Dec 12

how to roast turkey

Every year or two, I roast a turkey breast for a holiday occasion. Every time, I have to go find the post-it note on which I’ve written various instructions to myself. The post-it, which is stuck to my mom’s recipe for sausage-and-cornbread dressing, reads like this:

325 or 350
50-60s mins
175 meat therm
160 at least


This always necessitates a web search to refresh my memory about what to actually do. And someday the recipes I keep finding won’t be there, so I’m recording my own, right here. The only thing I’m not including is the obsessive scrubbing I do everywhere the raw turkey might possibly have touched because I’m neurotic about salmonella or worse.

  1. Buy a 4-5 lb unfrozen turkey breast or half breast, a few days before you want to roast it. (Whole Foods always has these behind the meat counter, although this year I got one unfrozen in a bag from the HEB.)
  2. Put the turkey in a gallon ziploc bag.
  3. Mix a tablespoon of kosher salt with some spices like parsley, sage, and black pepper. Rub this all over the turkey.
  4. Zip the bag and put it in another bag and put it in the fridge. Once or twice a day, shake the zipped bag around a bit (carefully).
  5. When you’re ready to roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut up an apple or two, some celery sticks, and maybe half an onion. Lay most of this in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  7. Soften a couple of tablespoons of butter. NOT melt. Soften. (I always mess this up.) Mix in more spices. Maybe a little thyme.
  8. Get the turkey breast out of the fridge and rinse it off and pat it dry.
  9. Rub the turkey with the butter. Get inside the skin, in all the little cavities, and on the skin itself. (You could probably do this with olive oil, but I hate to mess with success.)
  10. Stick the rest of the apple/onion/celery slices in any possible cavity of the turkey.
  11. Put the turkey in the roasting pan. Put the pan in the oven, UNcovered.
  12. Cook for about 80 minutes, then check the temp with the meat thermometer. It should be no less than 160 and really about 170 before it’s ready.
  13. Once it’s ready, put it on a platter and tent it with foil for 15 minutes.
  14. Strain all the drippings for gravy. (I make awesome gravy. Recipe = roux plus drippings and maybe some stock.) Save out the apples and onions because they are very yummy with the turkey and sides.
  15. Voila! Turkey! Marvel at its lovely browned skin and juicy flavor.

Although, honestly, we haven’t yet eaten this year’s turkey, except for the Traditional Nibbling at the Edges that is absolutely mandatory for holiday birds. So I might have to come back here and update this. We’ll see.