Amanda’s 2020 Turkey, aka “Just Put the Bleeping Turkey in the Oven!”
My cooking school teacher Mary Risley, made a YouTube video a few years ago that went viral. It’s a masterpiece called “Just Put the F***ing Turkey In The Oven!” Over 740,000 views later, we need Mary’s reminder more than ever: it’s just turkey, Folks. You can obsess over it, flip it, brine it, smoke it, or roast it upside down, but at the end of the day, absolutely nothing will change in the world if your turkey isn’t better than everyone else’s. Mary argues that turkey tastes like cardboard—I wholeheartedly disagree—but I do agree that we’ve overthought it. So this year’s recipe is the simplest I’ve ever made, requiring nothing be done in advance. I do splurge on turkey that is humanely raised, fed natural foods, and free of chemicals. Diestel (available at Whole Foods), Willie Bird, and Belcampo Meat Co. are my favorite suppliers. Most turkeys arrive frozen—even if they were harvested this year—so make sure to give yourself enough time to defrost yours. And have a roll of paper towel ready as you prepare your turkey. It’s the only way to handle a heavy and wet bird! 😉
Roasting Pan and a Roasting Rack (Disposable is fine)
Butcher’s twine or dental floss for tying the legs.
1 large turkey, 12-16 lbs
1tspfreshly ground black pepper
1cupchicken or turkey stock
1cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre (optional)
Preheat the oven or grill to 350 degrees F.
Over a large baking sheet or in a clean sink, unwrap the turkey. Remove the giblets and the neck. The giblets are usually packaged in paper and stored in the cavity under the neck skin, and the neck is usually found in the cavity of the turkey. (Ironic, I know.) Trim off any excess skin around the cavity or the neck if it’s hanging off or in the way.
Place the entire turkey under cool running water and rinse it inside and out. Place it on a paper towel-lined sheet. Use more paper towels to pat the entire turkey dry inside and out. Sprinkle the inside cavity of the turkey with a tablespoon of salt. (The paper towels help you hold the legs of the turkey while the other hand is free to sprinkle!)
Instead of trussing the entire turkey, simply tuck the wing tips under the bird and they will stay there on their own. Tie the legs together by crossing one leg over the other at the ends and wrapping a few circles of butcher twine around them before tightly tying a knot. (Yes, dental floss works in a pinch!)
Place the olive oil, 1 Tbsp of salt, and all of the spices in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Place the turkey on the roasting rack in the pan with the breast-side down. Using a pastry or basting brush, brush the bottom of the turkey and the wings with the spice mixture, then turn the turkey over to breast-side up. Brush the rest of the bird so it is covered entirely. (The paprika allows you to see if it is fully covered.)
Pour the stock in the bottom of the roasting pan. Place the turkey in the oven and do not touch it for one hour.
After an hour, remove the turkey from the oven and quickly shut the oven door. (The longer the door is open, the more the oven temperature drops, thereby increasing your cooking time by a TON.) If using the wine, pour the wine over the top of the bird and let it fall into the pan. Return the turkey to the oven, turning it 180 degrees so it roasts evenly if the oven isn’t consistent on all sides.
About 45 minutes before the turkey is supposed to be done (check the packaging for roasting times), check the temperature of the bird with an instant read thermometer. The white meat should be between 155 and 160 and the dark meat between 165 and 170. If the dark meat needs to cook longer and the white meat is done, lightly tent the breast with foil and put it back in the oven. Roast until you reach the temperatures above. Remove the turkey from the oven and place it on a cutting board with a well around it. If you don’t have a big enough cutting board, place it on a baking sheet with a rim. Allow the turkey to sit for at least 30 minutes and for up to an hour before carving. (Yup, I said an hour.) This will allow the juices to distribute evenly throughout the bird, leaving it much juicier than if you carve it immediately.
If making gravy with the turkey juices, strain the juice from the pan into a measuring cup and allow the juices to cool in order to skim the fat from the top. Then proceed with making the gravy.
Note: I never use turkeys that have been treated with seasonings or chemicals. Diestel, WillieBird, and Belcampo are my favorites!