I have a confession, I’ve never cooked a turkey before. Never. Nope, not even once.
My husband is the turkey maker in our family. When we were first married he decided to take on the job, and boy have we learned a lot about roasting a turkey.
It can be a little confusing. Here are just a few questions one might be faced with; stuff, don’t stuff? Brine, don’t brine? Breast side up, breast side down? Fry, grill or roast? High heat, low heat? Inject flavors?…….or just buy a ham!
There really isn’t a wrong way, BUT….we are very simple here at the Cusano house. We roast at moderate heat, stuff the bird, no injections are needed for this bird. Now there is one very critical component that will either yield you a juicy delicious bird or a dry one. Are you ready? Hold onto your hats because this one is going to blow you away……
DON’T OVER COOK YOUR TURKEY! I know that sounds easy, but it really is all about timing. If you go by the little pamphlet that the turkey people give you they will say that for every pound your turkey weighs, bake it for 15 minutes per pound.
Well, as we all know, not all ovens are alike. Short story long, the most important tool for baking a juicy turkey would be to have a meat thermometer. This will help you gauge how slowly/quickly your turkey is roasting.
Let’s start with the deliciously simple sausage stuffing.
Today we are stuffing an 18 pound turkey. First, brown together one pound of Jimmy Dean hot sausage and one pound of Jimmy Dean sage sausage. The sage sausage is a little difficult to find, get it now before it is sold out!
In about 1/4 cup of butter, saute 2 cups of diced celery and 1 cup chopped onions. Season with salt and pepper and just a little sprinkling of Lawry salt. AND since my husband is Italian, he sprinkles just about 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning to the mix.
In a large bowl place about 8 to 10 cups of hard seasoned bread cubes. Toss in the sauteed onions and celery and the browned sausage (no need to drain the sausage, this flavors the stuffing quite nicely, and helps keep it moist).
Make sure the stuffing has cooled before you stuff it in the bird.
Remove all the insides of the bird, we have no use for them here in our little world.
Don’t over stuff.
Now stuff the neck of the bird. Once again, don’t over stuff.
My husband has always wanted to be a surgeon, so this is his one chance every year to prove that he made a good decision on not being one. I think it just makes the bird look like Franken Turkey. My mom never sewed up her little flaps…..how am I supposed to sneak out a taste of that stuffing while it is cooking.
You will have a little bit of stuffing left over. This is good. Place the stuffing in a small pan, covered with foil. Poke small holes in the foil. Put in the refrigerator, we’re going to bake it and then mix it into the bird stuffing when the turkey has finished roasting. This way the stuffing won’t be too soggy when we serve it.
Place the turkey in the roasting pan. With about 6 tablespoons of butter (make sure it is a little soft), butter the skin of the turkey.
Lightly salt and pepper.
Place in your 325 degree pre-heated oven.
After the turkey has been roasting in the oven for about one hour, pour one can of chicken stock/broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Baste about every half hour.
Oh my goodness, I can’t wait.
Be sure to baste often, we want to keep the meat nice and moist.
If it looks like the bird is browning too much and too fast you can reduce your oven temperature to 300 degrees and tent the bird with foil.
Here is the critical point. The meat thermometer. Now if you have an oven-safe meat thermometer, you can leave it in the turkey while it is roasting. Ours is just an easy-read, so we had to remove it every time we took the turkey’s temperature.
The tip of the meat thermometer should be placed in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thighbone, but NOT touching the bone, pointing towards the body. When the bird is done, this temperature should read 156-160 degrees. Your juices should run clear.
One more thing; be sure that your thermometer is accurate.
Once the turkey is done baking, place on a large serving platter and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest (for about 20 minutes), it has been working very hard.
At this point the turkey will have a little bit of “carry-over” cooking. Meaning that since the bird is so hot inside, it keeps cooking until it is cooled. The final internal temperature will be about 175-180.
Now for the gravy. Please understand that my husband just kind of cooks will- nilly style. I’m not sure why he uses a drinking glass to mix his slurry in, but wait til you taste the gravy. My toes are curling just thinking about it.
Place your roasting pan over medium high heat. Whisk in your slurry. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
Shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but this really does take the gravy to the next level of deliciousness. He adds in two jars of turkey gravy.
Once the stuffing from the bird has been mixed with the baked dressing and your gravy is complete, start carving the bird and enjoy one amazing and tasty meal!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
- 17-18 lb. turkey, thawed, rinsed and blotted dry
- 4-8 tablespoons of softened butter (depends on how much you want to use)
- 1 can of chicken stock or broth
- baster for basting
- calibrated meat thermometer
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 2 cup celery, chopped
- 4 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8-10 cups of cubed dry bread stuffing (buy the seasoned)
- 1 pound of Jimmy Dean Sage sausage
- 1 pound of Jimmy Dean Hot sausage
- Turkey Gravy
- All the drippings from the bottom of your roasting pan
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup of all-purpose flour
- 2 12-oz jars of Turkey Gravy (I like Heinz)
- FOR THE TURKEY: Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.
- You want to remove all the giblets from the cavity of the bird. Rinse the bird well under cold water. Place the bird in a large roasting pan.
- Stuff the bird at both ends. Rub the entire outside of the bird with the softened butter. Place in oven.
- After the turkey has been roasting for about an hour, pour the one can of chicken broth in the bottom of the roasting pan. Baste often.
- Check the temperature with a meat thermometer. The tip of the meat thermometer should be placed in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thighbone, but NOT touching the bone, pointing towards the body. When the bird is done, this temperature should read 156-160 degrees. Your juices should run clear. (DO NOT leave your meat thermometer in the bird if it is not oven safe!!) Remove the bird from the roasting pan, place on serving platter and cover with foil, let rest for 20 minutes. The bird will have a little "carry-over" cooking and you will end up with the bird's internal temperature to be about 175-180. It should be nice and juicy.
- FOR THE STUFFING: Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.
- In a large skillet melt the butter and saute the onions and celery until they are soft. About 10 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the vegetables to the bowl with the bread.
- In a large skillet brown the two sausages. No need to drain off the fat (there won't be much, anyway. We need it to keep the dressing moist)
- Mix the browned sausage to the bowl with the vegetables and bread. Mix well.
- Stuff the bird at both ends. You will have some stuffing left. Place the leftover stuffing in a baking dish. Cover with foil and poke small holes in the foil to vent. Put in refrigerator until you are ready to bake it. Bake for about 30-40 minutes right before you are ready to serve. You will be mixing this dressing with the stuffing that is in the turkey. It won't be too moist and it won't be too dry. It will be perfect.
- Our 18 pound bird took about 2 hours and 45 minutes to roast. Once your meat thermometer reaches 175-180 degrees
- ******The tip of the meat thermometer should be placed in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thighbone, but NOT touching the bone, pointing towards the body. When the bird is done, this temperature should read 156-160 degrees. Your juices should run clear. Be sure to let the bird rest (out of the oven) for 20 minutes, covered with foil*********
- Remove turkey from roasting pan onto a large platter. Cover with foil and make your gravy
- TURKEY GRAVY: Place the large roasting pan over medium high heat on the stove top. Mix together your water and flour to make a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the bottom of your pan with your turkey drippings. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat. Cook the gravy for about 15 minutes, whisking often. Add in the jarred turkey gravy.....and quickly throw away the jars. Done!