Recipe: Perfect Roast Turkey

by Virginia B. Hargrove

perfect baked turkeyGracing the center of almost every Thanksgiving table is the star of the show -- the turkey! Taste buds eagerly await greeting the first tasty morsel with glee.

The very best turkeys showcase perfectly golden skin with moist, tender meat practically begging to be carved. Disastrous outcomes -- dry or undercooked birds may leave everyone disappointed. To avoid the latter and instead have your turkey garnering rounds of applause, we offer you one of our tried and true recipes.

Perfect Roast Turkey

Prep time: 20 minutes | Total time: 4 1/2 hours | Yield: 16 to 20 servings

• 1 whole turkey (16-18 pounds)
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 2 tablespoons ground dried rosemary
• 2 tablespoons rubbed dried sage
• 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 1/2 quarts turkey stock
• 8 cups prepared stuffing (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. Place the rack in the lowest position of the oven.

Remove the turkey neck and giblets (you can use these in the gravy or stuffing). Rinse the turkey, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Loosely fill the body cavity with stuffing, if using. Rub the skin with the butter, and season with spices, salt and pepper.

Place turkey, roaster and all in the oven, and pour 2 cups turkey stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. Position an greased aluminum foil tent over the turkey. Secure the edges. Baste all over every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan. When the drippings evaporate, add more stock, about 1 to 2 cups at a time.

Remove the aluminum foil after 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads at least 165°, about 4 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter, and let it stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Cook's note
If you are a stickler for having the perfect looking bird to pull from the oven and put on the table, bake it breast up. If you're more concerned with the flavor then bake it breast down. I have experimented with both, and it always seems more moist, even the next day, when cooked this way. You may have to carve it in the privacy of your kitchen though.

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