Last Thanksgiving, my sister was living in Australia. She was a sort of “House Mom” to a bunch of Bible College students. For Thanksgiving she made two 25 pound turkeys, 10 lbs of mashed potatoes, 1 gallon of gravy, 3 apple pies, a pumpkin pie, two gluten-free pies, and a batch of no bake cookies! She had never made Thanksgiving before, and then decided to cook all of this by herself for the first time!
Well, this totally inspired me to cook a turkey. I figured, if my little sis can cook for 25 people, I can cook for my family!
I had heard many stories about making a first Thanksgiving turkey. Bad stories. The bird turned out too dry, unseasoned, too salty, overcooked. Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated by my first attempt. I grew up cooking with my mom and little sister, but it wasn’t until I was engaged and still living at home that I started actually paying attention to what my mom was doing. My mom always made the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving. Early in the morning she would rise and place her family’s promised meal in the oven. Every single year she pulled out a beautifully roasted, golden brown, delicious turkey. And I never paid attention to how she did it.
I work at a school that blessed all the teachers with a free turkey for the holidays. There were some teachers who didn’t want their turkey, so I somehow ended up with about 4 frozen turkeys. I was able to practice, test, and perfect this recipe for a delicious and perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey.
Be aware that the spices aren’t traditional, but the flavor of the roast and cooking method make this bird oh-so-delicious.
Two Hour Turkey Recipe
10-14 lb Turkey
One small onion
One stalk of celery
A stalk of parsley
Two Tablespoons of fresh parsley
Half a stick of butter, softened
3 minced garlic cloves
For the rub:
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
(a note on the spices- I tend to be a pantry cook- whatever I have in the pantry I will use. I have made this with smoked paprika, used onion flakes instead of powder, etc. Feel free to add what you think would taste good, or substitute with what you have in your own pantry.)
Roasting pan with rack
Start by pre-heating your oven to 450 and place rack on the lowest position. I bought an oven thermometer and figured out that my oven is actually 50 degrees cooler than what I set it for. Make sure that your temperature is right! Then start with the 10-14 lb turkey. If you need a larger one, you will need to adjust the time left in the oven. Remove the giblets. Rinse the outside and inside of the turkey in cold water. Dry it very well. I used old rags to dry my turkey, so I didn’t have to use an entire roll of paper towels. Then cut that large fatty piece of skin off (around the neck area) and toss it.
Now mix the butter with the garlic and parsley. I love my garlic plate!
Using your hands, loosen the skin around the breast of the turkey.
You are going to rub the butter mixture under the skin and smooth it out over the breast.
Here is a great tutorial of How to place butter under the Turkey Skin
Once the butter is under the skin, rub your buttery hands all over the top of the skin, making sure you grease the legs as well.
Press the rub on the outside of the turkey. I say press, because you are kind of packing the rub against the skin, instead of actually rubbing it over the skin.
Cut the apple, lemon, onion, and celery into pieces.
Sprinkle three tablespoons of the rub in the cavity of the turkey, coating the entire inside. Layer the apple, onion, lemon, celery, and sprig of parsley inside the turkey, stuffing as much inside as you can.
Once finished with that step, place the turkey in a roasting pan with a roasting rack, breast side up. Do not tie the legs together! This helps the heat circulate and evenly cook the bird. Insert the thermometer where the leg meets the breast. Pour about two cups of water into the bottom of the pan. The water helps steam the turkey and keep it moist.
Loosely cover with foil.
Bake turkey for 90-120 mins. Check every 30 mins and add another half cup of water if too much has evaporated. Around the one and a half hour mark, my thermometer was at 160. Poultry is completely cooked at 165. I left it in for one hour and 45 mins.
Once you take it out of the oven, let it sit for at least 15-20 mins before you carve it. This allows the juices to re-distribute, and allows the turkey to stay moist. Look at the delicious caramelization of the brown sugared skin!
Slice, serve, and enjoy the most flavorful, moist, delicious turkey you’ve ever had! We had ours with roasted asparagus and a vegan Carrot Apple Ginger Soup.
If you’re still looking for some pumpkin sides or desserts, check out our Pumpkin Recipe Roundup!
Rub inspired by Southern Living