No-Fuss Roast Turkey: Take the Stress Out of Giant Poultry

roast-turkey-21-300x2011Turkey is the cause of a lot of Thanksgiving stress. It’s the centerpiece of the meal and you can’t afford to get it wrong. But there’s no other time of year when you cook a 15 pound piece of meat, it’s tough to get the timing and technique right. Even worse, the white meat and the dark meat cook differently, so if you give the dark meat long enough to be cooked properly, you have to worry about drying out the white meat. It used to drive me crazy. Then last year, I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it. A turkey is just like a very big chicken and I roast chicken all the time. In fact my second job was roasting chickens at a rotisserie chicken joint.

So, this is my no-fuss turkey recipe. It works best with a heritage breed turkey which doesn’t have as thick a breast as a broad-breasted white, but I’ve done it for the broad-breasted white and it worked just fine. There’s only one tricky part and that’s flipping the turkey, but it’s really not as tough as it seems. Other than that, you’ve just got to remember to baste every half-hour and that’s about it. No brining. No stuffing. No setting the kitchen on fire when you kick over the deep-fryer. No freaking out.

No-Fuss Roast Turkey

1 turkey (12-20lbs, heritage breed if you can get it)

One stick of butter

Coarse kosher salt


The Night Before
Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey’s cavity if they are in there and reserve for gravy and stock.

Rub salt all over the turkey’s body.

Cover the turkey and refrigerate.

On Thanksgiving

Take the turkey out of the fridge and set the oven to 375.

While you bring the oven up to temperature, melt the butter.

Truss the turkey with twine. Make sure the feet are tied together and the wings are tied to the body.

Place the turkey breast-side down in the roasting pan and brush some of the butter on to it. Pat some salt and pepper onto the turkey.

When the oven is up to temperature, put in the turkey. Baste every half-hour or so. After about 1.5 hours, the thighs should be getting pretty brown. Once this happens, take the turkey out to flip it.

I flip the turkey using dishtowels. Grab the turkey on both sides using dish towels and flip it end over end. Keep your hands and arms and other parts of your body clear, because a bunch of scalding hot liquid will pour out of the opening while you do this.

Pour the rest of the butter over the breast and put some salt and pepper on it and return the turkey to the oven.

Continue basting it every half hour. Melt more butter if you need to..

If it looks like it’s the breast is cooking too fast and you’re worried it’s going to dry out, put some aluminum foil over the breast.

When you’re almost done, take the foil off and crank the heat so the whole thing gets really brown. Just ten minutes or so.

When a thermometer inserted where the thigh meets the breast reads 165 the turkey is done, but you may be more comfortable letting it cook a little longer to be on the safe side.

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