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I remember the first time I attempted to cook Thanksgiving dinner. My sister and I decided to create everything from scratch for my dad and our boyfriends when we were teenagers. Why we thought we could take on the task of cooking an entire holiday meal from scratch when our only culinary skills at the time were microwaving easy mac, I can’t fathom, but we had motivation and armed ourselves with printed recipes for every dish we planned for the feast. From scratch cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, a roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, and all the classics. We prepared our turkey with my boyfriend’s help and somehow managed to get it into the oven only to realize an hour later that we never pulled out the innards. We managed to rescue our turkey and mastered the let’s just wing it technique with everything else. In the end, our feast was special and memorable, despite our lack of know how. We didn’t burn a thing and nearly everything at the table was edible. Since those days, both my sister and I have grown in our culinary skills and have learned how to plan ahead and put together a Thanksgiving feast for our own families. Over the years I’ve learned that every Thanksgiving has three essential ingredients: good wine, a delicious turkey, and decadent pie. Everything else is secondary. As long as you have the Thanksgiving trifecta, you’re practically a professional. No from scratch cranberry sauce necessary (although welcome).
I’ve experimented with all kinds of ways to cook the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe ever. From deep fried to baked to barbecued, and the verdict is that a brined Butterball turkey makes for the best kind of turkey. All natural high quality turkey that, once immersed into brine becomes fully flavored down to the bone. Once it’s brine bath is over and it’s baked low and slow the skin becomes slightly crispy and the tender meat is full of flavorful juices. This best Thanksgiving turkey recipe ever fills my home with the aromatics only a perfect turkey can. To score savings on that Thanksgiving turkey and all your other holiday needs from brands like Butterball, Woodbridge and Marie Callender’s, download Shopkick.
I’ve also got a special place in my heart because only Butterball has a Turkey Talk-Line where a team of turkey experts is waiting to answer all of the important cooking questions and is accessible however works easier for me: text (844-877-3456), call (1-800-BUTTERBALL), or live chat. Even this mama with fourteen Thanksgivings under her belt needs a turkey hotline.
To create the brine, I grab a large stockpot and fill it with one gallon of vegetable stock, plenty of kosher salt, some brown sugar, whole peppercorns, some allspice berries, and some candied ginger. I bring it all to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve completely. Then I remove the pot from the heat to cool down to room temperature before popping it into the fridge.
The day before Thanksgiving, I grab a cooler (a bucket works too) and fill it with a gallon of ice water and the brine along with plenty of additional ice before adding in the turkey (innards removed this time), breast down. The turkey bathes in the brine overnight and I flip it once halfway through.
On Thanksgiving morning, I grab the bucket and pull out the turkey, wash him down in cold water, and place him on a large roasting rack. While the oven preheats, I pat down the turkey with paper towels, grab some softened butter, and give him a nice butter massage. I pull the skin away from the muscles and rub butter under there as well. It’s essential for the crispy skin part, which we fight over every Thanksgiving here in the Sosa house.
The turkey goes into a 325F oven for about fifteen minutes per pound until the thickest part of the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165F. I baste the turkey in the juices that fall into the pan every hour or so and I don’t cover it at all because crispy skin. But if the skin gets too brown for your liking, pull it out of the oven, cover it in tinfoil, and pop it back into the oven to finish cooking.
Once the turkey is finished, I cover it with tinfoil and let it rest for about fifteen minutes before carving. That fifteen minutes is the perfect time to pour myself a glass of wine, if I haven’t already. I usually pop open a bottle of Woodbridge as soon as Santa closes the big parade and I’ve finished my annual Thanksgiving-is-here-and-this-year-has-been-incredible-and-I’m-so-thankful-for-my-family-and-life-and-crispy-turkey-skin cry. The Woodbridge Red Blend wine, my choice for this year’s feast, offers warm and toasty aromas and flavor notes of blackberry, vanilla, and baking spices. It’s full and rich with a long, flavorful finish that pairs well with holiday favorites like the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe ever.
After we’ve enjoyed our turkey and feast, it’s pie time. No polite obligatory wait time with my kids. It’s turkey and pie day, lady! We use Marie Callender’s pies every year. It saves me time, allowing me to focus on my turkey and annual parade cry, while still offering that homemade from scratch taste (because they are!) that our Thanksgiving feast desires. Pumpkin and Dutch Apple are mandatory and finish off our meal on a high note.
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The Thanksgiving trifecta has served me well over the years. Feeding people is my love language and I live for the holidays, but I think it’s important to not get too caught up trying to create a perfect meal. Keeping it simple, with a few essentials, means I have time to enjoy the holidays with my husband and children.
- one 14 to 16-pound frozen Butterball turkey
- 4 quarts vegetable broth
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
- 1 1/2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped
- 1 gallon water, iced
- butter (for roasting)
- In a large stock pot, combine broth, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice, and ginger and bring to a boil.
- Once sugar and salt has completely dissolved, remove from heat and allow brine to come to room temperature.
- Place into fridge until ready to use.
- The morning before Thanksgiving, add brine, iced water, and ice to cooler or bucket and place turkey in, breast down.
- Flip turkey halfway through overnight brining.
- Morning of Thanksgiving, remove turkey from brine and rinse with cold water before placing on baking rack and patting dry with paper towels.
- Rub turkey with butter all over skin and underneath skin over the muscles.
- Bake in a 325F oven for fifteen minutes per pound or until internal temperature of thickest part of breast reaches 165F, basting hourly.
- Once cooked, remove turkey from oven and cover with tinfoil to rest for fifteen minutes before carving.