My Very Best Thanksgiving Turkey

2005-02-11 10.33.20

My Grandma Wagner, Aunt Cody & Dad – Thanksgiving in the ’60s

By now, most of you know that Fall is my favorite season, and it should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving is far and away my most favorite holiday.  Such wonderful memories like the one pictured above. By the way, my dad is still the best turkey carver around!

The first time I participated in actually cooking Thanksgiving dinner was in 1995.  Fresh out of culinary school and also five months pregnant with my daughter.  Let’s just say it was a bit rocky (there are references in my notes about a steroid turkey from h*!!).  And oh yes, I did indeed take notes and have taken notes every year that followed.  Along with all my recipes, stashed away in this very worn looking folder:

A Collection of Thanksgiving Memories

In the seventeen years that followed, we’ve done turkey just about every which way.  Smoked it, deep fried it, roasted it with herbs, brined and unbrined.  You name it, I think I’ve tried it.  Then in 2005, I came across this article in Bon Appetit by Alton Brown and figured, heck this guy seems to know what he’s doing.  I gave it a shot although the thought of not basting a turkey made me a bit sad.


Well let me just say, that turkey was about as perfect as anything I had ever made.  So perfect in fact, that I have been using Alton’s method every year since.  I won’t bother reprinting it here on my blog because part of the fun is reading Alton’s witty prose (“stuffing is evil”).   But the basic principal of his method is to rub the turkey with softened butter, roast it at 500° for 30 minutes, then cover the breast with foil, reduce the oven temp to 350° and continue roasting until the temperature in the breast reaches 161° . NO BASTING!

I can, however, offer a couple of quick notes and tweaks that I have made since I started using this method:

  1. The past several years, I have purchased Kosher turkeys, that do not require brining.  So therefore I skip over Alton’s instructions on brining and go straight to the roasting part.   If you want to jazz up your brine a bit, I recommend this recipe from Savory Sweet Life (
  2. Last year I mixed in  a bit of Savory Spice’s Tiny Town Turkey Rub to my softened butter and thought it added a nice bit of flavor and color.  Highly recommend! Savory Spice Tiny Town T
  3. I love to throw some fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley) into the cavity of my turkey before roasting.  Maybe a chopped onion as well. But that’s about it.  Alton recommends keeping it simple and remember no stuffing because it’s EVIL!
  4. The initial 500° is pretty intense, but it does get the job done.   Remember to flip on your exhaust fan and don’t hesitate to take that bird out if you feel it’s smoking too much.
  5. If you haven’t already invested in a digital thermometer, DO IT NOW! Mine is from Williams Sonoma and is ancient, but is still spot on. For about $20, you can get this Polder All-In-One Timer/Thermometer on Amazon and I promise it will a worthy investment.Polder All-In-One Thermometer

Well that about wraps it up for turkey cooking, thanks to Alton.  All you need is my perfect gravy recipe and you’re good to go.  But I’ll have to save that for another blog post.

Gobble 🙂

2 thoughts on “My Very Best Thanksgiving Turkey

  1. Pingback: Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Pinot Noir | Dinner Is Served

  2. Pingback: ~Happy Thanksgiving 2014~ | Dinner Is Served

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