How to Cook a Turkey
Once a year, on Thanksgiving, I eat Turkey. And I eat dairy. There. I admitted it. Now that I’ve admitted it, I am thrilled to share the instructions for how to cook an amazing, drool-inducing turkey. Chef Maili and Elizabeth Messina collaborated on this project (combining Maili’s words with Elizabeth’s vision) and by golly, it’s a winner. So, with further ado, here you go and Bon Appétit!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (But you will reduce the heat to 375 after the first 15 minutes)
Remove plastic from turkey in the sink. Remove the neck and all organs from inside the turkey cavity. (You will use the neck and neck skin for the turkey broth you will use to make gravy.) Rinse the turkey and pat it dry.
Place the turkey in the roasting pan. Slide your hands between the skin and the breast in order to separate it so you can put large clumps of unsalted butter under the skin. Place at least three or four clumps on each side. Then place whole sage leaves under the skin. (You will not be able to see the sage leaves well when the butter is firm and in there, but when the turkey is roasted they will show through beautifully.
Coat the entire outside skin of the turkey with olive oil and generously coat with kosher salt. Leave cavity empty and do not stuff so the heat can get inside the turkey and it can cook more quickly. Also, my personal tip is to untruss the turkey and leave the legs out so that the hot oven air can cook the turkey more quickly. (I’m not a fan of trussing in chickens or turkeys)
Cook the turkey at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 375 (or 350 for smaller ovens). Every 30 minutes while the turkey is cooking, get a stick of butter and rub it all over the top off the turkey. Cook for 2 hours for a 15 pound bird and under. Cook for 2 and a half hours for a 16-20 pound bird and higher. If the turkey browns too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil. (You can just lay the foil over the bird, you don’t have to tuck it in or anything like that.)
Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving it. You can also cover it with foil for up to an hour to keep it warm and then carve it. Or keep it in the oven on very low temperature 200-225 covered with foil if it is finished before you need to serve it.
Moist and Delicious! And the leg meat is darker and a bit pink by nature so don’t overcook it worrying that you haven’t cooked it long enough. There is nothing worse than dry overcooked turkey.
And if you like the taste of stuffing inside the bird, just pour turkey broth or chicken broth over your stuffing to mimic that moist taste that comes from cooking it inside the bird. But you will have a better tasting turkey if you cook it unstuffed.