Last week, I had the best Thanksgiving ever. My adult daughter Lainey spent Tuesday through Sunday with us, cooking, eating, drinking, talking, being merry and being so thankful.
We went to sleep early every night, because talking non-stop makes you tired. And so does turkey. It was wonderful and I didn’t want her to leave. I know people all over, since the beginning of family members coming, “home for the holidays,” have been dealing with these feelings. I feel so fortunate.
Before making my shopping list, I suggested we go out for Thanksgiving dinner… but almost as soon as the words left my mouth – and it seemed like I said it in slow motion – I realized there were no leftovers when you ate Turkey Dinner out.
No leftover “turkey bowls” filled will all the items you previously ate on a pretty plate, smothered in giblet gravy. No turkey sandwiches. No turkey soup.
What if they didn’t make actual giblet gravy? Is it even Thanksgiving without giblets? No way.
For our sides this year, I planned scalloped potatoes with a cream sauce, broccoli salad with walnuts, mashed sweet potatoes with butter, homemade cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries, fresh green beans sautéed with onion and bacon, and giblet gravy. We didn’t open a can of anything for this meal. Everything was from scratch.
I began thawing our 18-pound turkey on Monday. For the final 24 hours of thawing, our bird was in an empty ice chest in the kitchen, because it wasn’t quite thawing as anticipated.
Thursday morning, I asked my husband what time he wanted to start cooking the bird. He said with a smile, “I’m not. YOU are. This is your thing.”
I did what any modern woman with a strong will, minimal turkey-experience and tons of determination would do… I scoured the internet for the perfect turkey recipe for cooking in a roaster I’ve been saving just for this moment.
I had a list of my planned side dishes, and figured I may as well print out those recipes, too, so that I could have them in my hands rather than trying to remember everything in the flurry of holiday cooking that was about to take place.
With Lainey in the kitchen and my husband checking progress (offering helpful tips every once in a while), we put the thawed, seasoned turkey in the roaster at noon, and began working our way down the sides list.
We chopped, sliced and diced. We baked cornbread from scratch for dressing. We stirred and simmered and checked items off the list, with little- to no-stress. We cleaned the kitchen as we cooked.
The most stress I saw was on my daughter’s face as she watched me prepare the giblets for the gravy. Watching her mom pick the meat from the turkey neck was clearly not her favorite thing, but, she ended up loving the final product.
By 3 p.m., we were at the dining table with our Thanksgiving meals on my mother’s china. My husband paid the highest compliment when he told us that everything was, “very well-prepared and so tasty.”
I will never cook a turkey in the oven again. Two and a half hours in the turkey roaster, never even needing to baste it, and our turkey was absolutely perfect.
Having my daughter in the kitchen with me, prepping, laughing and talking the entire time made cooking this huge meal a breeze. She even washed the dishes without being asked. She got extra big hugs for that.
The Most Perfect Turkey in a Roaster Oven
1 whole turkey, thawed, up to 20 lbs.
1⁄4 cup olive oil or 1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Take the pan out of the roaster and pre-heat the roaster to its highest setting. Sprinkle salt in the cavities of your turkey.
Rub the entire bird with olive oil or butter and whatever special seasonings you wish. I stuck sprigs of fresh rosemary (from the yard) inside ours. Finish with a good sprinkle of seasoning salt and black pepper.
Put the rack into the insert pan and make sure the handles are up, not tucked below, so you can lift it. Put the bird in the insert pan on top of the rack. Don’t add water to the pan – the turkey makes enough liquid. Put the insert pan back into the roasting pan. Put the lid back on.
Roast at highest setting for 30 minutes (mine was 500 degrees). The butter/oil, seasonings and the searing time will make the skin beautifully browned.
After 30 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees.
The turkey will self-baste as long as you don’t lift the lid. Lifting the lid will increase cooking time because roaster ovens lose heat, unlike regular ovens. To find the proper cooking time of your turkey, you can use the turkey calculator at www.butterball.com.
Your turkey’s final temperature should be 180 degrees in the thigh, and 165 in the breast or the stuffing, if you stuffed it. Juices should be clear, not pink.
Check your turkey about an hour before it should be done.
When done, remove the turkey from the roaster, tent with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche 🙂