird could look so delicous! It actually smelled quite fantastic at this point too, thanks to all of the fresh herbs.
STEP 5: After two hours of roasting, remove the foil and brush with the rest of the butter. Be careful of low hanging heat coils in your oven… they burn knuckles without notice! Return the bird to the oven, turn the heat up to 425 and continue to cook for one more hour.
STEP 6: After the third hour check the bird. Is the outside sufficiently brown? Has the meat thermometer popped out? I used a real meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature had reached 160 degrees. I have priced these at the store and you can buy one for about $3. The red dot meat thermometer that comes in the turkey is not always reliable. After three hours my turkey still needed to brown a bit so I left it in for an additional 30 minutes. Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes to reabsorb the steam (it will escape if you cut immediately, leaving a dry bird). It is now ready to eat!
NOTE: If you are unsure of what size turkey to get (they come all the way up to 20 lbs. or so), here is the rule of thumb: 1.5 lbs. of bird for each person, 2 lbs. per person if you want some left overs. So, my bird was 11 lbs. which means that it will feed 6 people with a little left over.
This is the most basic recipe out there. Since it was my first turkey, I didn’t want to try anything extravagant. I found this recipe for The World’s Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey from the Food Network and pretty much followed that to a T. When you get more comfortable with turkeys you can do all sorts of fun stuff like brining them before roasting, stuffing butter and herbs under the skin, deep frying the turkey… the possibilities are endless.
Also, I really wanted to use fresh herbs here and they ended up being a large part of the cost. If you need to cut back, try using only one variety of herbs. I bought three packages of herbs at $2.50 each. I only used about 1/4 pack of each one and plan to freeze the rest because fresh herbs are just to precious to go to waste!
I’m pretty satisfied with my first turkey experience. It turned out beautiful and the only mishap was a couple of burned knuckles! If you have been afraid to try it in the past, I encourage you to give it a shot this year! Let me know how it turns out :D