Thanksgiving is here again! When my mother makes roast turkey it always turns out so good. (A mothers cooking is always the best!) She likes to cook the turkey without stuffing and cook the stuffing separate pan. She uses broth from cooking the giblets and the neck to the stuffing so it still has the great turkey flavor. I will add a stuffing recipe and a recipe for turkey gravy later. I will also post a recipe for roast turkey with stuffing in another post.
Cooking the turkey without the stuffing in the bird causes it cook more evenly. The cook time is also less on an unstuffed turkey. In the unstuffed method she cooks the turkey breast side down. Cooking it this way doesn’t dry out the breast meat and it also has a lot more flavor because the juice runs into the breast meat.
One key to making a good turkey is planning ahead. If your turkey is frozen you will need to completely thaw it out and that takes time. The turkey also needs several hours to roast.
Anyway let’s get started. First you need a pasture raised turkey from a local farmer. This way you know where your meat comes from and how it was raised.
Thawing it out! Below is some thawing recommendations from the UW Extension.
Refrigerator (40°F or below): Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Thaw on a tray or in a pan to prevent drips. Once it is completely thawed, the turkey may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking.
In cold water: Thaw the securely wrapped turkey, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. It’s usually best to keep the turkey wrapped in the original package, unless there is a leak. Keep the turkey submerged. Change water every 30 minutes and cook immediately after thawing. Do not refrigerate or refreeze.
Size of turkey: 4 to 12 pounds–thaw 1 to 3 days in the refrigerator or 2 to 6 hours in cold water; 12 to 16 pounds–3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or 6 to 8 hours in cold water; 16 to 20 pounds–4 to 5 days in the refrigerator or 8 to 10 hours in cold water; 20 to 24 pounds–5 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 10 to 12 hours in cold water.
Unstuffed Herb Roasted Turkey
Prep time is about 20 minutes after thawing.
Cook time – 4 to 4 ½ hours depending on the weight. I have inserted a cooking chart below.
• 15-20 lb. Pastured Turkey (the best tasting)
• Meat thermometer (with this no need to worry about it still being raw)
• 1 lemon freshly squeezed (you can use already prepared lemon juice if it is easier)
• Salt and pepper
• Olive oil (you can also used melted butter)
• 1/2 onion
• Half a stalk of celery cut into 6 in lengths
• 2 carrots
• 1 bunch of washed parsley
• 1 tea. dried rosemary
• 1 tea. dried thyme
• 1 tea. dried sage
You could use fresh herbs if you have them. One teaspoon of dried herbs converts to 1 tablespoon of fresh or 2 to 3 medium sprigs.
1. After the turkey is fully thawed remove it refrigerator 1hour before cooking to allow it to come closer to room temperature. The turkey will cook more quickly and more evenly this way.
2. Remove the gizzard, heart, liver, and neck from the cavity and set aside. You can cook them with the turkey or make broth for gravy or stuffing. We usually use them in stuffing.
3. To make broth put them into a small saucepan, cover with water, add salt, pepper, bay leaf and some onion chunks and bring to simmer for an hour or so. Allow it to cool then debone the neck and chop the rest into small pieces.
4. Rinse and pat dry the turkey and preheat the oven to 325º F.
5. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt 1 teaspoon of pepper and half of the rosemary, thyme and sage.
6. Rub inside of the cavity with half of the lemon juice. Take the salt, pepper and herb mix from step 4 and rub all over the inside of the turkey.
7. Cut the onion cut into wedges and place it and several sprigs of the parsley, the carrots, and celery cavity of the turkey. To keep them inside the turkey cover the entrance with aluminum foil.
8. Put parsley in the neck opening and close with a toothpick.
9. Rub olive oil all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the turkey. Rub the rest of the herbs all over the outside and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
10. Tuck wing tips under the shoulders. Place the turkey breast side down in a roaster pan with a rack on the bottom. This allows the juices to collect in the bottom.
11. Cover the pan. If you don’t have a cover tent aluminum foil over. Leave it on until the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking to brown the turkey.
12. Put it in the preheated oven at 325º and cook for 3 ½ hours at this point check for doneness. You want to see how much longer you need to cook it. This is where your meat thermometer will be ever so handy.
13. If you don’t have a meat thermometer stick a knife into the breast the juices should run clear and not pink. Here is temperature guidelines from UW
“ To check for doneness in a whole turkey, insert a food thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh without touching the bone. Check for doneness in a turkey breast by inserting a food thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Turkey meat will be safely cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165°F; however, the meat may still be slightly pink. Some people prefer cooking turkey to a higher temperature (whole turkey to 180°F or breast meat to 170°F) for meat that is more well done.”
14. Cooking times vary depending on the weight of the turkey. Here is a cooking table from http://pepin.uwex.edu/family-living/food-information/preparing-turkey-fresh-or-frozen/
4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours
15. When the turkey is done remove it from the oven and carefully transfer it to a platter. Allow it to rest 20 minutes before carving. This sets the juices in and makes it easier to cut. Cover with foil to keep warm.
16. If your roaster pan is heavy you can set it on the stove top and make the gravy right in it. If not scrape the drippings into a medium sauce pan. See Gravy Recipe.
Save the bones for delicious turkey stock.
Here is a funny post from Snopes about the unusual questions handled by Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line. Some funnies while waiting for the turkey.