This is not your parent's Thanksgiving turkey recipe.
For our first year hosting Thanksgiving in our new house, I made the bold and courageous decision to take on the task of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. I had never cooked a full turkey before and I also had no intention of making it the traditional way. My mission was to properly cook the turkey so it was well seasoned and juicy throughout.
There were a few things I never understood about the traditional way to cook a turkey. For one, why it would take so long to bake and why would there always be certain areas of the turkey where the meat was dry, no matter what you did to prevent that? I had seen the women of my family all prepare the bird in their own unique way. I had seen everything from the bacon blanket to the ridiculous amount of butter all over the skin, including in the underside of the skin, and how it would be overflowing with stuffing from the opening.
I knew there had to be another way. After much research, reading up on recipes, and watching cooking videos, I found the solution: breaking down the turkey into parts, dry-brining it, and roasting it. This allows all parts to evenly cook in half the time. The plus side is it is already carved down, which takes the hassle out of doing it right before serving.
Being this was my first time and a very uncommon way to cook the holiday bird, we had a backup turkey made just in case, but it wasn't needed! Everyone absolutely loved how good this recipe turned out and was even more impressed how it didn't need to be in the oven all day long. It has become the star of our dinner table for Thanksgiving since 2019!
If you are looking to broaden your turkey-making abilities and dare to be untraditional, we invite you to try out this recipe!
Joe's Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
1 turkey (12–14 lbs.), butchered into separate parts
For the Dry Brine Mix:
4 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
½ cup kosher salt (we use the Diamond Crystal brand)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
For the Glaze:
1 bunch of each of these herbs: sage, rosemary, bay leaves, and thyme
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 strips of orange peel
⅓ cup low-sodium soy sauce
⅓ cup of light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
Some things you will need:
- On Thanksgiving Eve -
Breaking down the turkey:
Here would be the part we would break down how to do this step. But since we just follow a video, we rather give credit where credit is due. Below is the video tutorial we follow when breaking down the turkey.
The dry brine:
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the peppercorns until you reach a coarse grain. Pour the ground peppercorns into a small mixing bowl.
To that bowl, add the kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, light brown sugar, and paprika. Mix to evenly combine; then set aside.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the wire rack on top. Align all turkey pieces on the prepared sheet and ensure that there are no overlapping pieces.
Rub the dry brine mix all over the turkey ensuring coverage of all surface areas.
Place the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the dry brine to fully work its magic.
- On Thanksgiving Day -
Prepare the Turkey
Remove the turkey from the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before you plan on putting it in the oven.
Remove the wire rack so you can replace the aluminum foil on the baking sheet with a clean layer. For easy cleanup later, we advised doubling up the foil.
Prepare the Glaze
Add all ingredients for the glaze to a small saucepan. Cook on medium to low heat until the flavors combine and the sauce slightly thickens about 8-10 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Cooking the Turkey
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Brush a thin layer of sunflower oil over the entire surface area of the turkey. This will help the skin get an initial browning.
Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the baking sheet. Then carefully place the baking sheet in the oven and cook the turkey for 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees around and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat of the oven to 300° F and baste the turkey with the glaze sauce.
Continue to cook the turkey for an additional 60 to 70 minutes, basting with the glaze every 20 minutes.
Continue to add water as needed to the sheet if it evaporates fully.
Remove the turkey when the thickest part reads 165° F on a meat thermometer.
Loosely tent the turkey with a sheet of aluminum foil and let it sit to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Slice up and serve to your Thanksgiving guest!