I first started hosting family Thanksgivings back in 2006. My parents were coming to visit me in my little apartment outside of Bel Air, Maryland, where I worked as a teacher. I really wanted to impress them with my cooking prowess, but as a rookie, I was nervous about tackling the turkey. After spending hours looking up various recipes, deeming many to be too intimidating or too impractical, I came upon a recipe for a turkey rubbed with a herbed compound butter while perusing the Williams-Sonoma website. It sounded so good and completely doable. I decided to give it a try—happily it exceeded expectations. This roast turkey has since become a staple of our Thanksgiving table. While I’ve lost track of the original recipe, I still utilize the concept and have made it my own.
If you are using a turkey that has been frozen, be sure to thaw it completely before cooking it, otherwise, it may not cook through and you and your loved ones will suffer from salmonella. Depending on the size of the turkey you are using, you may need to place it in the refrigerator to thaw up to a week in advance. I have found this guide from the Better Homes & Gardens website to be helpful. Also, I recommend taking your turkey out of the refrigerator about three to four hours in advance of preparation to allow it to come to room temperature. It’s easier to apply the compound butter when the turkey isn’t cold. Finally, this recipe is for a 15-pound turkey but can be adapted for larger or smaller birds. If you’re just cooking a breast, make a bed of the stuffing ingredients and rest the breast on top instead of on a roasting rack.
15 lbs whole turkey, neck and giblets removed, legs tied together with kitchen twine
1 lb unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
10 Tbsp dried herbs de Provence
1 medium-sized carrot, cleaned and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 celery stalk, cleaned and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 lemon, cut into chunks
1/2 orange, cut into chunks
Fresh parsley sprigs
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Fresh sage sprigs
Fresh thyme sprigs
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the butter and herbs de Provence in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash the ingredients together, forming a paste in which the herbs are evenly distributed throughout.
3. Place a roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Set the turkey on the roasting rack. Using one hand, separate the skin from the flesh of the breast by gently sliding your hand under the skin as far as you can. Do not move too quickly or use too much force or you will tear the skin.
4. Using your hands, gently work scoops totaling about 1/3 of the prepared compound butter under the skin you just separated from the breast meat. Spread it around as evenly as possible using your fingers. The butter under the skin bastes the turkey as it roasts. Smear the remaining compound butter all over the exterior and cavity of the turkey.
5. Place the fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (cue “Scarborough Fair”) inside the cavity of the turkey. The leaves will stick out of the cavity. In no particular order, stuff the cavity with the chunks of carrot, celery, onion, lemon, and orange. Please note: The stuffing ingredients are not for consumption, but rather to add flavor to the bird.
6. Using aluminum foil, make a tent and place it over the turkey. Put the turkey in the oven and roast it for 3 to 3-and-a-half hours, removing the foil for the last half hour of cooking time. If the turkey is already a deep golden brown, leave the foil tent in place.
7. Once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, remove the turkey from the oven, replace the foil tent (if was removed), and allow the turkey to stand for at least half an hour before carving.
🍗 Roasting times for turkey vary due to size. The Turkey Cooking Time Guide found on Allrecipes.com is a good resource to determine appropriate cooking times and temperatures.