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. How do we know which way is the best? The best way is arguable, most swear by their method. Which is great because their is no right or wrong. Just as long as you follow a few tips to make sure it is cooked through, not too dry, and has 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.
Since I come from a big family with really good cooks, cooking the main holiday dish was never something I ever had to try. After I got married the first few holidays we mostly took turns going home for the holidays. My husband is from Oklahoma, so really we took turns on which road trip to take.
The first Thanksgiving that I tried to cook a turkey was…interesting. My in-laws came to see us for the holiday. They are a smaller family and are used to laid back and comfortable. So the pressure was off, they are super cool and fun people who probably would have been happy with sandwiches. I sent my husband out for a turkey and of course, he bought the biggest one he could find. A 24 lb ginormous bird.
So where did I go wrong with this roast turkey recipe??
It all started that morning when I got out the biggest pan for roasting that I had at the time. It was a glass 9×12 baking dish, I was so unprepared. After I prepped the turkey and tried to place it in the pan I realized something. 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. 🙁
Yes, 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. Good times.
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 I’ve learned a LOT from my own bloopers.
So my tips for roasting a turkey come from experience.
My tips for a successful Roast Turkey:
Brine the turkey.
I stand behind this method. This will infuse flavor and make drying out the turkey during cooking almost impossible.
Make sure the turkey is completely thawed.
Also, 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.
Dry the turkey.
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 in the thigh of the turkey.
If you follow these basic tips you can cook with almost any method and have success.
This recipe for roast turkey I used a garlic infused olive oil, fresh herbs, and a touch of lemon.
I used fresh rosemary, thyme, sage, a lot of garlic, other dried herbs, and stuffed the cavity with lemon. The brine had all these ingredients plus onions, lemon, and white wine. I also soaked cheesecloth in the infused olive oil and draped it on top of the turkey while it cooked.
I usually use foil to cover the turkey while it’s cooking but I’ve recently learned about people using a cheesecloth. So for the past few times that I made roast turkey, I used a cheesecloth drenched in olive oil. I’m hooked, I love this method. 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 the first time, it is all bunched up. I like to make sure it’s covered.
For the garlic infused olive portion of the roast turkey recipe
Turns out you can easily make infused olive oil in just a few minutes. I put the olive oil in a small bowl and added crushed garlic to it. I let it sit out for a few minutes and let the oil absorb the garlic. I placed 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.
Tips For the brine portion
To make bringing a turkey less messy, overwhelming, and daunting I use a couple of things.
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. This container is only used for meat marinating. I sanitize it after every use and store it away and don’t use it for anything else.
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 and set 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 your are ready to prep!
This is my method. I use the left over 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 under the skin on the breast to loosen the skin.
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.
Once you have all the seasonings and olive oil on the turkey you can stuff the inside. I save some of the seasonings and put some inside the cavity, then add one sliced up lemon. Then you an 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. This way the drippings are being seasoned as they fall into the pan. I’ve done this many times and it makes a great gravy.
Place in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and cook for the remaining time. Always follow the cooking instructions on the package.Print
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.