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An easy, fuss-free Thanksgiving turkey with moist, flavour-packed meat, plus an American-inspired sauce.
While Brits favour turkey at Christmas, for Americans the big festive family feast is at Thanksgiving. Apart from the bird in the center, there is not a lot about the two meals that overlap. Most Brits couldn't countenance anything other than roast potatoes; at Thanksgiving, the mash is more traditional. Green beans replace sprouts and instead of carrots there are sweet potatoes topped, sometimes, with toasted marshmallows. Still, we can definitely agree on a brilliantly cooked, crisp, golden, succulent turkey, with a fantastic gravy to go with it. And that's what this is - a great American turkey recipe with a punchy sauce to slather it in. Alternatively, for a full British version: try this Gordon Ramsay turkey (opens in new tab).
For the Thanksgiving turkey:
- 3kg turkey
- 250g unsalted butter, room temperature
- Black pepper
- Zest of one large orange
- 2tbsp dried sage
- 2tbsp yellow mustard, we used French's
For the Thanksgiving mustard gravy:
- 1kg yellow mustard, we used French's
- 500g cider vinegar
- 350g light brown sugar
- 1½ tsp paprika
- 1½ tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1½ tsp cayenne
- 1½ tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Place your turkey in the roasting tray.
- In a bowl, beat together the room temperature butter, mustard and orange zest with some freshly ground black pepper, add in the sage and mix. Cut your orange into wedges and place in the cavity of the bird.
- With clean hands starting at the neck end, work your fingers gently up under the skin of the bird, separating the skin from the breast meat but taking care not to tear the skin. Once the skin has been separated from the breast meat, you can feed in your flavoured butter up under the skin and massage it all over the breast meat. This will do the job of basting your turkey for you whilst it cooks. When you check the turkey as it roasts you can spoon any juices and butter that collect in the tray back over the bird to maximise colour and flavour.
- Place your turkey in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Chen check your turkey is browning all over, then turn the oven down to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3 and continue to cook until a meat thermometer or digital probe reads 66-68°C (152-155°F) when inserted at the thickest part of the bird and the juices are running clear. Depending on the size of your bird, this usually takes around 15-20 mins for every pound in weight.
- Once 66-68°C has been reached, remove the turkey from the oven and cover in a tent fashion with aluminium foil. The turkey will continue to cook for a while and the residual heat will push the internal temperature higher than the 68°C but doing this during resting makes sure your bird doesn't overcook and dry out, and stays juicy and moist. You want to rest it for at least 30 minutes.
- For the Thanksgiving mustard gravy: Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and bring up to the boil. It's important that whilst it is getting hot you whisk the sauce continuously until all the sugar has melted. If you don't, it will sink and burn to the bottom of the pot.
- Once the sugar is all dissolved and the sauce is boiling, turn down to a simmer and reduce the heat a little until the sauce has thickened slightly, around 10-15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Top tips for Thanksgiving turkey
Don't wash your turkey - or any poultry. Not only is it unnecessary, but it can also be dangerous. Splashing water around raw turkey just contaminates your sink, increasing the chances of you and your family getting food poisoning. Simply remove it from the packaging and, if the skin is damp, dab it dry with some paper towels. Any bacteria is killed in the oven as it roasts.
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Octavia Lillywhite is an award-winning food and lifestyle journalist with over 15 years of experience. With a passion for creating beautiful, tasty family meals that don’t use hundreds of ingredients or anything you have to source from obscure websites, she’s a champion of local and seasonal foods, using up leftovers and composting, which, she maintains, is probably the most important thing we all can do to protect the environment.
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