Make Your Thanksgiving Turkey Unforgettable

Joe and I LOVE Thanksgiving!

We thoroughly enjoy spending the morning cooking alongside family (well, I love this, Joe is mostly the taste tester, HA!) and sharing a delicious meal with people we love.

Probably something you didn’t know about Joe and I - we are terrible gift givers. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving gifts, BUT sometimes it’s so much pressure, especially at Christmas time.

So, we love this “no pressure” holiday.

I think it’s also wonderful to have a day dedicated to giving thanks. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the daily grind and constantly focus on the bad or what you don’t have.

I love reflecting on all that we’ve been given and all the blessings in our lives!

Tell us in the comments below why you love Thanksgiving!

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Okay, let’s talk about TURKEY!

When we first raised turkeys our own turkeys, we had no idea how different they would be from turkeys we’d had at previous Thanksgiving.

Here’s some of the unique benefits of pasture raised turkeys:

  • They live outside, eat bugs, forage in various grasses, and enjoy sunshine and lots of exercise

  • Because of that exercise, pasture raised turkeys are a little leaner (don’t worry though, you can ensure juiciness with a brine, recipe to follow!…oh and butter helps too, yum!)

  • The flavor of their meat has more depth due to the variation of their diet, it actually tastes like turkey should!

  • They aren’t injected with any additives such as oils, water, salt, emulsifiers, sodium phosphate, or artificial flavors

  • They are most often raised by small family farms, which means you get to have a connection with your farmer and know exactly what you’re feeding your family

Because they are leaner and aren’t injected with a bunch of stuff, you get the opportunity to add your own flavors without all the unknown additives!

BUT you can also add basically nothing and still have an amazing dinner. The flavor of the turkey is amazing on it’s own. We sometimes just do salt, pepper, and butter!

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I think there’s 2 key parts if you want a scrumptious roast turkey:

  1. Brine - ensures that the turkey remains juicy

  2. Compound butter - adds flavorful extra fat to the meat

I used to be super precise with cooking, following each recipe to the T. But I’ve learned to be flexible depending on what’s in season, what I’ve got on hand, and what my family enjoys.

So for the following recipes, keep in mind that you can keep it as simple as possible OR add your own flair according to your preferences!

Preparing Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Ingredients:

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  • whole fresh turkey

  • 1 gallon brine (recipe below)

  • optional for stuffing: chopped onion, celery, carrot, or apple

  • compound butter, softened (recipe below)

  • salt and pepper

Steps:

Day 1

  1. Note the weight of your turkey and check the estimated roasting times below so you know when you need to get it into the oven tomorrow.

  2. Rinse turkey and place in 5 gallon food grade bucket or large stock pot.

  3. Pour brine over top. You can place a plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged if needed.

  4. If not able to be fully submerged, make sure to turn the turkey in the brine periodically so all parts of the bird are at some point submerged.

  5. Place in fridge for 12-24 hours.

Day 2

  1. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry.

  2. Return to fridge on a platter to let the skin air dry. This helps make skin extra crispy when roasted.

Day 3

  1. Prepare your stuffing & compound butter.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up.

  4. Stuff the turkey.

  5. Use a spatula to separate the skin from the meat where you can, mostly on the breasts and thighs. Spread half of compound butter between skin and meat.

  6. Spread the other half of the butter on top of the skin and sprinkle with salt and pepper all over.

  7. Tie legs together with baking twine. Tuck wings as close as possible.

  8. Cover turkey loosely with foil.

  9. Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven. Baste with drippings every 30 minutes or so.

  10. Remove foil during last 30-45 minutes so skin can get crispy, yum!

  11. Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh is 165 degrees, roasting time estimates below.

  12. Remove turkey from oven and let rest 15-30 minutes before carving, read below for a helpful carving resource.

  13. ENJOY!

Roasting time estimates:

*should take approximately 13-15 minutes per pound

  • 8-12 lbs: 2-3 hours

  • 12-16 lbs: 3-4 hours

  • 16-20 lbs: 4-5 hours

Brine

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts water

  • 2 cups sea salt

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 3 torn bay leaves

  • 5 fresh sage leaves

  • 1 fresh thyme sprig

  • 1 orange, sliced

  • 2 quarts cold water

Steps:

  1. In a large stock pot, combine 2 quarts of water, salt, sugar, herbs and orange slices.

  2. Simmer until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and mix in remaining 2 quarts water.

  3. Let cool to at least room temperature before use or set in fridge for later use.

Compound Butter

Butter sometimes gets a bad rap, BUT it’s actually a healthy and natural fat, so no guilt for me this Thanksgiving :)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1/3 cup fresh sage

  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme

Steps:

  1. Combine all ingredients except butter in food processor or blender.

  2. Once mixed, combine with softened butter.

  3. Either use immediately or store in fridge. Make sure to set on counter to soften before use.

Carving

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If you need some brushing up on your carving skills, I found this resource super helpful.

And make sure to save your bones and scraps for bone broth! You can learn more about that here.

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Joe and I sincerely hope you enjoy this amazing holiday with those you love….and you get to feast on some epic food together!

If you’re interested in reading more about reserving a FRESH pasture raised turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, click the button below.

We’d LOVE to hear from you! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Did you learn something new from this post either about the benefits of pasture raised turkey or the ways you can prepare them?