Mom's Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe is the only one I make! It's stuffed with citrus, onions and garlic, basted with a butter and wine sauce and topped with gravy!
Thanksgiving came early to my house!
Because, there's no way I could pull off taking blog photos on a holiday. So, I got my giblets together last weekend in order to share Mom's Thanksgiving turkey recipe with you now.
Are you impressed? I am.
This is the only Thanksgiving turkey recipe I've ever used. It's juicy, delicious and doesn't require using any brining. (If you're cooking for just a few people, you might want to roast turkey breast tenderloins as described in this Homemade Turkey Lunch Meat post.)
The turkey gets stuffed with garlic and a quartered orange, lemon and onion. Mom's basting sauce includes white wine, butter, lemon juice, chicken stock and more garlic (of course).
Now, I'll tell you a secret.
I'm not a fan of hosting Thanksgiving. All the pressure, the dishes, the commotion, oh my!
I'd much rather calmly prepare a pre-Thanksgiving meal for a random evening in October. In fact, that was my favorite tradition when my kids were younger.
I'd make this turkey, along with sweet potatoes, a Thanksgiving side dish such as Creamed Spinach-Artichoke Casserole, some homemade bread and pie for dessert. It was pecan pie, in case you're wondering.
We'd sit in the dining room, complete with a tablecloth, lit candles, the good china, fancy silverware and crystal goblets. My hubby, kids, and I would be so excited to have our special feast, just because.
We didn't even dress up. It was perfection.
This year was a bit different. My hubby and I are empty nesters, at least temporarily.
The two of us feasted on our pre-Thanksgiving turkey by ourselves, in the dining room, without the candlesticks and crystal. There was no tablecloth.
We kept the side dishes simple: roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes with onions. We skipped the bread.
And don't worry, kids, I didn't even make dessert!
But, that roasted turkey with gravy was dee-licious. We ate it for three days straight and froze the leftovers.
Our kids missed it, but at least I can share Mom's Thanksgiving turkey recipe with them (and you!) now. It would be great served with brown butter mashed potatoes or mashed turnips with bacon. And don't forget the cranberry pie with sugar cookie crust for dessert!
P.S. You'll need an instant thermometer to test if your turkey is fully cooked (165 degrees F). If you don't have one, I love this digital thermometer (afflilate link).
(Recipe Source: The turkey is barely adapted from my Mom's recipe. I adapted her gravy, adding corn starch and excluding wine.)
Mom's Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- 13 pounds turkey (whole; fresh or thawed)
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 1 onion (medium)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup white wine
- juice from one lemon
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 5 tablespoons butter (salted)
- 5 tablespoons flour (all-purpose)
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- Thirty-five minutes before you need to start roasting the turkey, set out a large roasting pan with a rack. Take the turkey out of the fridge and remove the wrapping. Remove the plastic ring from the turkey legs. There is no need to rinse the turkey, unless there is any ice remaining inside the cavities. If so, rinse the cavity to loosen the ice so you can remove it.
- Check both cavities of the turkey to remove the bag of giblets and the neck. Either save the neck for stock or discard it. Pat the turkey and cavities dry and place the turkey on the rack in your pan. Wash your hands well.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and make sure there is room for the turkey on the center rack with nothing above it. Rinse and dry your orange and lemon. Cut them in half, then in half again. Peel your onion and quarter it. Peel your garlic and leave the cloves whole. Set a couple tablespoons of butter next to your turkey.
- Add salt and pepper to the turkey's large cavity. (If you'll be using salted butter, just lightly sprinkle the cavity with salt.) Stuff the cavity with the quartered orange, lemon, and onion. Add the garlic cloves.
- Rub two tablespoons of butter all over the outside of the turkey. You can place some under the skin if there's extra. Tuck the wings under the shoulders so the tips won't burn during roasting. Wash your hands well.
- To make the basting sauce, melt a stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 ½ cups of chicken stock and a cup of white wine. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Peel two garlic cloves and add them to the pan, along with the pepper. Whisk to combine and cook until it's heated through.
- Pour half of the basting sauce all over the turkey. Loosely cover the turkey with foil and place the turkey in the heated oven. Set a timer for 3 hours (or 13 minutes per pound). Set a second timer for 45 minutes, because you will be basting the turkey every 45 minutes. The sauce can stay at room temperature for up to two hours. Refrigerate it at that point and reheat it on the stove before basting again.
- Every 45 minutes, take the turkey out of the oven and quickly close the door so the heat won't escape. Baste the turkey with some basting sauce (if you don't have a turkey baster, just spoon some of the sauce over the turkey.) If the pan juices are getting dried out, add some water to the pan. Cover the turkey loosely with foil and continue baking.
- Remove the foil during the last hour of roasting, so the skin can brown.
- Use an instant thermometer to check for doneness. The turkey needs to reach 165 degrees F to be fully cooked. Check the temperature of the breast, a drumstick and thigh to make sure they're all at least 165 degrees. If the temperature is less than that, roast the turkey for another 15 minutes or so.
- When the turkey is done, place it on a cutting board and loosely cover it with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes to let the meat absorb the juices.
- While the turkey is resting, make the gravy. Melt five tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute while whisking.
- Add 2 ½ cups chicken stock and ½ cup water to the saucepan. Whisk to combine. Add your Worcestershire, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk constantly as the gravy cooks.
- To thicken the gravy, add a teaspoon of corn starch to a tiny bowl. Spoon some of the gravy over the corn starch and whisk to combine. Add this mixture to your saucepan of gravy and continue whisking until the gravy thickens. Keep in mind, it will thicken further when it cools.
- Carve the turkey and serve with gravy. Store leftover turkey and gravy separately in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Oh my goodness!! The turkey is done so beautifully.. it's been few years I have made one on Thanksgiving.. but saving this recipe simply loved it!!
I'm so glad, Sonia. Enjoy!
sue | the view from great island
I love the idea of 'calmly' making this in October, that's brilliant! The citrus flavor must be amazing.
It's really something I look forward to. Thanks, Sue!
This turkey recipe looks so gorgeous! Also love the detailed steps, thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Annissa! I always try to provide lots of details to make the recipes here easy to follow.
Lauren Vavala @ DeliciousLittleBites
I actually don't mind having family over for Thanksgiving, but it's never a huge crowd so it's still pretty simple. I do, however, always make my little family Thanksgiving dinner even if it's not on Thanksgiving. I love making the whole spread and this turkey recipe has such great flavor - it will be a great centerpiece!
Those little family Thanksgiving dinners are so special! Thanks, Lauren.
Finally a recipe for turkey I can understand! I'm not a fan of the pressures of hosting thanksgiving either but this recipe and step by step action will make it a breeze!
I'm glad you appreciate my instructions, Kasey!