Posted by: Hannah | 01/03/2013

The Best Roast Turkey, Ever

I have never had a problem roasting turkeys.

I don’t mind basting, I’m not scared to stuff them, and as a result my turkeys are always moist and properly cooked. (Except for that one time the turkey wasn’t completely thawed yet. That was a bit of a disaster.)

However, this year for Christmas dinner I wanted to try something different. Because Christmas Eve fell on a Monday, I had the whole weekend to prep the meal. And because I wasn’t 7000 months pregnant, like last year, I had the energy & gumption to take on something new.

Enter Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Christmas, a two-part special that aired on the Food Network in December.

I watched the segment on turkey three times, taking notes. Then when the time came to actually cook the thing, I made some slight changes based on my personal taste and some suggestions from my sister, who has been using Alton Brown’s seasoning methods for a couple of years with good results.

So! The best roast turkey I’ve ever tasted. One note: I used a free-range turkey, and aside from the flavour difference over commercial turkeys – which is significant – I do think there are parts of this recipe that might be harder with a commercial turkey. More on that later.

The recipe

Soften one cup of butter until it is malleable. You are going to make a ‘compound butter’.

Season with fresh ground black pepper, sea salt, and olive oil. (This is very much to your own taste. The olive oil is very important because it keeps the butter from burning.) Add the zest of two lemons, 3 cloves of mashed garlic, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Mix well until the mixture is completely blended.

Once your turkey is thawed, rinse and pat it dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff into the cavity:

– two onions, unpeeled, chopped in half

– two or three fresh bay leaves

– two tart green apples, chopped in half

– a cinnamon stick

– fresh sage leaves

– fresh marjoram

You don’t need to tie up the legs or stitch up the opening.

Now, to the skin. You need to gently separate the turkey skin from the meat. If you’ve never seen this done, here’s a YouTube video that demonstrates the method:

I’ve done this before, with a commercial turkey, and it just about drove me bonkers. The skin kept tearing and it was incredibly frustrating. With the free-range turkey, the skin seems to be more resilient, and I had very few problems with this process. That may be a coincidence, but I thought I’d mention it.

Anyway! You’ve got your skin separated from the bird; now you stuff the butter under the skin, everywhere you can. It will look like too much butter. You will feel your arteries clogging. Don’t panic. Most of it will run off into the pan and if you’re really worried, do what I do and get a raised rack for your roasting pan.

Once the bird is well-buttered under the skin, rub it well all over the outside. Don’t forget the legs and wings. This is the step that will protect the skin, and make it crispy and golden-brown, so really glop it on.

Finally, sprinkle the buttered turkey with a little more olive oil.

Put the turkey in a preheated 425F oven for ten minutes. This will help the skin start browning. Take it out, baste it thoroughly, and cover the breast with strips of bacon. Yes, bacon. Don’t worry, you won’t be eating it (although you can use it to make gravy) – this is just one more step that will help the breast stay moist.

Return to the oven, lowering the temperature to 350F. Bake for 15 minutes per pound, basting frequently. NOTE: DO NOT PUT A FOIL TENT ON THE TURKEY. This was hard for me to leave off, because I was convinced the thing would burn, but it didn’t. It got a beautiful golden-brown, but didn’t burn or dry out.

The turkey is done when the legs move freely and the thigh has reached a temperature of 165F. Remove the turkey, take off the bacon, and let it rest for AT LEAST half an hour. Gordon Ramsay says you should let it rest for the same amount of time you cooked it, but that seems ridiculous to me. Maybe sometime when I didn’t just spend a small fortune on a free-range bird I’d try it. We let ours rest for somewhere between 30 – 45 minutes, then carved.

It tasted SO GOOD. Our guests ate a lot of turkey – more than usual. We then used the leftovers to make stock, turkey pot pie, and a fabulous turkey vegetable soup with brown rice and a creamy broth.

By the time Christmas week was over, we had six cups each of stock and leftover turkey meat for the freezer.



  1. Awesome, thank you so much! Am printing this out for my cookbook – but I am too anxious to wait until next Thanksgiving to try it. We’ll have to have turkey for…Valentine’s Day?

    • Valentine’s Day! A long-overlooked opportunity for buttered poultry!

  2. […] though I posted my roast turkey recipe, apparently grossing out poor vegan Nicole, who was not prepared to see a naked turkey carcass when […]

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