Backtrack with me a few years, 2011 to be exact. For YEARS and I’m talking YEARS I’ve wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve heard making a turkey is difficult to keep moist yet get thoroughly cooked, etc. 2011 I was given the opportunity to try. The year before if you’ll remember Pioneer Woman challenged Bobby Flay to a Thanksgiving Off (or whatever they called it).
I made her turkey, stuffing, etc. I almost made her exact meal, but not quite. Anyway, then I went on the hunt one day in 2012 for the perfect Turkey recipe. Does one even exist? Well, I think the answer is yes. I found a recipe for a Bacon Wrapped Turkey. I had the opportunity to make the 2012 Thanksgiving dinner as well, so I knew we were going to try this turkey.
I have to say, we’ve tried to change it up a bit, one year we smoked it, one year we forgot the bacon blanket, etc etc… but if you find something that works, why mess with it? Seriously!
So why am I telling you all of this? Well next week is Thanksgiving and I want you to have ample time to get the ingredients for this bird. Trust me, it’s so worth it!
*Note this recipe is for 18-20lb bird. Just adjust your ingredients for a bigger or smaller bird!
**Note 2: Also if you’re going with a frozen bird (aka turkey), give it ample time to defrost. You’ll need approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs of the bird.
What you’ll need:
A large plastic bag, optional. (this is for the brining process. I’ve used a stock pot as well)
A platter or pan that fits the turkey in the fridge (again, that stock pot works great)
Kitchen Twine (sadly I don’t always have this on hand)
A roasting pan that fits the turkey (and in your oven! Keep that in mind!!)
A probe-style meat thermometer (is extra handy)
A turkey, thawed
Lots of Kosher Salt
1 1/2 lb bacon
1/2 lb butter
Fresh herbs: sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, marjoram, rosemary
Roasting vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, apples
Brining the turkey:
A simple dry brine works exceptionally well on this turkey. Take a tip, don’t brine more than 24 hours in advance or the turkey gets WAY to salty. Remove all the interior parts of the bird and throw away or place in your freezer to make stock with later or go ahead and save for Thanksgiving day and use to make giblet gravy.
Wash the bird well, both inside and out. Get in there and really scrub the bird. Place the bird in your brining bag or pot and rub down with kosher salt. Don’t be stingy. Coat that bird both inside and out. Wash your hands, then place the bird in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Thoroughly wash your sink and all around your sink and your hands again too. Never to sorry to be safe!
For the Herb Butter Mixture:
This can be made up to a week in advance. This is handy to note, especially if you’re planning on lunch so you have to get up at the butt crack of dawn (that’s earlier than the crack of dawn) to start your bird to cooking. It also allows your herbs to meld into that butter.
Use a food processor. It is your friend! Add 1/2lb raw bacon slices, 1/2 lb butter, and generous handfuls of the herbs. I don’t have exact measurements of the herbs, just use your best guess. Ours is never quite the same there. Once you have everything added, place the lid on the food processor and blend together until it makes a smooth paste.
*Note: if made in advance, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Pull it out about 30 minutes before using it so it can come to room temperature the day of Thanksgiving.
Preparing the Turkey, “The Star of the show,” the day of:
Make sure your butter is room temperature.
While the butter is coming to room temperature, bring the turkey out of the fridge and wash him thoroughly. Why the turkey is a he, I have no clue but he is :). Once the turkey is cleaned, place him breast side up on a cutting board or large platter to use for preparation. Wash your sink.
Take the pop-up timer out of your bird, it’s useless!
Wash your hands and prepare to get messy. If you can have a second pair of hands available for help, that is extremely handy! Take your rings and watch off, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to play with your food! Now gently pry the skin away from the bird without tearing it hopefully. You want to stick your hands between the meat and skin because you’re going to be placing the butter mixture between the skin and the meat. Keep going all the way to the neck and over the legs. Don’t leave any place unturned. Don’t worry if the skin accidentally gets torn, you’ll fix that with the bacon blanket.
Now, take huge handfuls of butter and rub the flesh of the bird down underneath the skin. You’ll want to use about 3/4 of the bacon butter. Then press the skin down on the butter; this helps to spread the butter evenly under the skin. Next, rub the remaining butter on the outside of the bird in a thin layer, paying particular attention to the legs as they won’t be covered by the bacon blanket.
Not only does the bacon blanket make your bird have a nice presentation factor, but it helps add an extra layer to keep the turkey from drying out. Plus, bonus, who doesn’t like a little bacon dripping in their gravy?!?!
We tend to use thick cut bacon because as the bacon cooks, it will shrink a little. Plan on about a pound of bacon. This is a rough estimate, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Don’t skimp.
Placing the bacon on the bird:
Think of making a cherry pie, the lattice work that goes in to the top of the pie. You’re going to do this lattice work with the bacon. There’s 2 ways to do this… 1) place directly on the bird as you’re doing your lattice work, 2) do the lattice work on parchment paper and then place on the bird. We’ve had luck with both. The parchment paper seems to be a little easier except you have to flip the parchment paper and you have to get the right amount of bacon.
Lay one strip crosswise over the breast then one lengthwise. Keep going, folding up the strips already placed to fit the new pieces under. The bacon will shrink when you cook the bird, so place the strips close together and use as many as you can fit.
This is where the kitchen twine comes in handy. Tie the legs of the bird together with the kitchen twine. When you’ve got the bacon all woven, wash your hands thoroughly. (also think about buying stock in soap… just saying.. haha)
The bacon blanket can be done the night before if you’re doing lunch so you’re not having to get up so early. This isn’t a quick process but so totally worth it. Just make sure the bird on the platter fits in your fridge.
Cooking the bird:
The bird will be cooked in two different temperatures.
First preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Remember, remove the extra rack in your oven if you need to so the bird fits. Do that before the oven is hot!
Now to make your clean up easier, because who wants to clean up after all day cooking… line your pan with heavy duty aluminum foil.
Chop the root vegetables up. You want very aromatic root vegetables so celery, carrots, onions, and apples. These are great after they’ve roasted all day too! Take the outside skins and tops off the carrots, the celery can be chopped into smaller bits or not, your choice. Peel the outside paper off onions and halve or quarter. Chop the apples in halves and quarters, remove the stems and seeds. Stuff the vegetables into the cavity of the bird and also place them on the bottom for the bird to have things to sit on while it cooks.
Go ahead and mold a piece of foil over the top of the bird so that if it starts to get to brown, you have the foil ready to place on the bird.
Roasting the turkey:
Place the turkey in the 450 degree oven for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 375˚F for the rest of the cooking process. This is where if you have a digital probe, use it! stick the probe in the deepest part of the breast and you can place the reader up on the counter. It will chime when the bird is fully cooked. Make sure you don’t go so deep you hit the bone. You will want the turkey cooked to an internal 165˚F.
If the turkey and bacon start to get to brown, this is where you use your aluminum foil “cap”.
So roughly for a 20lb turkey, you’re looking at about 4-4 1/2 hours. Leave yourself some wiggle room. The turkey will wait but hungry people won’t.
Carving the “Star of the Show”:
You spent all morning cooking, let someone else cut up the masterpiece. haha.
Okay so once the bird is fully cooked, place it out for family and friends to admire and gawk over. Let them pat you on the back for you perfect turkey. Then just before you’re ready to eat, cut the bird up. Again, I say let the “professionals” do that :).
Make sure to keep the drippings to add to yummy gravy!!
Usually I stay pretty quiet when it comes to politics. I have my beliefs, my opinions, my viewpoints. There is really only one person I’ve ever met that I do everything in my power to get them riled up about politics and sadly I do it for fun. Yes, I get a kick out of getting him riled up about politics. And it works every time. And sadly I’ve put this person in their place more than once. I play devil’s advocate to them about pretty much everything, even if I totally agree. Again, I kind of get a kick out of it with them, but otherwise I keep quiet.
Politics and religion are areas that get real heated real fast and can cause people to hate each other. Just look at this past year on Facebook… WOW! I’ve seen more hateful comments directed toward people with different opinions than I think I ever have before. I get standing up for what you believe and even for trying to persuade someone else into believing how you believe, but sometimes you have to agree to disagree, because at the end of the day you’re either going to be friends or you’re not. If you’re not, you definitely won’t get someone to see something in a different way and if you are, don’t ruin a friendship over stupid hurtful comments just because you believe different things.
I have been friends with a lot of people who have different opinions than I do. Be a good listener. Hear them out. Nothing says you have to agree with their point of view, ever, but sometimes it might just expand your thinking and make you more solidified on your stance. Take a lesson from the show Last Man Standing… get into a heated debate with someone with different beliefs than you, but… take the opposite stance than you currently are at. So if you’re Conservative, debate for the Liberal. If you’re Liberal, take the Conservative side. If nothing else, you’ll do research and find out how you really feel about an issue and see it from both stand points. This was a hard election. I am 33 years old. This is my 4th presidential election. I was old enough to vote during the election where George W. Bush was elected for a second term. Then both of Barack Obama’s winning elections and now the Donald Trump Election. That makes 4 elections. I was only 17 the first winning election for Bush. I have to say this is the most heated, most hurtful election I have seen yet to date. Maybe that’s because so many more people are on social media than ever before. Maybe topics just got more heated. Maybe….. the possibilities of the reasons are endless. But this is the most hateful election I have ever seen. Obviously I wasn’t around in the 1800’s but from what I learned in text books at school, you know, the things they want you to know… I feel like our country is about as divided as it was when the Civil War broke out. There again I don’t know. It’s just a thought that crossed through my mind the other day. I remember in 2001 when the World Trade towers were hit and our country came together and mourned the losses as a whole nation. In the last 15 years, we’ve been split so bad that it is almost like we’re multiple nations. Everyone attacks everyone and that’s not okay. We are the United States of America even if we disagree on certain topics. Agree to disagree. That’s what makes our country great. So many different people with so many different opinions and ways to keep it great that it works. A friend shared a post on Facebook where the gal talked about how Everything will be okay. She posted it the morning of the election and then went back and added/edited some thoughts after the results were announced. You can read her article here. I agree, Everything will be okay. The good thing is there is that thing called checks and balances so while the president does “trump” (pardon the pun) things… it has to make it through the house and the senate. Currently it is a heavy Republican Congress right now but…. not all Republicans agree with everything Trump stood for. They may agree with this but not that.
Then there are those under the table deals that happen. Sad but true. While they made it known that Trump had nothing to gain from third party people, there are those in Congress that do have things to gain from special interest groups. Those lobbying special interest groups still “slip money under the table” to get someone in Congress on their side and those people report to the president. New laws, new amendments, etc have to go through the house and the senate before they cross across the President’s desk. And another thought…. no president can undo or redo or do everything in 1 day, sometimes not even in 4 years. It took a 2nd term for Obama Care to finally make it in place for example.
Some things people won’t agree with but that’s the case with every president that has ever been in power. So sometimes it is okay to agree to disagree. That’s what keeps us all on our toes and striving for better. I’m going to quote a friend’s comment on Facebook, “No matter who you voted for, or if “your candidate” won [or your candidate lost], everyone who voted should be proud. You should be proud that you live in a country that allows your voice to be heard. GOD BLESS THE USA!”