Recipe: TWELVE-Hour Turkey

My turkey recipe is very, very simple.  I start with the largest turkey I can find and I stuff it with as much stuffing as I can possibly get into the bird (inside the body cavity as well as under the skin wherever possible).  I do all this the night before Thanksgiving and then my husband (Thank GOD for that man) gets up at 3:30AM to put the stuffed bird into a 200-degree oven and we allow it to cook all day.  NOTE:  I do, at some point, have to turn the oven off and turn it right back on again because apparently there’s a fail-safe on my oven that doesn’t allow for the oven to remain on continuously for 12 hours.  At the end of the 12 hours, remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to sit on a carving tray for 10 minutes (tented with foil) while you make the gravy and give the meat time to rest and for the juices to redistribute.  Once you carve the meat off the bone, place on a tray and, if you’re not eating immediately, pat with bits of margarine, seal with foil, and set on the stove top to keep warm.

I know this recipe is going to freak a lot of people out, but I felt compelled to share my turkey recipe with you all here on my wine blog.  While this recipe doesn’t traditionally use wine, you can easily add some to use as a basting liquid.  I’d suggest using the same wine (my preference is an Oaked Chardonnay)  that you use for much of your meal, for consistency’s sake.  Basting can happen anytime during the afternoon

Extra Note:  I stuff my turkey before going to bed, put the turkey in the fridge, then it’s put into the oven at 4AM to begin the cooking process.  I have been told that this is not safe, but have never had a problem with it in any way.  You are more than welcome to decide to stuff or not to stuff your turkey, depending on your comfort level.  I also do not baste or brine the bird.  We haven’t found this to be helpful and it really does save a step.  I typically cook a 20+ pound bird and the meat is always juicy and flavorful.

I was given this basic recipe from Dawna, a woman at our church in Michigan who owned/operated a restaurant in the area and generously made a Thanksgiving dinner for the entire congregation each year.  Amazingly, this was the way she was able to bake so many turkeys for a noon meal for such a large crowd.  She shared this recipe with me before we moved to Virginia in 2000.

I keep the turkey in the oven and increase the heat to 350-degrees for the last 45 minutes to begin cooking the remainder of the meal.  See sample time table below:

Sample Time table for Thanksgiving Dinner at 4PMFeel free to adjust timetable for your dinner time.

  • 3:30AM                 put turkey in the oven at 200-degrees – I don’t pre-heat the oven
  • Before Noon       make peas, sweet potato pie, prep potatoes
  • 1PM                        start rolls, start making mashed potatoes
  • 2:45PM                 form the rolls (roll into cloverleaf shapes, three dough balls per muffin cup)
  • 3:05PM                 Oven goes to 350 degrees, peas go into oven (40 minutes) **This is usually when I turn off the oven and turn it back on again.
  • 3:15PM                 pan stuffing into oven (30 minutes)
  • 3:30PM                sweet potato pie goes in (15 minutes), warm up the turnip casserole in the microwave (7-9 minutes) take turkey out of oven and put bird on platter (let bird sit for a good 5 minutes before beginning to carve, then cover platter with foil) *start gravy (I start gravy first so I’m not carving the bird too early)
  • 3:45PM                all out of oven – raise temp to 400 degrees and put rolls in to bake (15 minutes)
  • 4:00PM                Time to EAT!

This may be a rather unconventional way of making your Thanksgiving meal, but it’s become our favorite.  I’ve roasted a turkey in a paper bag slathered with butter… I’ve cooked the bird on a rack with veggies around it… I’ve followed the “4-hour turkey” recipe… in all cases, this recipe has surpassed all our expectations and resulted in a picture-perfect turkey, suitable for any special occasion or holiday meal.  For a photo of this ginormous bird, check out my Stuffing recipe… it shows you the turkey in more stages than I could here!

I wish each and every one of you a most blessed holiday season and thank you for your readership and participation in this blog.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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3 thoughts on “Recipe: TWELVE-Hour Turkey

  1. jsoccerfam says:

    love your blog and this turkey cooking suggestion! I would guess a smaller turkey with less time would also work?

    • You can probably decrease by an hour or so, but much would depend on how small you go on a turkey. I got this recipe from a chef who made 15-20 turkeys for a Thanksgiving meal for the entire congregation at church. Her turkeys weren’t especially large… she just made a lot of them. I’ve found this recipe works well for most any side turkey… breaking up the cooking time for an hour around noon also lets things sit before coming back to temp. Yum!

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