Remember the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the turkey comes to the table, browned and glorious, and then as Clark goes to carve it the whole thing deflates? Here, let me refresh your memory.
This doesn’t have to be you. Roasting a turkey can be easy, and it doesn’t take as long as you think. This is a no-fuss, surefire way to get a perfect holiday turkey. Of course, for inspiration, I looked to Ina. When in doubt, look to Ina. Hungry? Ina. Confused? Ina. She doesn’t disappoint.
1. Let’s start with butter. To your melted butter add fresh thyme leaves, the zest of one lemon, the juice of one lemon (but don’t throw the lemon away after you squeezed it!). Set this aside and go tend to your thawed bird waiting for you in the sink.
2. I washed and rinsed my sink and then stuck this bird in there. I then took out all giblets and pieces that they stuff down in the turkey’s body cavity. I’m not a fan. You can save them and prepare them if you’d like. Put them in your stuffing, whatever. Just make sure you make a separate batch for me because I am not eating the organ stuffing. No thank you.
Where was I? Washing. Give your turkey a good rinse and dry it off a bit with a towel, paper or cloth. Salt the cavity of the turkey generously. Into the center of the bird place the leftover lemons from the butter, one quartered onion (I happened to have red on hand), slightly smashed cloves of garlic, sprigs of thyme and another lemon, halved. You were expecting bread dressing? I am a total out-of-bird stuffing person. It doesn’t turn out as soggy, but instead, it’s nice and toasted on the top and the turkey is allowed to cook evenly all the way through.
3. Most turkeys come with a string for typing the legs together. This one came with the legs tucked into the extra fat below them. I decided to cut off the fat and tie the legs anyway. You can also tie the string around the body of the turkey to keep the wings close, or you can just try to tuck the sings along the sides (which is what I did).
4. Place your bird in the roaster and brush with your butter mix until you’ve used it all. Then on top of the butter and lemon zest sprinkle kosher salt and fresh ground pepper all over the surface of the bird. Now, put the lid on and stick it in a 350° F oven. For how long? My 11-pound turkey here spent 2.5 hours in there. That was plenty of time. If your bird is on the heftier side and weighs about 20 pounds, plan for 4.5 to 5 hours until it’s done.
5. When your turkey is done, pull it out and remove the roasting pan cover. The internal temperature of the breast needs to be 170° F and 180° F in the thigh. Remove the turkey from the pan and place it on a cutting board, covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. This will help steam the turkey and make it a bit juicier as you get your other dinner items ready.
With your gravy made, the table set, the sides out of the oven, the fridge or the cooler and on the table, it’s time to carve and serve. A gorgeous turkey doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult to taste good.