We all know someone who agonizes every Thanksgiving about making the perfect turkey. Lets face it, at some point everyone will make a less-than-awesome Thanksgiving turkey. But today, we want to show you a simple method of making an excellent super juicy bird every time. This is a great recipe you can make without a bunch of special equipment, hard-to-find ingredients, or crazy cooking processes. We call it our KISS method, but your family and friends will say it's delicious. It's a super simple, three-step process you can use to make the best Thanksgiving turkey.
Selecting the Perfect Turkey
When you pick a turkey, find one that doesn't have water added, or include sodium or by-products. These turkeys have already had water added and won't flavor as well or get as tender. Make sure to remove the gizzards sack and the neck from the inside the turkey, and check that there isn't excess water or ice in the cavity. You can remove excess neck skin and truss the legs. Also inspect the turkey for missed pin feathers and simply pull them off.
The process we will use today starts with a brine. We will put two gallons of cold water in a food-safe five-gallon bucket and mix in two cups of pure sea salt. It's not necessary to heat the water, just keep stirring for a few minutes until the salt has dissolved. This is your basic brine. You can add any number of wild ingredients to your brine. From fresh herbs to fruit, you can even add beer or cider to get unique flavors. For this recipe, we are keeping the brine simple; just salt and water.
Simply submerge the whole turkey breast-side down in the brine. You can place a plate with a bag of beans or something similar to keep the turkey submerged. Brine the turkey one hour per pound.
After the turkey has finished in the brine, set it on a turkey rack to drain. You don't need to rinse the turkey, just pat it dry with paper towels. Make sure to drain the cavity well. Set the turkey rack in a roasting pan.
We are going to make a real simple injection liquid for our turkey that will make it juicy and flavorful. All we are going to do is mix an equal amount of unsalted butter with fresh maple syrup. Once we have that mixed together real well, we are going to add two tablespoons of our Bearded Butcher Blend Chipotle Seasoning. This is a mild, smokey, and sweet seasoning that anyone will love. It's mild enough for those who don't like spicy but flavorful enough for the most discerning palate. This seasoning will let the turkey show off its natural flavor without overwhelming the meat.
Once the ingredients are mixed up, simply use your turkey injector to inject the mixture into the meat all over. Once you have the injection mixture thoroughly in the meat, it's time for a dry rub. The dry rub will aid the brined turkey to give it a perfect, crispy skin. We are keeping this super simple and using only our Chipotle seasoning. Instead of rubbing the seasoning on the turkey, just sprinkle seasonings all over.
How to Cook the Turkey
Lots of people have a preference on how cook a turkey. For some people, it isn't Thanksgiving without smoking a turkey. There are lots of opinions on how to smoke a turkey. For this smoked turkey recipe, we are going to use the Traeger Turkey blend of pellets in our Ironwood 885 smoker. We preheat the grill to 350 degrees before we place the turkey on the grill. Cooking the turkey over a roasting pan will catch the juices. Later on, we will use the turkey drippings to make an amazing gravy to go with the best turkey recipe.
As the turkey cooks, baste the skin with the butter and syrup marinade mixture we injected into the turkey earlier. You can also sprinkle more of the chipotle seasoning after basting to get a beautiful golden brown color. Use a remote thermometer to monitor your turkey temperature. Stay tuned to our website, we have our own Bearded Butcher meat thermometer. There are different rules of thumb for how long to cook a turkey at 350 degrees. Typically, you will figure that you will want to cook your turkey for 20 minutes per pound. Our 18 pound turkey is going to take a total time of about four hours. Internal temperature for the perfect roast turkey is about 160 to 170 degrees. Measure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh to get the best temperature.
Remove the turkey from the grill and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. We know it'll be hard, but wait to try it until the juices have set. That's really all there is to this easy to make Thanksgiving turkey recipe. While the roasted turkey rests, we are going to make a gravy and get our sides together for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
Making a Roux Gravy and Sides
Here is a simple gravy to go with your roasted turkey. Simply mix one cup of butter with one cup of flour in a hot pan. Cook the mixture while stirring until it combines. Next, spoon some of the drippings from the roasting pan into the mixture and keep stirring until combined. We are going to add some of our chipotle seasoning to our gravy to compliment the flavors of our turkey recipe.
One of our favorite side dishes to go with the best turkey gravy we just made is buttery, creamy mashed potatoes with melted cheddar and bacon. A sweet potato pie for dessert is perfect every year.
Carving the Thanksgiving Turkey
The first time you have the honor of carving the turkey, it can be a little intimidating. Between wanting to trim the turkey breast meat perfectly and the hungry crowds certain to gather for the holiday meal. Just take your time and be patient. We'll show you some tips to carve the Thanksgiving turkey quickly and easily.
Start with the turkey breast up. You will want a sharp knife, like the 6" Victorinox knife we use all the time. The turkey is going to be hot. A way to help is to put on several layers of latex gloves. This will help keep your hands from burning.
The first step is to separate the thigh and leg. With the point of the knife, find the joint where the thigh meets the body of the turkey. With the thigh off the bird, separate the drumstick from the thigh by cutting through the joint. Do this on both sides. Run the knife along the thigh bone to separate the dark meat from the white meat.
Just like the thighs, remove the wings. You'll find these parts really easy to remove.
Next, use the point of the knife along the breast bone and cut the turkey breast meat free. You can slice this quickly against the grain. There are plenty of other great parts. Some people absolutely love the golden brown roasted skin and the little medallions of juicy turkey meat along the back. The tail, sometimes called the pope's nose, is also a particular favorite delicacy.
Best Left-Over Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe Ideas
Almost better than that roasted turkey on Thanksgiving is getting into the left-overs the next day. You can use turkey to make stock, or a delicious turkey and dumpling stew. One of our favorite things to make is the humble Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Here's the simple recipe- Slice turkey on sourdough bread, put left-over mash potatoes on one side and a slice of cheddar cheese. Pop the sandwich open face in the oven. Pull the sandwich out when the turkey from the oven is just getting golden. Too long and you'll lose the juicy deliciousness. Yum.
We hope you have a great Thanksgiving with friends and family. The recipe we shared today is tried and true, and it's just one of the best turkey recipes you'll get right the first time.
Complete Recipe for Thanksgiving Turkey
- Five gallon food grade bucket
- Turkey rack
- Roasting Pan
- Brine Injector
- Meat Thermometer
- 1 turkey 16-20 lbs.
- 2 lbs. sea salt
- Bearded Butcher Blend Chipotle Seasoning
- 2-3 lbs butter
- Maple Syrup
- 2 gal cold water
Step-by-Step Recipe Directions
- Make a brine by stirring cold water and salt until dissolved.
- Immerse the turkey breast side down. Brine the turkey for one hour per pound.
- Remove from brine and drain, pat dry, do not rinse.
- Mix maple syrup and butter in a small bowl until combined. Add Chipotle seasoning to taste.
- Use brine injector to inject marinade into the meat of the turkey.
- Sprinkle the skin with seasoning.
- Preheat grill or oven to 350 degrees. Place the bird on the rack and place the whole thing into a roasting pan.
- Place on grill for 20 min per pound, basting three or four times with marinade.
- Turkey is cooked when internal temperature reaches 160-170 degrees in the thickest part.
- Let rest for 30 min before carving and serving.
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