Loaves and Dishes

Wendi Spraker

It occurs to me that in just two weeks when we consider our gratitudes, elastic waistbands might top the list. A comedian I heard said, “The meal isn’t over when I’m full, the meal is over when I hate myself!” Which reminds me, how do you cook your turkey?

For many, that can be the big question. There are so many choices! You could just stop by one of many restaurants and pick up your Thanksgiving Feast. You could opt for a nontraditional dinner like steaks or chicken on the grill with fun sides like creamed brussel sprouts and grilled sweet potatoes.

You could cook a turkey on your own. If you haven’t before, don’t be daunted by the task. Help abounds! Turkeys now come with a cute plastic button that pops up when the turkey is done!

There is the option of using a baking bag – what I would recommend if you have never cooked a turkey before. Simply follow the instructions on the package of your turkey – using the poundage, you figure out how long you need to cook the bird and there you have it! A moist and delicious Thanksgiving turkey cooked right inside a tidy bag.

Help abounds on Thanksgiving Day if you have a question as you cook your turkey. In fact, I’ll be happy to help you if you visit my website at www.loavesanddishes.net and leave a comment or you can email me direclty at wendi@loavesanddishes.net

You also might want to cut this next section out of the paper and hang it on the front of your fridge.

The Butterball Turkey Talk line is available on the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, including Thanksgiving Day 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. They will discuss anything you need to know about cooking the perfect Turkey. The number is 800-288-8372.

The USDA covers everything you need to know about turkey safety (for cooking – not for the actual turkey). Simply navigate to their website to learn about thawing, storing, frying, safe baking and more. The USDA has a helpline available year round M-F 10-6 Eastern Time. 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

King Arthur Flour Hotline – for all of your baking needs. You can call, email or chat online. Their phone number is (855) 371 2253.

With that, I’m going to share my own turkey recipe. I admit, by the time Thanksgiving dinner rolls around, I’m really sick of dealing with that bird. However, the meat is always tender, juicy and flavorful. The skin is crispy and brown. Most of it is eaten at the Thanksgiving meal, which in my mind makes it all worth it – hardly any leftovers to deal with.

Just a note: I brine my turkey in my canner and then put the whole thing in my garage refrigerator. If you don’t have a canner or a garage fridge, simple use a very clean cooler and load with ice and water to keep your bird cool.


For the brine

1 Cup kosher salt (for up to a 16 lb. turkey – if more than 16 lbs., use 1 ½ Cups)

½ cup dark brown sugar (3/4 cup is greater than 16 lbs.)

1 gallon chicken stock

1 ½ Tbs black peppercorns

1 ½ tsp allspice berries

1 head of garlic sliced in half through the perimeter (don’t worry about the papery outside)

1 onion cut in half across the perimeter

2 bay leaves

For the butter rub

3 sticks of butter (allowed to come to room temp)

1 bunch of rosemary – finely chopped

¼ Cup kosher salt

For roasting the turkey:

Salt and pepper

1 red apple cut in quarters

1 onion cut into quarters

3 cinnamon sticks

1 cup chicken stock

4 sprigs of rosemary

2 bunches of sage

Olive oil

During Baking: Chicken Stock

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving or two days before you plan to serve the turkey, clean your kitchen sink very well and rinse well. Remove the turkey from the packaging and rinse the turkey well under running water in the sink – make sure to remove any extra parts from inside the turkey (neck, gizzard, heart, etc). – allow the turkey to sit in the sink while you prepare the brine.

On the stove top in a large pot (in the pot you will soak the turkey in ideally – but if you are soaking in a container that can’t go on the stove, then in a large pot will be fine) add the chicken stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice, garlic, onions and bay leaves over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar and salt are melted and the water has started to become warm. Remove from the heat.

Add 2 cups of ice to the stock mixture and stir. When cool enough to touch, put this brine mix in the container where the turkey will brine. Place the turkey into the stock mixture breast side down. Add cold water to the mixture enough to cover the turkey. If the turkey floats, add something heavy to the top to cause the turkey to sink in the water and become completely submerged. Cover your container well with a lid or plastic wrap and place in the fridge (or the iced cooler) for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, clean the sink and rinse very well again. Remove the turkey from the brine solution and allow to drain well in the sink. While the turkey is draining, prepare the butter rub by mixing the ingredients together well. Once the butter is ready, dry the turkey very well using paper towels. Keep drying. The butter won’t stick if the turkey is wet. It will just make you mad.

Using your hands, peel the skin up some from the neck area and with butter in your hands, stuff the butter down between the skin and breast meat – massaging in as best you can. It is ok if the butter is in little pockets. Once the under skin area of the bird has been buttered, butter the outside of the skin both upper and lower areas and all over the legs, thighs, wings and breasts. Keep massaging until you have used all of the butter.

Place the bird on the roasting pan rack in the pan and place uncovered in the fridge overnight. Yes, uncovered. This dries out the skin so that it will be crispy after roasting. Do not place any other food that needs to be cooked near the turkey in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 450 and place the oven rack on the lowest position. On removing the bird before roasting, liberally salt and pepper the inside cavity of the bird. Then stuff the inside cavity of the turkey with the items listed for roasting and pour the 1 cup of stock inside the bird. Any place that the butter appears to have flaked off of the bird, rub well with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. If you are using a remote thermometer, place the thermometer probe in the thickest part of the thigh or breast.

Place turkey in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes (uncovered). After 30 minutes, if there are no juices in the roasting pan, add 1 cup of chicken broth. Use the turkey baster to baste the turkey with the chicken broth. Reduce the oven temp to 350 and then baste the turkey every 30 minutes for the duration. When the turkey reaches 161 degrees, remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil until ready to serve. Do not recommend that you eat the aromatics from inside the turkey.


Wendi Spraker