So, who’s ready for Thanksgiving? I am decidedly unenthused about it this year. I just don’t feel like hosting so I’m not. We still haven’t figured out quite what our plans will be. (If you are a new reader and missed the backstory, see this post.) However, I know many of you are definitely in the throes of planning and I do want to help you out. I considered doing a round-up post with a lot of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, but I don’t know. Do you like those kinds of things? Are they helpful? Sometimes the “431 Perfect Recipes for Flag Day” things I see everywhere seem like overkill. I have lots of other recipes to share right now, but my guess is that most of you are interested in planning for the holiday. So with that in mind, what are some things you would like to see posted? I’ll try to make at least a few of them happen for you in the next week or two.

This year I did decide to experiment a bit with the best method for cooking the turkey. Over the several years that I have hosted so far, I have found that Alton Brown’s method involving a brine and steeped aromatics is an essential foundation for an excellent bird. There are tons of different brine recipes and many combinations of aromatics you could use. But whatever you do, be sure to use both! This time I decided to build on that foundation and take it to the next level by incorporating a herb compound butter.

Here the herb butter does double duty. Part of it is rubbed under the skin and over the meat of the bird for a major boost in flavor. The rest is melted and brushed over the skin to ensure that gorgeous golden brown exterior that signifies a perfectly done turkey. We were amazed at the difference this made in the final product and as far as we are concerned, this will now become part of our best method.

Ingredients

1 (14-16 lb.) fresh turkey

For the brine: 

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics: 

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage

For the herb butter: 

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1½ tbsp. minced fresh sage
  • 1½ tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  • 01

    To prepare the brine, combine the salt, brown sugar, vegetable stock, peppercorns, allspice and ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the solids.  Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until ready to use.

  • 02

    The night before you plan to serve the turkey, combine the brine and ice water in a large bucket.  Place the thawed turkey (innards removed) breast side down in the brine.  If necessary, weigh down the bird so it is fully immersed.  Cover and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8-16 hours, turning once halfway through brining.

  • 03

    Adjust the oven racks to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water.  Discard the brine.  (Be sure to clean out your sink well after this step!)  Place the bird on the wire rack inside a roasting pan, breast side up.  Pat dry with paper towels.

  • 04

    Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the aromatics from the pan to the cavity of the turkey along with the fresh herbs.

  • 05

    In a small bowl, combine the butter, fresh herbs and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir together with a spoon until well blended. Starting around the neck, run your hand between the skin and meat of the turkey, gently separating them. Do the same from the other side of the bird, loosening the skin around the thighs and legs. Now use about two thirds of the compound butter to rub over the meat, under the skin of the turkey. It is okay if the butter is clumped – it will melt as it cooks. Tuck the wings under the bird. Melt the remaining butter in the microwave and brush in an even layer over the skin of the bird (breast side up in the roasting pan.)

  • 06

    Transfer the pan to the oven and cook at 425˚ F for 45 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 160˚ F and 175˚ F in the thigh. Monitor the browning of the skin and once it has reached the desired shade of golden brown, after about 60-90 minutes, tent loosely with foil through the remainder of the cooking time. (A 14-16 lb. bird will take approximately 2-2½ hours.) Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

  • 07

    Notes:

    • You can make a larger turkey with this recipe. Just keep in mind that it will take longer to cook through, and an instant-read thermometer is absolutely essential for knowing when the bird is properly cooked. 
    • I highly recommend using a fresh rather than a frozen turkey.  Many frozen turkeys are injected with a salt-laden preservative that will cause your bird to be overly salted after brining.  And plus, it’s Thanksgiving!  Go for the best quality ingredients available – fresh tastes better.  If using frozen, thaw in the refrigerator 2-3 days before roasting.

Source

  • Kerry @ Kerry Cooks

    I think taking time and not doing anything you don’t want to do is exactly the right thing to do, and well done for being able to say no! I hope you have a laid-back, family focused thanksgiving and spend time remembering your amazing dad.

    By the way, you asking readers what they’d like to see for thanksgiving even though you’re not doing it is just another reason why you’re my favourite blogger!

  • Rachel Taylor

    This looks amazing! This is my first year cooking a turkey, and I feel so much better having this recipe in my toolkit! It looks delicious!

  • Sami

    Hi Annie! This is my first year hosting and this turkey looks fantastic! 2 questions: Do you go by a certain amount of cook time per pound? ( I’m planning on a 22 lb turkey) Also is there any way you can post a gravy recipe? Love your blog! Everything always comes out perfect when I use your recipes!

  • Keeta

    I do like round-up posts, for the record. When you have so many good recipes in the archives, it helps to be reminded of some oldies-but-goodies that may have been forgotten.

    Hoping you have a calm and peaceful Thanksgiving.

  • Angela

    Gorgeous picture.

    Your post about your father makes me teary. Wishing you space to grieve and peace.

  • annieseats

    Thank you Angela.

  • annieseats

    Yeah, my feelings about round ups have changed a bit over time because with my really huge archives, I think it can be helpful to remind of those oldie-but-goodies. But I don’t want to seem like I am recycling content just for the sake of filler, because that is never my intent. Thanks for the feedback!

  • annieseats

    Thanks Kerry. You are too sweet.

  • Natalie Stachon

    We are also planning on a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year, since all our other family can’t make it for various reasons. It will only be my mom, my dad, my husband and me. We are kind of excited about “taking a break” this year. My idea is to do a huge Mexican feast: queso, guacamole, chicken & steak fajitas from the grill with all the fixings, beans, rice, Mexican hot chocolate, and tres leche cake. We always grill our turkey on Thanksgiving, so we are no strangers to hanging outside around the grill, playing football and having a small bonfire. (The benefits of living in mild North Carolina!) Cheers to making a fun holiday memory!

  • Natalie Stachon

    Also…your photo. The pomegranates! The greenery! Le sigh.

  • annieseats

    Hi Sami,
    I actually have a gravy recipe ready to post later this week so yes, I can! I would just do a bit of Googling for approximate cooking times for a 22 lb bird. I think in the past when I have done turkeys that size it has taken about 3-3.5 hours, but I can’t remember for certain. Whatever you do, let the temperature determine doneness, not the clock!

  • Sami

    Thank u Annie! Looking forward to the gravy recipe! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Natalie Webster

    Annie! I had just started reading your blog three years ago when your dad died, and and now I always think of you on Thanksgiving Day. I am truly sorry for his death. I truly admire the way you make holidays special for your kids, to make good memories, and to honor your parents. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Angela

    Thanks for sharing with us even when it is not easy. I know there is always pressure to make the holidays a certain way but honestly none of that really matters. I think making each day count with our loved ones is all that does. Wishing you peace and special time with your family.

  • Kat Moore

    Oh so much to say here.

    (1) I cried for you the day you posted it, and I cry every year since as I’m going through your archives for Thanksgiving planning and come upon it. I hope you are able to find some peace this year in celebrating with your amazing loved ones. I can’t express how much you have changed our lives, and I wish I could just give you a big hug.

    (2) If you feel like flying down to Texas for turkey, I think I live near foodiebride Shawnda, and you can have some of mine ;) I will be making your caramel popcorn and the apple and spinach salad. And the honey yeast rolls.

    (3) Personally, I kinda feel like you — roundup posts can be overdone and overwhelming. I personally have no issue with going to the Thanksgiving category (or any other) on your site to browse through the ideas you have already posted, but perhaps I am odd. I certainly wouldn’t hate it if you did it, though. After all, I totes look forward to your year-end roundups. Perhaps just do another “menu builder” to encompass ones not already in there currently (perhaps with this twist on the turkey and the new gravy)? Maybe point us to posts on other blogs you follow that you found especially intriguing?

    Much love.

  • Rebecca

    I have always used olive oil to rub down our turkey — what are your thoughts on olive oil vs. butter for that?

  • annieseats

    This was my first time using butter. I vastly preferred it. It’s my go to from here on out!

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much Kat. It really does mean a lot to know that just even though time has passed, not everyone has forgotten. It helps.

    Excellent choices for your Thanksgiving!

    I had thought about adding another spin to the menu builder page. That’s a good idea. I think if I do, I’ll have to direct people there so they know to look for it. I also like the idea of compiling some ideas from other blogs, but then I think that’s basically what I do when I pin things so…I don’t know. Clearly, I over think everything.

  • annieseats

    Thank you Angela. I appreciate it!

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much Natalie.

  • arisu1

    Sending you lots of love Annie. I remember your first post and think about you every year. Thank you for sharing everything with us. Your blog is always my go-to for menus and I will happily read anything you choose to post!

  • Rachel B

    This is my first year hosting, so your post could not have come at a better time! I just recently Pinned Alton Brown’s brine recipe, so I was pleased that you referenced him in your recipe! I live in the Indianapolis area so I love seeing all of your shout outs to places I know and love, I am very glad that my friend referred me to your blog!

  • Annie,
    My 59-year-old dad just had a serious heart “event” last week, where his heart went into atrial fibrillation (forgive me; I’m not medically inclined so I don’t know all of the exact terminology) and had he not been at work surrounded by people who could help, he would not be with us. We will be celebrating Thanksgiving with him this year, and I will be especially thankful for his presence and that God spared his life last week. After an event like that, fussing over the perfect dinner doesn’t seem that important, although we do use AB’s turkey brining/aromatics method regularly and everyone loves it. Thanks for inspiring us home cooks, and thanks for the reminder of what’s important.

  • Kat Moore

    Cheers to the over thinkers. I’m with you.

    One question… any specific reason you switched the initial oven temp from 500 to 425 for longer time? Was your skin getting a little too dark, too?

  • Amanda Smith

    Hi Annie! Thank you for everything you give us here on your corner of the internet. I’m a huge fan – yours is the first blog I check in the morning and the one blog I’m comfortable cooking for company from without first testing a recipe. As a young professional, you’re also a huge inspiration – I’m not sure how you do it all, but I’m sure glad you’re willing to share recipes and so much more with your readers!
    What a gorgeous bird! I followed your garnishing example last year when I cooked my first turkey and used the sliced pomegranates and bunches of whatever herbs I had on hand. Such an easy thing to do but it makes such a spectacular presentation! It’s the little details…
    I agree that huge roundups are overwhelming and not helpful. I wouldn’t think that of a focused post here, but when I was looking for that exact thing on your site the other day, I found your Thanksgiving menu which was exactly what I needed.
    Do you have a recipe for dressing/stuffing that you really like? That’s the one Thanksgiving recipe I don’t have a go-to for. I’ve tried several over the last few years and none has been worthy of repeating. I’m excited to add your Honey Yeast rolls to our spread this year!

  • I personally like recap/menu planning posts. They get me in the holiday spirit even if I’m not making a big meal (I’ve never made a turkey or hosted a major holiday). But also just pointing towards your archives works too. There is a lot of good stuff there. I get excited when I find a new winner from years ago. As much skills develop I’m more confident to try some of your recipes I wouldn’t have even attempted a few years ago.

    That said, if not doing a lot of Thanksgiving themed posts feel better to you, then go for it. Wishing you many happy memories this year.

  • Jamie Noble

    First I want to say I remember reading your thanksgiving post about your father when it happened. I had followed along all the planing posts that year and was so heartbroken for you and your family. I have continued to think about you each Thanksgiving.

    Second, I was going to request gravey but from reading the comments that’s already in the plan. I’ve heard that the drippings from a brined turkey can be too salty to make a good gravey so I’m interested to see how you do it.

  • Melissa Brooker

    Being from Canada, my Thanksgiving has already passed.

    But during this time I always think of you and your family, I remember my heart sinking and feeling utter devastation for you when I first read your post, and have felt and always remembered your family each year since. I hope you have a good Thanksgiving, no matter what you decide to do!

    And for the record I would love a round up post of favourite Thanksgiving recipes!

  • Betty

    Cherish the wonderful memories of your dad’s love . Time may heal all wounds, but thoughts of our loved ones who have passed continue in our hearts and minds forever. I lost my dad this May. Fortunately for him, he was 94 years old and had an extremely full and happy life. He had five months to prepare for his passing as he was diagnosed with cancer in January. He continued to live the life he loved, traveling, gambling, visiting friends up until the day before his passing. We miss him, but we know he’s in a better place. May peace be with you always.
    As far as “roundup” posts go, most are just a rehash of the same thing I read a few months ago. Yours, on the other hand, would be a delight. Your creative mind and talents in the kitchen never cease to amaze me. Do what you feel you’d like to do, but know that I for one am never bored with anything you write.
    Wishing you and your family an amazing holiday.

  • Larisa

    I have never met you; I probably never will. I read your blog regularly, and always think about you this time of year. I am sure the entire month is a terrible lead up to an anniversary of the worst sort. I hope you get through, do it however you need.

  • That’s a beautiful bird! Ugh — the irony that the nation’s day for celebrating food arrives with so much melancholy. Love to your fam <3!

  • Elizabeth Van Essen

    This looks amazing! Would you still stuff the turkey with this recipe?

  • Cindy Cervantes

    Thank you for your post. We lost my dad last January and this will be our first Thanksgiving without him, I’m not looking forward to it. It was his favorite holiday. I’m going to keep it low key and make his favorite dish: wild rice casserole. I’ll be thinking of you.

  • annieseats

    I’m so sorry Cindy. I’ll be thinking of you. It will get easier, but it is very hard, especially all of those “firsts” without them.

  • annieseats

    I don’t make stuffing in the turkey, I bake it separately. Too worried about potential bacterial contamination/undercooking from the cavity of the bird.

  • annieseats

    Thanks Alex. I appreciate it :)

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much Larisa. It means a lot.

  • annieseats

    Betty, thank you so much for all of your kind words. You are so sweet.

    I am sorry for the loss of your father but glad to hear that he lived a long full life. That is wonderful. I hope your holiday is filled with great memories of him.

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much Melissa. I really appreciate it.

  • annieseats

    Thank you Jamie.

  • annieseats

    Thanks Diana.

  • annieseats

    It was just sort of a gut feeling that the butter and/or herbs might be more likely to burn/brown too quickly at that high temp. It always worked perfectly with the oil but I thought the lower temp would be best for the herb butter.

  • annieseats

    I am so glad your father is alright. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with him.

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much!

  • Tiffany

    Annie I have been following your blog for over a year and Cook so many of your recipes! Please, if possible, create a menu of items we can select from for thanksgiving. I’m 26 and just bought my first house. This year I’ll be hosting my first thanksgiving and could really use someone more experienced to point me in the right direction! Thank you Annie!

  • Sending you lots of love. I hadn’t met you when I read about your Dad and my heart just broke for you. I would personally LOVE to see a round-up from you, just to have everything in one place. In terms of other things I’d like to see- do you have a dinner roll recipe that has a nice crispy crust to it? xoxo

  • Nancy Long

    more reasons not to stuff – you have to cook longer to make sure the stuffing is cooked through and that dries out the bird – also, you can’t use the carcass for stock if stuffed

  • Nancy Long

    My father passed on Thanksgiving Day in ’79 after a long three months in the hospital and emergency surgery and actually the day has become even more meaningful to our family. We celebrate in his memory. My thoughts go out to you and yours.

  • I know this time of year is so tough for you, so I totally understand. I don’t think holidays are ever the same after you experience such loss. I know I just don’t get as excited about them as I once did. Thinking of you and sending all my love.

  • Sarah Townsend

    I’m so thankful to have a cousin that is hosting Thanksgiving because holidays have gotten too hard since my dad died. I definitely think of you and your brothers now when Thanksgiving comes around, I remember that year telling a relative that they should read the food blog of someone I’d been in Orchestra with. And then getting online to send her the link and reading your entry. I didn’t know him well but met him a few times through school stuff at different levels, and he was such a caring educator. Much love, again.

  • Kayla W

    I always think about you guys this time of year, I am glad you spend the day the way you guys want to and don’t feel like you have to spend the day hosting or whatever some people might think everyone should.

    I do think it is awesome of you to still talk Thanksgiving recipes with us though. Your recipes are go-to recipes for us. In fact I was just telling a coworker about your honey yeast rolls the other day.

    My mom always does a butter rub on turkeys. It is definitely a key to a perfect turkey. And I adore Alton’s brine. Perfection.

  • Mohana L Shull

    I’ve been following your blog from the very beginning. I always think about you as the date gets closer to Thanksgivings. I pray the Lord will continue to comfort you and your family and gives you a new opportunity to share with your children what an amazing dad you had. A big hug, from Alabama! XOXO Mohana

  • annieseats

    Thank you Mohana!

  • annieseats

    Thank you Kayla! I appreciate it.

  • annieseats

    Thanks Sarah. Thinking of you as well.

  • annieseats

    Thanks Joanne. Thinking of you as well.

  • annieseats

    Thank you Nancy. Thinking of you as well.

  • annieseats

    Hi Amanda, thanks for all the feedback! I totally agree, simple garnishes with whatever you have around completely takes the presentation of the turkey to the next level.

    I’m planning to post a stuffing recipe later this week so stay tuned for that!

  • Amanda Smith

    Great – thank you, Annie!

  • Laurel Nippert Miller

    I wanted to let you know we made this version of turkey this year and it was fantastic! Thank you! I hope you had a peaceful thanksgiving. I am a long time reader and I think of you and your family this time of year. Sending warm and happy vibes your way.

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much Laurel. I truly appreciate it.

  • Sami

    Annie! The turkey came out perfect!!! You Rock! Thank you for making my first Thanksgiving a breeze! Any chance you will be posting more macaron recipes in the future?

  • Diane

    Do you make gravy with the drippings from this turkey or are they too salty?

  • annieseats

    Yes, I use the drippings for gravy.

  • Lindsay

    This was my first year cooking a turkey. I’ve missed Thanksgiving at home a handful of times since becoming an “adult” and have been either kindly taken in by a friend’s family or, one year, my boyfriend and I made a chicken instead to keep it small. This year, we decided to go for it. Your recipe was great even for us turkey beginners; it was easy to follow, had GREAT flavor, and really made us feel like we were eating an expensive meal out. Thank you for sharing this recipe and continuing to be one of my favorite food blogs! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving holding your loved ones close by.

  • Annie

    Way to go on your first turkey, Lindsay! I’m so glad it was a hit. I hope you had a wonderful holiday.