Best Thanksgiving Turkey

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Isn’t she a beauty! It’s taken me years, and a lot of dry turkey, to finally create the World’s BEST THANKSGIVING TURKEY recipe! It is truly the BEST! And I’ll tell you why…

What makes this the “BEST” Thanksgiving Turkey?

It’s a combination of things. A beautiful golden crispy skin. Plump Juicy Meat…so juicy and tender that the breast cuts with a fork! (That’s right…a FORK! Save that knife for stabbing that last dinner roll or annoying relative! lol) It’s a recipe that is easy to follow, and last, but certainly not least, outstanding flavor! The flavor in this turkey comes from two difference sources…the amazing apple citrus spiced brine and the incredible wine butter it’s basted in for over 3 hours.

Thick Slices of Turkey Breast meat with gravy

There are several different, and important, elements that go into making this bird brilliant! 

I remember the first time I made a Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I was terrified! Absolutely TERRIFIED! I don’t want any cooks, experienced or new, out there to go through the same thing. So… I’m going to walk you through my recipe for the Best Thanksgiving Turkey, step-by-step!

A few things to take note of before beginning…

  • Chose a Turkey that will feed ALL your guests! I suggest a 20-22 lb turkey. This will serve between 12-14. 
  • Thaw the Turkey completely before Thanksgiving day! (I won’t give advice on this topic… I don’t follow the official Turkey Thaw Rules…I tend to think like a Pioneer on this issue. Cook it well…it won’t kill you!) Follow the Turkey Etiquette rules and thaw that bird for a week in the fridge.
  • This recipe has you brine the Turkey the day before you cook it.  DO NOT let that keep you from making this Turkey. I’m going to share a fantastic tip for Turkey brine. For years I didn’t brine because I didn’t have space to do that, or so I thought.
  • This Turkey is stuffed, but doesn’t have to be, it will add extra flavor to both the Turkey and your Stuffing.  Please note that all the cook times I will share with you will be for a Turkey that is stuffed! Adjust the cook times if you are not stuffing your Turkey.
  • This Turkey is basted in Wine and Butter!  I can’t emphasize enough about NOT skipping this step! The flavors that wine adds and the reaction wine has with the enzymes in the muscles of the meat are truly amazing!

Making the Brine and Preparing the Turkey for Brining

*Note… make the brine early in the morning so it has time to “cool” to room temperature

In a large stock pot add 6 Quarts, or 1 1/2 gallons, of water. Add 1 1/2 cups of coarse kosher salt. Place over high heat. Bring to a boil, and boil for 15-20 minutes until salt is dissolved.

Large Stock Pot filled with water and coarse kosher salt

Add 2 Cups of Apple Cider and 1 1/2 cups of Orange juice, with or without pulp. Either is fine for this recipe.

Apple Cider and Orange Juice Added to pot

Add 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 2 teaspoons of crushed rosemary . Stir well. (That’s the shortest direction you’ll get in this post! lol)

Brine in hot pot with juice added

Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of whole Allspice. Stir.  (I lied…that’s the shortest direction you’ll get in this post!) Allow brine to cool to room temperature.

Brine with spices

While the brine is cooling it’s the perfect time to start what I like to call , so I do… “WWE Thanksgiving Wrestle Mania”!  (Honestly I don’t think there is anything harder to wrestle than a 22-23 pound slick Turkey! It’s like they’re still fighting for one last chance at life! Dude…it’s over! Let the Roasting begin!) 

Place the Turkey in a VERY large bowl or in your kitchen sink. (I prefer the sink…one less bowl to wash.)

I’m going to state the obvious…remove the plastic wrap! (It’s not Turkey Spandex…it needs to come off and you’re gonna have to touch that birds bare naked skin!)

Now for the fun!!! See that Turkey’s “Buttock hole”…Yep…you’re going in there! Reach on in and pull that neck outta there. (See…some Turkey’s do have their heads up their butt!  lol!!! Hope you weren’t drinking when you read that line…sorry about your phone if you just spewed!) 

Next…find where the neck used to be before that Turkey got too big for his britches! See that paper sticking out…he didn’t swallow that! Yep…you’re going in again!

Removing innards from Turkey

Grab a hold of that paper and give it a good “yank”… that fun little package holds all the vital organs.

Now some folks like to use those in their stuffing. I’m not one of those people! Bye-bye little package of organs.

Removing the innards from the Turkey

Now that all the inside parts have been removed…rinse the Turkey well inside and out. Place Turkey on a large clean dish towel and pat dry.

Drying Turkey

TIP: Now for the BIG tip on brining! Every time I watched a video on brining a turkey they would place the turkey in this HUGE bucket and then place it in the refrigerator. I don’t know about your nest…but mine didn’t come with a walk-in cooler!

So I came up with this brilliant…if I do say so myself…alternative. It’s called an Ice Chest!

Take two tall kitchen bags and double them. Place the Turkey in the Bag and add a sprig or two of fresh sage.

Placing Turkey in large trash bag

Place the Turkey in the bag inside a large Ice Chest.

You’ll need a helper for this next step. One person to hold the bag open, while the other pours the cooled brine over the Turkey.

TIP: DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING YOU CAN DO THIS ALONE! It’s been tried…and it isn’t pretty my friends! (If you enjoy a self-brine and mopping…you can do this alone…otherwise…ask for help!)

Adding brine to bagged Turkey

Pull the bag up to see how far the brine comes up and over the Turkey. If the brine doesn’t completely cover the turkey, add more water.

TIP: You can place the Turkey Breast side down. n fact I recommend it. It helps the brine to soak into the breast meat. For the sake of photos I left it breast side up. 

Brine with Turkey

Tie bag in a tight knot. Notice as the bag pulls tight, the liquids come up and surround the bird better than when the bag is open.

Tie bag in knot

Cover with ice! Lots of Ice. You’ve just created your own little brining cooler! Leave to soak for 18-20 hours.

Turkey covered with Ice

TURKEY DAY!

Do a few push-ups…lift a few weights…that Turkey has just put on an extra 5 pounds! If you have never brined a Turkey you will be shocked how much brine can be absorbed into the meat of the Turkey.

Lift bag out of ice chest and take it over to the sink. Place a drain catcher in the drain to catch the whole Allspice seeds. You don’t want them down your garbage disposal.

Removing Turkey from Ice Chest to sink

Before you remove the Turkey out of the brine be sure to have your “prep” area ready to go!

If you’re stuffing your Turkey prepare the stuffing and have it ready to go. Have string or Poultry lace pins ready to go to close openings. Heavy Metal Roasting pan with rack.

TIP: I lined my rack with parchment paper with slits so cleaning my rack would be easier.

Have a large towel on your work area to catch-all any remaining liquid from the Turkey.

TIP: I use the pan out of my electric portable Roasting Oven. It’s the perfect size for just about any Turkey. The enamel coating makes clean-up a breeze too. I’m a believer that everyone should own an electric roasting oven. I even bought one for my daughter right after she got married. Check out my favorite brand HERE it’s the one I’ve used for years.

Turkey Prep Area

Using scissors cut the top off the bag. 

Time for a “rematch” of Wrestle Mania! Remove Turkey from sack and rinse turkey. Some of the herbs will stick to the turkey. That ‘s perfect! We just want to rinse that Allspice off the turkey and out of the crevasses. No one needs a cracked tooth for Thanksgiving!

Removing Turkey from Brine Bag

Place washed Turkey on large towel in your work area. Pat dry. Flip Turkey over and dry the back.

Drying Back of Turkey

There’s a lot of controversy over to “stuff” or “not stuff” your Turkey. I’m a stuffer!

Most agree it’s best not to stuff your turkey. That’s fine. I actually do both because of the amount of stuffing I make.  I love the flavor and moisture my stuffing has from being cooked inside the Turkey! Technically stuffing cooked in a casserole dish is “dressing” and not stuffing! (Just some helpful cooking triva!)

The important thing to remember is the stuffing needs to be freshly made and warm when stuffed inside the bird. Fill cavities loosely with as much stuffing as they hold comfortably; do NOT pack too tightly.

With the Turkey on it’s back you can stuff the neck opening by peeling the extra flap of skin back. Stuff the hole, but remember not too tightly.

Stuffing the neck of the Turkey

Pull skin back over stuffing towards the back bones of the Turkey.

Pulling skin over neck opening

Using a Poultry Lace Pin, Pin the skin down to the back, or you can tie bakers twine around the skin flap and around the front.

I love my Poultry Lace Pins. They’re strong & sturdy and have lasted me for years. I’ve had a hard time finding them in stores, so if you’re interested here’s a link to the same set I’m using. Click HERE to check them out!

Pinning Skin Flap down

Carefully flip the Turkey over. 

Slide your hand under the skin of one side of the breast and loosen it from the meat. Repeat on the opposite side. (We’re getting very intimate with this Turkey! It can be a little disgusting…just don’t think about it!)

Lifting skin from breast

Once the skin is loosened on both sides, place 4-6 Tablespoons of softened butter under the skin on both sides! Be careful not to tear the skin. You just want to slide those pats of butter right under the skin.

If the legs of your turkey are not held together with extra skin, tie them together before stuffing the stomach cavity. This is a good time to fold the wing tips back and under the Turkey.

Butter under skin of Turkey Breast

Using a large spoon, or your hands (I mean they’ve been every where at this point), if you’re going to stuff the bird, loosely stuff the cavity of the Turkey. (I can’t wait to share my sausage stuffing with ya’ll…it’s life changing!)

Stuffing Stomach cavity of the Turkey

Place Turkey Breast side up on roasting rack in heavy metal roasting pan.

Take a roll of cheesecloth and cut it the length of the Turkey. Repeat 4 times. You’ll need 4 strips of cheesecloth long enough to cover the entire length of the turkey. It doesn’t have to completely cover the legs of the turkey, but should go at least half way down the sides of the bird.

Turkey in Roasting pan

Open up each strip of cheesecloth and lay one strip on top of the other. Lay stacked Cheesecloth on top of Turkey and cover the entire turkey with the cheesecloth. (I like to think of it as his little blanket to keep him toasty while roasting!)

Cheesecloth on Turkey

Make sure it covers the entire top half of the Turkey!

Turkey covered with cheesecloth

Add 4 cups of water to bottom of the pan!

Why are we adding water? For the first 3 hours of bake time we are going to be basting with Wine and a Pound of Butter under high heat. It will burn in the bottom of the pan, like butter tends to do, without some sort of liquid in the bottom of the pan.

NOTE: You will be adding water through out the cooking of this turkey so that you’ll have enough drippings to create an amazing gravy that will not need to have the “fat” drained off. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THERE IS LIQUID IN THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN.

Adding water to pan

This is my favorite part of this recipe! Single most important element for the magnificent gravy that is to follow. Plus…you will get a perfectly golden turkey every time!

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt 1 pound of salted butter. I know! That’s a LOT of butter. Seriously? Are we counting calories at Thanksgiving dinner? NO we are NOT! Tom gave his life for us…the least we can do is pay him the respect he deserve by slathering him in wine and butter!

Butter melting in pan

Speaking of wine…most of you know we are a “dry” nest and don’t drink alcohol.  However, I love the benefits of cooking with itl. It took a lot of trial and error for me to find the perfect wine for this basting wine butter. (It’s not easy when you can’t taste test!)

I finally hit on it last year when I stumbled on this beautiful bottle of Vendange Chardonnay with it’s fruity hints of pear and apple with toasted oak!

Did you see that fly by? Yep…we hit it out of the ball park with this one my friends! I seriously bought this because of the flavors it boasted. I didn’t have one taste while cooking. I just reveled in the benefits of its beautiful blend after the fact.

Wine for turkey

You are going to add 6 cups, or 1 750-ml bottle, of dry white wine into your butter as it is melting! (See why my Turkeys like me! I stuff’em, give them a blanket, and a lot too drink!)

wine and butter

Using a ladel carefully spoon butter and wine mixture over cheesecloth.

Do NOT use all the butter and wine mixture. You should have enough leftover for two to three bastings.

Covering cheesecloth with wine and butter sauce

Make sure entire cheesecloth is covered in butter and wine mixture.

Turkey covered in wine coated cheesecloth

Place rack in oven on the very last level. Preheat oven to 400°.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Using a pastry brush or baster, baste cheesecloth and any exposed parts of the turkey with butter and wine mixture.

TIP: If your roasting pan only fits sideways in the oven, turn the pan every hour so the turkey cooks and browns evenly.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°, continue to cook for 2 more hours basting every 30 minutes and watching pan juices. You may need to add water to the pan at each basting depending on how much of your liquid has evaporated during cooking.

Basting turkey with wine and butter

TIP: If you run out of butter and wine mixture continue to baste with pan drippings over cheesecloth. 

At third hour mark baste again, this will help loosen the cheesecloth, then gently remove cheesecloth using tongs to pull it back. Be careful! It will be very HOT! 

Cheesecloth

Place Turkey back in oven and continue to baste every 30 minutes. Skin will become fragile as it browns so baste carefully.

At fourth hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke a bone. The temperature should reach 180° (stuffing should be between 140° and 160°) and the turkey should be golden brown.

Breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not fully cooked, baste turkey, and continue cooking another 20-30 minutes.

When fully cooked, give the “Hulk” a call and have him come transfer Turkey to serving platter or cutting board and let rest for about 30 minutes. The resting time allows the juices to settle back down into the meat!

Best Thanksgiving Turkey

Now to be honest I never serve my Thanksgiving Turkey on a platter like this! It is very classic Norman Rockwell.

Mine is carved in the Kitchen and brought to the table carved and ready to feed the starving beasts at my table! It’s just so much easier when feeding a crowd…and I love having my Thanksgiving table full of those I love ready to dig in!

It sure does look pretty though all spruced up on this platter with fruits and herbs!

Thanksgiving Turkey

I should have tucked his wings under…but I got so excited! There is just nothing better than the smell of this Turkey cooking in your kitchen! It’s truly splendid! They can’t make a air freshner that could smell any better… or warm your heart as much as a turkey roasting.

TIP: I remove the stuffing before Mr. Nest starts carving Ol’ Tom up…and add it to the other stuffing that has been cooking in the crock pot. If you remember, I did mention that I make too much stuffing to stuff in the Turkey. I place the remaining in a slow cooker on low and when the Turkey is done, I add the extra moist stuffing from the turkey to the dryer stuffing in the crock pot. It works out perfectly.

I wish I could give each of you a taste of this luscious Turkey! I can truly say that I’ve never had a better Turkey in all my life and it was worth all the failures to finally find success!

Turkey Plated

The breast meat, which tends to be dry in a lot of other Turkey recipes, truly is so moist it cuts with a fork and melts in your mouth!

The subtle savory explosion of complimentary flavors from the brine and the butter wine mixture is divine!

If you’ll follow my step-by-step instructions you will “WOW” your guest this Thanksgiving with the BEST Thanksgiving Turkey they’ve ever had! Add my scrumptious sides, including my homemade sausage stuffing, and fantastic desserts and you’ll have a feast fit for a king!

I’m sharing this beauty over on two of my favorite foodie parties…Meal Plan Monday and The Weekend Potluck. Click on the links to join the fun!

PIN IT FOR LATER

Best Thanksgiving Turkey

I hope this Holiday Season brings you Joy, Love, and Laughter around your dinning room table and that your Nest will be filled with too many blessings to count!

Thank You for Stopping by my Nest. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can.

Happy Nesting!

Photo of Norine with signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yield: 12 - 14 servings

Best Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey brined in an apple cider herb brine, roasted and basted in a white wine butter to create the most tender juicy turkey with a golden crispy skin.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Additional Time 18 hours
Total Time 23 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 20-22lb Turkey, frozen, thawed with giblets and neck removed from cavity
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 C. of Coarse Kosher Salt
  • 2 C. Apple Cider
  • 1 1/2 C. Orange Juice, with or without pulp
  • 2 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • 2 tsp. Crushed Rosemary
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Whole Allspice
  • 1-2 Stems Fresh Sage
  • Ice
  • 8 Tablespoons Soften Butter
  • 4 Cups of water
  • 4 sticks salted butter, melted
  • 1 750 -ml bottle, or 6 cups, dry white wine

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot add 6 quarts of water and 1 1/2 cups of coarse kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat until salt dissolves. Add 2 Cups Apple Cider, 1 1/2 cups orange juice, dried thyme, crushed rosemary and whole allspice. stir until well mixed. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Remove giblets and neck from cavity of turkey. Dispose of giblets and neck. Rinse Turkey with cool water, Pat dry with clean dry cloth or paper towels.
  3. Place Turkey breast side down, inside a double bagged tall kitchen bag (one bag inside another). Add a spring or two of sage.Place Turkey inside large ice chest. Hold bag open, and with assistance, pour brine into bag. Add more water if necessary to cover turkey. Tie bag in a knot. Cover bag with enough ice to keep cold for 12-18 hours, close ice chest, and let brine for 18 hours.
  4. Prepare turkey prep area with a large clean towel, heavy metal roasting pan with roasting rack, and prepared warm stuffing.
  5. Place bagged turkey in sink. Cut top off bag. Remove turkey and rinse well. Making sure to remove all the whole allspice.
  6. Place Turkey on large clean dish towel. Pat turkey dry. Turn turkey over back side up. Stuff neck cavity loosely with stuffing. Pull skin back over stuffing and pin with poultry lace pin or tie down with butcher's twine. Carefully turn Turkey back over. Pat front of turkey dry. Stuff stomach cavity with prepared stuffing. Tie legs together.
  7. Lift skin on each side of Turkey breast by sliding hand between skin and breast. Place 4 Tablespoons of soften butter under skin on each side.
  8. Place rack on lowest level in oven. Preheat to 400°.
  9. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, melt 4 sticks of butter. Add White wine. Mix. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters and cut long enough to cover length of Turkey, about 17 inches.
  10. Place Turkey, breast side up on a roasting rack in a heavy metal roasting pan. If the turkey comes with a pop-up timer remove it. Fold wing tips under turkey. Pour 4-6 cups of water in bottom of roasting pan.
  11. Place cheesecloth over Turkey, covering entire top of turkey, partially down the sides. Spoon melted butter and wine over cheesecloth. Reserving at least half the liquid for additional basting.
  12. Place turkey in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush or baster, baste cheesecloth with butter and wine. Reduce oven temperature to 350°, and continue to baste every 30 minutes; watching pan juices. Add additional water if needed. Keeping at least 2 inches of liquid on bottom of pan at all times. DO NOT LET BUTTER BURN ON BOTTOM OF PAN. When you run out of wine and butter baste with juice from bottom of pan. Turn roasting pan every hour so Turkey cooks evenly.
  13. After the 3rd hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard cheesecloth. Continue to baste every 30 minutes. Skin will be fragile as it browns.
  14. After 4th hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke the bone. the temperature should reach 180° (Stuffing should be between 140° and 160°) and the turkey should be golden brown. The breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not fully cooked, baste Turkey, return to oven, and cook another 20-30 minutes.
  15. When fully cooked transfer to a serving platter or cutting board. Let rest for 30 minutes before carving. Remove stuffing and carve turkey. Be careful it will be extremely juicy.

Notes

The preparation time of this Turkey includes an 18 hour brine time.

A 20-22 lbs stuffed Turkey will take approx. 4-5 hours to cook. Always use a instant-read thermometer to check temperature of Turkey.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Julia | 26th Oct 18

    Your turkey looks amazing! It’s beautiful and my mouth is watering just reading all about it.

    • norine@norinesnest.com | 26th Oct 18

      Hi Julia!
      Sweet friend you are amazing! I don’t know how you do all you do and support so many friends. You are the BEST! Thanks so much for all the love and support.
      Hugs!
      Norine

    • norine@norinesnest.com | 29th Oct 18

      Hi Julia!
      Thanks so much my friend. Come on over for dinner! I’d love to have you and your hubs at my Thanksgiving table.
      Thanks for stopping by and visiting. You ARE the BEST!
      Happy Nesting!
      Norine

  2. Nikki | 28th Oct 18

    Look at how amazingly moist this turkey is! The perfect recipe!

    • norine@norinesnest.com | 29th Oct 18

      Hi Nikki!
      Thanks so much my friend. You are the BEST! You can come with Julia and we’ll have a great party!
      Hugs!
      Norine

  3. Homemade Turkey Gravy | Norine's Nest | 9th Nov 18

    […] year I mastered the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey was the year I discovered there are different levels of gravy! (Who knew?)  I think it’s […]

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