This recipe for roast turkey combines garlic-infused olive oil, fresh herbs, and lemon. It was brined first for a fool-proof juicy turkey with TONS of flavor.
Roast turkey is the staple of the holiday season. Roasting a turkey can be intimidating and overwhelming with all the different approaches and techniques out there. There is no right or wrong way to roast a turkey. Just as long as you follow a few tips to make sure it is cooked through, not too dry, and is full of flavor.
Before I share my recipe and technique I should tell you how I learned some of the best lessons. I learn the best by trial and error. One of the first times I tried to make a Thanksgiving turkey was a few years ago and what a nightmare! In my defense, my kids were still babies and I was a bit sleep-deprived.
Why it took me so long to learn how to roast a turkey?
Since I come from a big family with really good cooks, cooking the main holiday dish was never something I tried until I was an adult. The first Thanksgiving that I tried to cook a turkey was…interesting. My in-laws came to see us for the holiday. They are super cool and fun people who probably would have been happy with dry turkey sandwiches if it went wrong.
So how did I a roast TURKEY WRONG??
It all started when I sent my husband out to pick up a turkey. He bought the biggest one he could find, a 24 lb ginormous bird. Thanksgiving morning when I got out my biggest roasting that I had at the time. It was a glass 9×12 baking dish, I was so unprepared and It didn’t fit. Not even if I squeezed it. So, my husband, my father-in-law, and I stood over the gigantic raw turkey scratching our heads at how to get it in the oven. It was quite comical. Laugh or cry right?!?
What did we do? The only thing that we could do. We chopped off the legs and wings and put it all in the oven on two separate pans. 🙁
Can you really make a roast turkey in separate pieces?
Yes, and I did, that really happened. To this day I will always appreciate my in-law’s non-judgmental patience. Of course, for that day dinner was not at a holiday table or at a reasonable time. Dinner turned into eating on a couch watching a football game at 8:30 at night, to this day one of my favorite holiday memories.
Thanks to my mishap I will never ever forget to prep ahead for a holiday. With one exception, I may have started a small fire in my oven on Easter Sunday that same year. But that’s a story for a different day. Let’s just say my tips for roasting a turkey come from experience.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ROASTED TURKEY:
Make sure the turkey is completely thawed.
Set it out at room temperature for at least an hour before prepping for the oven. This will help the turkey cook more evenly throughout. Follow packaging instructions on proper thawing times.
Brine the turkey
I stand behind this method. This will infuse flavor and make drying out the turkey during cooking almost impossible.
Dry the turkey before adding seasonings.
Always thoroughly dry the turkey before prepping it. You can easily use paper towels to remove any excess moisture from the skin and all around. This will help the turkey brown and create a crispy skin.
Make sure you have a good roasting pan.
A good quality roasting pan that will fit ANY size turkey will be a good investment that you will never regret. I like a good quality metal pan with a roasting rack that can be scrubbed properly. The roasting rack will help the turkey stay above the juices that fall and help the turkey cook more evenly. I do not use a non-stick pan. Especially if you use the pan on the stove to make gravy after the turkey is cooked.
Use a meat thermometer
Remove the plastic popper that is supposed to pop out when the turkey is done. It is better and more accurate to take the temperature of the turkey with a meat thermometer. The temperature should read 165 degrees F. in the thigh of the turkey.
Do you need to cover the turkey while it cooks?
Covering a turkey for the majority of the cooking time will prevent the skin from burning. I usually use foil to cover the turkey but the past few times that I made roast turkey, I used a cheesecloth drenched in olive oil with great results. You can baste right over the cheesecloth and the turkey absorbs it easily. You remove the cheesecloth for about the last hour of cooking so the skin can really crisp up.
This photo is my first attempt at using a cheesecloth, I may have overdone the cheesecloth a bit. It’s okay if the cheesecloth isn’t perfect, it will still do its job.
HOW TO MAKE A GARLIC-INFUSED OLIVE OIL
Turns out you can easily make infused olive oil in just a few minutes. Place the olive oil in a small bowl and added crushed garlic to it. Let it sit out for a few minutes and let the oil absorb the garlic. Then, put the oil and garlic into a small saucepan and turned the heat to medium. I brought it to a slight simmer, stirred it around, then turned off the heat. It simmered for about 5 minutes then I let it cool completely before soaking the cheesecloth. I used about 1 cup of olive oil and about 5 cloves of garlic…yes I like garlic.
How to make a turkey brine
Brining a turkey is covering a turkey with either a dry or wet brine. A dry brine refers to covering a turkey in salt and seasoning and covered overnight in the refrigerator. A wet brine is submerging the turkey in a seasoned water mixture overnight. Both ways will help produce a more juicy and flavorful turkey. My go-to is the wet brine method which I add a lot of seasonings to the water for lots of flavors.
To make using a wet brine for a roast turkey I use a couple of things. A brining bag, a dedicated container that will fit up to a 24 lb turkey, this way no contamination to other foods, and a list of ingredients.
This is a heavy-duty bag large enough to hold a turkey and the brine mixture well.
Container With Lid
I found a rectangular container with a lid that fits any size turkey and also fits well in my refrigerator. The turkey must remain refrigerated while it in the brine. This container helps prevent leaks in the refrigerator.
I sanitize it after every use and store it away and don’t use it for anything else. Make sure it will fit in your refrigerator. You can use a spare bucket as well as long as it holds the turkey in the brine bag without spilling.
I place the brine bag in the bin first then place the turkey into the brine bag. Next, I mix the brine solution in a pitcher, then I slowly pour the brine mixture into the bag with the turkey. Make sure to cover the entire turkey with the mixture.
Tie the bag tight with some twine or you can the plastic in a knot.
Place the lid on and set it in the fridge.
Finding a container that fits in your refrigerator is a game-changer.
To make the best of your bringing efforts brine a turkey for 24 hrs or overnight. Once you are ready to prepare the turkey take it out of the fridge and out of the brine and allow it to sit out for at least an hour to get the chill out of the turkey. A turkey that warms up to room temperature will cook more evenly.
Once the turkey is ready, dry it off with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Now you are ready to prep!
This is my method for this roast turkey recipe. I use the leftover infused olive oil and rub it onto the turkey as you would butter. Place it under the skin of the breasts as well. If you haven’t ever done this before, run your hand between the turkey and the skin to help loosen it up, you will create space or a pocket for olive oil and seasonings.
Once you add the oil, add the herbs. I always measure out and mix all the seasonings for the turkey and keep it in a small bowl. This will prevent contamination of any bacteria while handling the raw turkey.
Do I stuff the inside of a roast turkey?
Once you have all the seasonings and olive oil on the turkey you can stuff the inside. I don’t stuff the inside with stuffing, only seasonings, lemon, onion, and garlic, to enhance flavor while cooking. I make sure to discard any seasonings that were cooked inside the turkey. Once seasoned properly cover with the cheesecloth.
Before I place it in the oven I put seasonings, chicken stock, the neck of the turkey, and extra garlic on the bottom of the pan while the turkey is cooking. Placing the seasonings in the bottom of the pan will make a great gravy.
Can you cook stuffing inside this roast turkey for this recipe?
Yes, you can cook the turkey with stuffing inside the cavity. If you bake roast the turkey with stuffing on the inside, you need to make sure to check the temperature of the stuffing before removing it from the oven.
I don’t cook stuffing inside the turkey because it could mean more time in the oven to bring the stuffing to temperature. It is necessary to make sure that the stuffing that is cooked inside the turkey reaches 165 degrees F. in order to be safe to eat.
Place in the oven at 400 F. degrees for about 30 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 325 F. degrees and cook for the remaining time. Always follow the cooking instructions on the package.
Roast Turkey with Olive Oil & Herbs
For the brine:
- 2-3 gallons of water enough to cover turkey
- 1 cup of salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 3 sprigs of rosemary thyme, and sage
- 1 red onion sliced thin
- 7-10 crushed garlic cloves about a whole head
- 1 lemon cut into slices.
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 10-20 lb Turkey
- 1 cup garlic-infused olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
- 1 tbsp chopped thyme
- 1 tbsp parsley
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 sliced lemon for cavity
- 1 soaked olive oil infused cheesecloth
- For the Gravy
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 turkey neck
- 3 rosemary sprigs
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 garlic head cut in half
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
For the garlic infused olive oil:
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3-5 crushed garlic cloves
- Place brine bag in a designated bringing container. Take the turkey out of its packaging and place the turkey in the brine bag.
- Place 1/2 gallon of hot water in a pot or ceramic pitcher and add salt and sugar. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and pour into brine bag with turkey. Add more water to the brine bag until the turkey is completely covered with water and mix up the brine to even out ingredients.
- Tie the bag shut securely, place lid on top, and put into the refrigerator for 24 hours or overnight.
For the Infused Olive Oil:
- Add 1 cup of olive oil and crushed garlic to a small saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
- Once simmering, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Soak enough cheesecloth to cover the turkey.
- In a small bowl add all of the dry seasonings for the top of the turkey and mix.
- Remove the turkey from the brine solution, pat dry and let sit out at room temperature for at least an hour.
- Place turkey on a roasting pan with the rack.
- Tuck the wings behind the neck by lifting them up and behind. (optional step to prevent the tips from burning)
- Bring the legs together and tie with cooking twine. This will help the chicken brown evenly.
- Wring out the cheesecloth and set it aside. Rub the leftover infused olive oil all over the turkey and under the skin, then sprinkle with seasonings. Make sure to put some seasonings under the skin. Take the garlic that was used to infuse the olive oil and put under the skin and on some of the turkey. Garnish with extra sprigs of herbs if desired.
- Cover with oil-soaked cheesecloth.
- Add 1 cup water, 1 cup white wine, 1 cup chicken stock, the neck of the turkey, herbs, and the garlic head that is cut in half to the bottom of the pan under the turkey.
- Place in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and cook the turkey for a couple more hours depending on the size.
- Baste the turkey with juices from the bottom of the pan at least every hour.
- In the last hour of cooking remove the cheesecloth for the turkey and baste it every 30 minutes.
- Check the temperature of the turkey and monitor it after a couple of hours in the oven. Turkey will be done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reaches 165 degrees.
- Follow packaging instructions for exact cooking times. Cooking times may vary.
- Once you remove the turkey from the oven, cover with foil and let sit for 30 minutes. It will continue to roast for a few minutes and all the juices will incorporate into the turkey.
For the Gravy:
- Once the turkey is done and has rested for 30 minutes remove from the pan and place on a platter.
- Take the rack out of the pan and put the pan onto a large burner or two burners on medium heat. De glaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine and whisk.
- Add 2 tbsp flour and whisk and let simmer for a few minutes.
- Transfer to a small saucepan on medium/low heat.
- Add 1 cup chicken stock and 1/4 cup heavy cream and whisk.
- Let simmer and cook until gravy thickens, add additional seasonings to taste.
- Remove the sauce pan from the heat and place in a gravy bowl to serve.
This is my go-to recipe for roast turkey. If you are still a little intimidated, just remember that there once was someone who cut the legs off a turkey to get it in the oven…. and it still tasted delicious 🙂
Do you have any turkey or holiday bloopers? Tell me in the comments, I would LOVE to hear I’m not the only one.