Turkey for Beginners

by Laura

I am 31 years old and still think I am not grown up enough to cook a turkey. Well, it turns out, I can do it! And so can you!

I followed Ina Garten's recipe pretty closely but made a few modifications due to laziness and paranoia (I blame my dad who repeatedly asked what the back up plan was once he learned I was in charge of the turkey).


Get dirty! Butter under the skin helps keep it moist.

Get dirty! Butter under the skin helps keep it moist.

1 fresh turkey! (ours was about 12 lbs)

1 stick butter (room temperature)

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 lemons (1 zested and juiced; the other cut into quarters) 

Half an onion

1 head garlic halved (skin on is ok!)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Take the room temperature butter and use a fork to mash in chopped thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Remove the giblets and neck (!!! gross but the one we had was packaged nicely and not too traumatic to remove). Tie up the legs and tuck the wings under the body so there are no parts too far from the body.

Rinse the bird inside and out with water and pat dry. Salt and pepper the outside of the skin liberally. 

On her way to the oven

On her way to the oven

Lift up the skin and slip your hand between the bird and the skin, making space so you can stuff the butter in there next. Use your hands to get the butter mixture underneath the skin (I think this really helps keep it from drying out as it cooks). You can kind of smooth out the butter from the outside so it gets all over the bird (watch the video on the link above for a good visual). Spread the rest on the outside of the skin, reserving about one tablespoon of the butter mixture to braise the turkey throughout the cooking.

Stuff the quartered lemon, onion, garlic and any extra thyme and rosemary sprigs you have laying around inside the body cavity of the turkey.

Prepare a large roasting pan with just enough water to cover the bottom. Transfer the turkey to the pan and roast at 350 degrees for 2.5 hours, brushing with butter throughout if it ever looks like it is getting too dry on top. You can also place a piece of foil on top if it starts to look too brown.

Test the temperature and make sure it gets to 165 before you take it out. Let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving. 

Beware: it looked like this a full hour before it was ready

Beware: it looked like this a full hour before it was ready

The final product!

The final product!