The turkey world is complicated – dare I say, over complicated. To brine or not to brine? To roast, fry, smoke, or grill? Should I cut the turkey up in pieces, spatchcock the turkey, or just leave it whole? To stuff or not to stuff? There is an overwhelming amount of turkey recipes out there, each designed with various combinations of goals – to impress, to produce a turkey that is cooked all the way through but not dry, to be different, to be traditional, etc., etc.
As a first time turkey cook this year, to say I was overwhelmed at where to start is an understatement. I consider myself a savvy home cook, but the over-saturation of turkey recipes and Thanksgiving issues of my favorite blogs and magazines was just a lot to sort through. All through the month of November, my Instagram feed was filled with various pictures of turkeys cooked in various ways. I enjoyed watching the Bon Appetit Making Perfect Thanksgiving series, although I felt that a lot of the recipes that they made were trying too hard to be different and interesting. I perused my stand-by resources to find the recipe that I was going to make this year, every time feeling frustrated and uninspired.
I knew my main turkey criteria: I wanted it roasted whole (that’s how my mom always does it, so to me that’s tradition and therefore the way to make a turkey). I wanted it non-stuffed (the food scientist in me is not at all interested in getting salmonella from under-cooked stuffing, nor am I interested in drying out the bird just so the stuffing can finally reach the requisite 165F temperature reading). I wanted something relatively no fuss (brining seems like a lot of unnecessary work, no?) that would produce great results. Simply put: I just wanted to make a traditional roast turkey that was not over-complicated.
Enter my sister, Grace, who is an experienced Friendsgiving hostess. She told me that she uses Ina Garten’s recipe every year, which checked all of my boxes as she was describing it. Ina’s recipe (click here to access it!) is stuffed with an aromatic blend of quartered lemons, onions, garlic, and herbs. In addition, it’s rubbed down inside and out with an herb compound butter (yes please) that keeps the turkey moist through cooking and produces a delightful, crispy brown skin. There is no need for temperature changing or foil tenting (for a small-ish bird), and the only maintenance involves giving the turkey a temperature check every once and a while toward the end of the cooking period.
The resulting turkey turned out perfectly, and the drippings made the most fantastic gravy. All of the aromatics infused nicely into the meat of the bird and drippings, and the no-fuss nature of the recipe allowed me plenty of time to focus on prepping sides while the turkey roasted. This recipe is my new stand-by for Thanksgiving, and I definitely recommend it as a good starting place for a turkey recipe for future holidays to come!
Pictures from my first turkey roasting adventure are below: