Thanksgiving: Turkey 101

In case it wasn’t already clear, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Abundance of food. Gravy on everything. Emphasis on variety. IT’S JUST PERFECT.

I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner (albeit a small one) at the age of 19. My boyfriend at the time was convinced I was wife material. HA. Idiot.

But I digress…

Here is my Thanksgiving Turkey recipe that I’ve been using for the past 6 years or so. I like to brine the turkey for 24-48 hours – it makes the bird extra juicy and flavorful. For those of you who don’t know, turkey is a pretty dry and bland bird, so it needs a little help. After the brining, I pat it dry and slather the shit out of the skin with herb butter. I roast it over chopped carrots, onions, celery and lemon. Then when it’s done, I make gravy out of the veggies and turkey drippings. It’s wonderful.


I’d also like to point out that this photo (above) is from a Friendsgiving feast I attended at Food52 instead of pics of my own turkey last year, for a few reasons, but main one being that my computer is a piece of garbage and I had to delete most of them. They weren’t great anyway, so trust me it’s better this way.


The gravy recipe will come soon. I can’t give away everything right up front.


Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey


  • 1 gallon of water (enough to cover the turkey in a large pot or brining bag)
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • herb bouquet – thyme, rosemary, sage


  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, pulled from stems
  • 1 tbsp chives, chopped


  • Turkey, duh (thawed, giblets and all that gross stuff removed from the inside)
  • Bunch celery, roughly chopped
  • 6 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 lemons, quartered and squeezed over the bird
  • 4 cloves of garlic, skins on and smashed a little
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


  1. Turkey must be thawed for brining. Do not brine a frozen turkey. Heat the water in a large pot and add the salt/sugar. It doesn’t need to boil, just needs to be hot enough to dissolve it. Add any additional ingredients you want for the brine and heat together for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool down. FYI – this takes some time and a lot of patience.
  2. If you have a brining bag, place the bird in a brining bag and pour the brining solution over the turkey in the bag. Put turkey bag in a large pot (to prevent leaks) and cover with a lid before placing in the fridge. If you don’t have a brining bag, just submerge the turkey in the large pot with the brining solution. If it floats and isn’t totally covered, place a heavy plate over it to keep it down. Then cover with a lid and place in the fridge.
  3.  When it’s time to cook the turkey (aka a day or two later), preheat the oven to 425 and make the herb butter. Technically the butter can be made ahead of time too. Put the softened butter in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir together to combine and set aside. If making ahead of time, shape it into a log and wrap up in plastic wrap.
  4. In a large roasting pan, add most of the chopped vegetables and lemon. Drizzle with the vegetable oil.
  5. Take the turkey out of the fridge/brine. Pat dry with paper towels. Place over the vegetables in the roasting pan. Take the remainder of the chopped vegetables and stuff inside the cavity of the turkey. Let sit for a bit so it comes down to almost room temp.
  6. Rub the herb butter all over and under the skin. If the turkey is cold, it will harden a little in some places and make it harder to rub, but it will still be absolutely fine! If there is leftover herb butter, drop it inside the cavity and on top of the veggies in the pan. Trust me, no one is ever mad at extra butter.
  7. Place a lid (if your roasting pan comes with one) over it or tent the bird with foil so it doesn’t burn. Pop in the oven and drop the heat to 325. The rule is typically 13 mins per pound, so if you have a 15 pound turkey, it should be roughly 3 1/2 hours. Make sure to baste every half hour. If you don’t have a turkey baster, you can just use a big spoon and drizzle over the top.
  8. Take the lid or tin foil off towards the last hour so the skin can brown up. I sometimes raise the heat back up for the last hour to 425 too. And I cover the wing tips with tin foil still, because those brown quicker than the rest and can burn.
  9. When the thermometer reads 165-170 (stuck in the thickest part of the turkey), it’s done. Also a lot of the turkeys sold have those nifty built in timers that pop up when they reach the right temp. Exciting stuff.
  10. Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes or so before carving. And for the love of god, don’t use an electric knife. Unless you have a really good one or something. When I used one of those, I turned my turkey into cat food.




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