the domestic tales of four sisters

Last Minute: Turkey Tips

At what panic level are you? Thanksgiving is only two days away. If you’re like my mom you have tomorrow mapped out to the second. When each pie has to go into the oven, what has to be prepped … She’s prepping to feed the masses on Thursday. God bless her. I have to feed my 10 month old and husband. Easy, peasy.

Well, this morning I jumped on Pinterest while Baby E knocked out a few more minutes of sleep. I noticed a TON of people had started to repin my Turkey recipe pin – again. I think that pin alone has had 40+ repins in the past few days. If you’re not like my mom and you don’t have your Thanksgiving prep planned so thoroughly, get ready for the Hail Mary I’m about to throw your way!

If you’re in charge of turkey this year (or the whole thing) I don’t want you to panic. In fact, I’ll make that Rule #1.

Rule #1: Don’t panic.

Turkey is SO easy. Much easier than your grandmother had led you to believe.

I’ve made a turkey each Thanksgiving since my husband and I have been married. My father was in attendance for the very first Thanksgiving I ever made. The WHOLE TIME the man stood over my shoulder and judged offered advice. Why he would do this when I had a butcher’s knife in my hand is beyond me. Let me make note, he gets hacked off when we stand over his shoulder and “offer advice” on how to work his computer or fancy new smartphone. And he wonders where we get it from? Stay out of my kitchen, old man! I elect to brine my turkeys. Alton Brown brought this into my life the very first year, and remember how my “super helpful” dad stood over my shoulder the whole time? He was against the brining. He kept telling me it was an unnecessary step and it had no point. Blah, blah. Well, I roasted that bird and he took one bite and goes, “Damn … that’s good. And I hate turkey.” That’s right! THAT’S RIGHT!

I won Thanksgiving.


Here’s a picture of it!


You’re sitting there thinking, “But Kelsea it’s two days before Thanksgiving. No way do I have the time!” There’s always time to brine. And because my brine recipe is super simple you can whip it up today and be brining that turkey tomorrow night. What up?

If you choose not to brine – no harm no foul. This is where the butter comes into play. A lot of people say butter is essential for the outside, I disagree. I make a butter/herb mix and put it UNDER the turkey skin and then smear the actual skin with canola or vegetable oil. Don’t worry, that recipe is below along with the brine.

I choose to do both.

Now as far as method of cooking. I agree with Alton Brown that cooking turkey forever is not required. Because honestly, it isn’t. I think a lot of the reason I was NOT a turkey fan growing up is because the longer you cook turkey the more dry it gets (obviously), but it also messes with the flavor. If you’ve ever overcooked chicken you will note that it is rubbery dry, but it also has a different flavor than if it is cooked perfectly. Don’t believe me? Test it. The longer you cook turkey (and the drier it gets) the more gamey the flavor becomes. And I assure you – you don’t want that. Because then your relatives will be talking about you behind your back. They’ll be texting under the table about your awful turkey or trying to feed it to your dog. No? That’s just my family?

I have cooked turkey 3 different ways – oven roasted, in a roaster, and in a crockpot. Without a doubt my favorite is oven roasted using Alton Brown’s method. Jack the heat in the beginning, and then cut it back the rest of the way. And I know you won’t believe me, but if you have a turkey that weighs less than 15 pounds it will most likely be done in under 2 1/2 hours.

Oven roasting obviously takes up a majority of your oven. (Unless you’re a lucky one with the two ovens. In which case, I hate you.) Crockpot is the best for small gatherings like mine. But a roaster is perfection (and what my mom chooses to do) because it takes up NO oven. It is seriously a “no fuss, no space hogging” type of deal. You pop it in the roaster in the morning and you let it go. Just make sure you throw your butter on and/or brine. Because cooking that long can dry it out.

Ready for the rest of my rules?

Rule #1: Don’t panic. It isn’t worth it. 
Rule #2: Drink some wine. Beginning in the morning. Just don’t get sloshed.
Rule #3: Delegate! People come early to help. Don’t send them out of the kitchen. Assign duties.
Rule #4: Brine or butter. Or both.
Rule #5: Don’t overcook. Temperature check. You want it to be 161 degrees. But don’t forget the heat continues to rise AFTER removing from the oven.
Rule #6: Don’t let your mom, grandma, dad, Uncle Sal, etc. keep obsessing over the turkey. Don’t let them try to baste it. Don’t let them constantly rip open your oven or roaster and check the thermometer. Don’t let them obsess over your job. Send them out of your kitchen.
Rule #7: DO NOT USE THE THERMOMETER THAT COMES WITH THE TURKEY. It’s pointless. Go buy a meat thermometer at Walmart for like $5.88 if you don’t have one. You still have time.
Rule #8: Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes after pulling out of the oven and carving. I usually let mine go about 45 minutes depending upon size. Good rule of thumb is 3 minutes per pound. Cover it with foil and let it alone. Once you begin to carve it and you feel like maybe it isn’t warm enough you can ladle some warm chicken broth over the meat. (Thank you Bobby Flay.)
Rule #9: Don’t stuff your bird with stuffing. Cook your stuffing on the side. But do stuff your turkey with aromatics – lemons, rosemary, apples, cinnamon sticks, thyme, oranges … Entirely up to you!
Rule #10: Have a fan in your kitchen. This has nothing to do with turkey. But your kitchen gets so freaking hot from that oven being on all day, and you’re probably all dolled up in a cute sweater and jeans and about halfway through you’re feeling like you’re walking on the surface of the sun. The fan helps!

Here’s some methods of cooking that bird. I’ve tried a few, and others just look fabulous!

Alton Brown’s Turkey

Trisha Yearwood’s No Baste, No Bother Turkey

Electric Roaster Turkey

No matter what you choose, have fun. Spend time with your family and friends and remember why we have this awesome season at all.

What do you plan on doing with your bird this year?

Happy Thanksgiving,


Kelsea’s Brine
*will brine up to 15 pound turkey

3/4 cup *KOSHER salt (DO NOT use regular, iodized Morton girl salt. Just DON’T!)
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 cartons chicken stock
1/2 orange (reserve other half for aromatics inside of bird)
1/2 apple (reserve other half for aromatics inside of bird)
3-4 branches of thyme
1 branch of rosemary
10 cups water

1) In large stock pot heat chicken stock and add sugar and salt. Mix until dissolved.
2) Add orange, apple, thyme, and rosemary. Allow to simmer for a few minutes.
3) Dump handfuls of ice in the brine to lower temperature. Allow to come to room temperature.
4) In large bucket place your turkey bottoms up. Pour 10 cups water and cooled brine into the bucket over the turkey. (I use a 5 gallon bucket from a home improvement store with lid. If no lid available you can use plastic wrap and foil. I’ve also used a new mop bucket with success as well.)
5) The turkey should be covered. If it is not you can add more water. I do not do this, I add handfuls of ice. Your choice. Cover and store in cool place for at the minimum of 4 hours and max of 10 hours. (I do overnight the night before Thanksgiving.) If you live in a cold part of the country (like Wyoming) you can store the turkey in your garage or your car (Yes, I’ve done this). Otherwise your refrigerator is the best bet.
6) Prior to cooking the turkey dump all contents of the bucket into your sink. Rinse turkey thoroughly and pat dry. Then continue with your recipe.

Herb Butter

2-3 sticks butter, softened
2 sprigs rosemary (1 tablespoon if using dried)
2-3 sprigs thyme (1 teaspoon if using dried)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Plastic wrap

1) Mix seasonings and herbs into softened butter. Roll into log with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to harden.
2) To use, slice into rounds. Place *under* turkey skin and allow to soften slightly. Once butter is softened spread with your hands until a good majority is coated. Continue with your recipe.

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