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Bake a Perfect Turkey this Thanksgiving

I published my holiday Turkey recipes a few years ago, and thought it would be good to publish it again.  This step by step recipe is easy to follow.

Many of you will be making turkey dinners for the holidays, and some of you will be doing it for the first time.  Here are some tips to help you make the perfect turkey.

You may not know this, but frozen turkeys can take up to a week to thaw.  There are two methods that you can use to thaw your turkey.

The first is cold water thawing.  

Always keep the turkey wrapped in its original plastic for this procedure.  You want to place the bird breast down and cover it completely with cold water.  Every 1/2 hour rotate the turkey.  It will take 30 minutes per pound to completely thaw your turkey.

The other method is refrigerator thawing.  In this case you want to place the turkey breast up and keep it in its original wrapper.  Make sure your refrigerator temperature is no higher than 40 degrees F.  You will need at least 1 day per 4 lbs of turkey, so a 20 lb. turkey will take 5 days to defrost.  After thawing the turkey completely, be sure to cook it within 4 days.

Not sure how long to thaw your turkey?  Check out this simple to use meter that tells you how long you should thaw yours.

Now for the easy part.  Yes I said easy. If you cook your turkey in a turkey bag, like I do, the turkey will cook itself and you will not need to constantly baste it.  Here is a recipe that I use that was passed down from my father in law.  I get a perfect turkey every year.  

Cooking a turkey

First, let me start by saying that I do not like to stuff my turkey because I feel like the stuffing tastes better when it is cooked on it's own.  Turkey that is stuffed in a bird usually has a turkey taste and it takes over the flavors of the stuffing.  If you like this, by all means stuff away.  Just make sure to adjust your cooking time by an extra 1/2 hour or so.

Start by removing the top rack in your oven and placing the other rack to the lowest level of the oven,  and setting your oven at 325 degrees.

Step 1

Make sure your turkey is completely thawed.  Get a large roasting pan and place the raw turkey in it. Remove the gizzards from the inside of the turkey.  Be sure to check the back and front inside the turkey.  There is usually pieces that are wrapped in plastic inside. Feel free to toss those pieces or use them for soups or gravy.   Rinse the turkey both inside and out until you see no more blood or red water. 

Step 2.

Get a turkey size roasting bag.  I use Reynolds.  They can usually be found either by the turkeys or by the plastic wraps in your grocery store.  Take 1 tablespoon of flour and place it in the bag.  Hold the bag shut and shake it to coat the entire bag with flour.  Lay the bag flat on a counter or table.

Step 3.

Cut an onion into 4 quarters.  Place 1 quarter into each corner of the bag.  Get 3 celery stalks and 3 carrots.  Line them along the bottom of the bag.  I like to place 1 celery, one carrot, one celery, one carrot.  These will be used to rest the turkey on.  

Step 4. 

Time to prep the turkey.  Get 1 softened stick of butter. (not melted).  Cut it in half. Gently rub the butter all over the turkey, making sure to get in between the legs and wings.  Every inch should be rubbed.  If you'd like you can even rub some under the skin, but be careful not to break it.  You can place any left over butter inside the bird. Next sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of Bell Seasoning on the breast of the bird and throw 1/4 tsp inside the bird bottom (where some people stuff it).  Also, cut a small onion and throw that inside the bird.  1/4 piece of onion should be enough.    Now take 1 package of bacon.  I like to use the hardwood smoked bacon. I want you to lay the turkey down in strips, in a row across the entire turkey from top to bottom.

Step 5.

Place the turkey in the bag on top of the celery and carrots.  You may need assistance with this.
Seal the bag using the enclosed sealer.  Cut a couple of tiny slits into the top of the turkey bag, being sure not to cut the turkey. You will need this so that the bag doesn't expand too much in the oven. Place the turkey in the oven and cook it according to weight.  There is a chart inside the turkey bag box that will tell you how long to cook it.  You can also check here:

When your turkey is done, carefully remove it from the oven and let it sit for at least 30 minutes so that all of the juices soak in.  When you are ready to carve your turkey, carefully open the bag, facing the opening away from you. You can simply slit the top of the bag.  Using turkey tongs, pick up your turkey and place it on your platter. 

Look for my post on carving the perfect turkey.

Disclosure:  Some information obtained from Butterball website.