- (12-18 lbs) Whole Turkey (small)
- (6 Tbsp.) Organic Butter
- (2 Tbsp.) Salt, divided
- (2 tsp.) Dried Sage
- (2 tsp.) Dried Thyme
- (2 tsp.) Garlic Powder
- Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
- (2-3 C) Organic Chicken Broth
- (2-3 Tbsp.) Flour, Arrowroot Powder, or Cornstarch
- Butcher's Twine, optional
- (1-2) Lemons, optional if not stuffing
There are a lot of trendy ways to cook a turkey. This recipe is NOT one of those. This is a simple tried and true recipe I have used to cook our family turkey a minimum of once per year since 1997 to great taste. I want to encourage you to not be intimidated to roast a turkey. If you have ever roasted a whole chicken, it is very similar but takes more roasting time. You can do it!
This may look like a long lengthy blog post, but don't despair. There are several tips at the beginning before the recipe steps. Feel free to skip to the recipe instructions if it is information you already know.
Tips to know BEFORE roasting a turkey:
When deciding on how big of a turkey to purchase, plan 1 1/2 lbs. per person being served at your event.
Thawing a Turkey:
Fully thaw the turkey before cooking. According to the USDA allow one day thawing in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of weight.
If unable to thaw in the fridge, or if it is still partially frozen, the turkey can be thawed in cold water. The turkey should be completely submerged breast side down. If that isn't possible, soak the turkey in the cold water and rotate it in the water every 30 minutes when the water should also be changed.
Placing a turkey on the counter to thaw at room temperature for more than 2 hours is not a safe temperature. The inside may be frozen solid but the outer layer is in the "Danger Zone". Bacteria grow best between 40*F - and 140*F.
NOTE: NEVER attempt to fry a frozen turkey. This can result in an explosion when the frozen turkey is added to the hot oil.
Stuffing a Turkey:
If you are stuffing your bird, plan to make 1/2 - 3/4 cup of stuffing for every pound.
While you can make the stuffing in advance, you cannot stuff the turkey in advance. The moist stuffing combined with the uncooked turkey creates ideal conditions for the growth of salmonella bacteria. The turkey should be stuffed right before roasting.
Roasting a Turkey:
It is imperative to have a roasting pan with ample room for the turkey. If the pan is too small there is a risk of the pan juices overflowing and starting a grease fire. I know this from experience. ;-) That was the year I got a new stove on Black Friday.
Epicurious suggests roasting an unstuffed turkey for 13 minutes per pound at 350*F and 15 minutes per pound at 325*F for stuffed turkeys. If you find your turkey isn't cooking within 30-45 minutes of the time you calculated, it could be that your turkey wasn't completely thawed. Continue roasting and monitoring the temperature until cooked through. If you cut into the turkey and pinkish juices flow out of it or the breast meat looks pink in places, the turkey is not completely cooked.
A digital meat thermometer is a must for an accurate reading of the internal temperature of the turkey while cooking. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh between the leg and body. The turkey is done at 165*F for the breast and 170-175*F for the leg and thigh meat.
NOTE: Because pasture-raised turkeys are leaner, they may cook faster than a commercially raised bird.
Step 1: Remove the packaging and the "plastic thing" (also known as the hock lock) holding the legs together from your thawed turkey. Because I was so focused on getting photos, for the first time EVER I neglected to remove the hock lock. A quick Google search reassured me that it is safe to leave on while roasting because it is made of heat-resistant nylon.
Once all the packaging is removed, run the turkey under some cool water to rinse it off inside and out.
Step 2: Remove any giblets from the turkey body cavity. Refrigerate them if you are going to use them later in your cooking.
Step 3: Place the turkey in the roasting pan, neck side up. Pour half the salt into the palm of your hand, insert it into the neck cavity, and rub the salt around the inside. This will help season the meat and keep it juicy. If stuffing the bird, fill the neck with stuffing until full. Fold over the excess skin to close the opening. I like to then use half of a bamboo wooden skewer to lace it closed.
Step 4: Next turn the turkey over. Using the rest of the salt, salt the inside of the body cavity. Stuff the turkey if doing so. Next truss up the turkey using butcher's twine. This is a fancy word that means to tie the legs together so they are drawn tightly against the breast to help prevent the meat from overcooking and drying out.
TIP: If the turkey is not being stuffed adding a lemon or two to the body cavity can add additional flavor. Wash the lemons and slice off the top and bottom of each. Insert them into the body cavity and then truss as suggested above.
Step 5: Cut the butter into 6 or 7 slices (Ghee may be substituted if you prefer). Using your fingers and the tip of a knife gently pull the skin away from the body (be careful not to rip the skin like I did) to create space to place the butter pads under the skin back to the breasts. The butter moistens the meat and adds flavor.
Step 6: Mix the 2 tsp. dried sage, 2 tsp. dried thyme, 2 tsp. garlic powder and cracked black pepper together in a small bowl. Feel free to alter the spices to suit your family's tastes. Liberally sprinkle the spices on the turkey.
Step 7: Add 3/4 - 1 cup of water or chicken stock to the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover the turkey with foil then place the turkey in the oven to cook. The liquid and foil will keep moisture in while cooking and prevent the breast from cooking too quickly and drying out. Remove the foil for the last 90 minutes of cooking so the skin gets crispy.
Step 8: While the turkey is cooking baste it with the pan juices every 40-45 minutes. If there aren't enough pan juices to baste the turkey at the beginning of cooking, use some chicken broth. I found my Wanda Farm turkey didn't release a lot of juice until towards the end of cooking. The turkeys are lean and without any additives. Many commercial turkeys are injected with water, salt, dextrose, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, and natural flavors (I'm not even sure what some of those ingredients are).
Step 9: The turkey is fully cooked at 165*F for the breast and 170-175*F for the leg and thigh meat. When cooked, remove the turkey from the oven. Spoon out all of the stuffing from both ends of the bird if used. Cover the stuffing with foil to keep warm. Tent the turkey with foil allowing it to rest and keep warm while finishing the rest of the side dishes and gravy for the meal.
Step 10: Strain the pan juices through a fine sieve into a medium-sized pot to use for making gravy. Place the pot on the stove over medium-low heat.
Step 11: Depending on the amount of juice from the turkey and how thick you prefer your gravy, whisk together 2-3 Tbsp. of flour, arrowroot powder, or cornstarch with an equal amount of the juices until all the lumps are removed. Whisk the mixture into the pot of juices. Bring the gravy to a slow boil, whisking often, until it is as thick as desired.
Step 12: Carve, serve, and enjoy your tender, moist delicious pasture-raised turkey.
Recipe by Victoria Cook:
Victoria is a home cook turned host and cook for 100+ episodes of a private cooking show for wellness practitioners and their patients. As a lover of ethnic cuisines, she uses a variety of spices and fresh ingredients to make flavorful healthy meals for her husband and son. She loves to challenge herself with new recipes and if she can make them in an electric pressure cooker, she’s even happier.