The easiest way to make the PERFECT roast turkey – use a roasting bag! Read my tips and tricks for most succulent, perfectly cooked turkey. This post is sponsored by French’s
You will also love my Thanksgiving side dishes
I have been slightly obsessed with Thanksgiving ever since I first watched that Gilmore Girls episode ‘A deep-fried Korean Thanksgiving’ in which Lorelai and Rory attend three Thanksgiving dinners in one day.
I haven’t had the chance to celebrate it in the US during my brief stint in New York – sadly I was gone well before November – but I have celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving on a couple of occasions, most recently at my friend Julia’s.
I am thrilled to be able to share a virtual Thankgiving with you all this year thanks to my partnership with French’s who asked me to come up with the quintessential meal for the holiday. French’s classic yellow mustard is always in our fridge or pantry – homemade burgers just would not be burgers without it.
But I wasn’t familiar with their crispy onions, which just so happen to be the most addictive substance known to man. I very nearly finished the whole pack snacking on them 😛 The mustard and crispy onions feature rather heavily in my recipes and you will understand why once you have a taste.
I have tried a million roast turkey recipes – brined overnight, roasted upside down, covered with a cheesecloth soaked in butter and wine… been there, done that. Some methods are better than others – the cheesecloth is a Martha Stewart staple which works really well but requires a lot of basting and soaking.
How to roast a turkey in a roasting bag
This time, I tried the roasting bag method. I always use a roasting bag when making roast chicken in a hurry and it never fails to come out great, so I was curious whether it would work equally well on a turkey – and the answer is a resounding YES!
Not only is it the easiest, least labour intensive way to roast a turkey, the results are pretty spectacular with minimal effort. And as a big plus, the cooking time is also cut down thanks to the roasting bag sealing in all the heat.
In fact, that’s the one thing to be really aware of, lest you overcook your bird. A digital thermometer is an absolute must to determine when the turkey is done.
STEP 1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and set the shelf on lowest rack. If you are using a frozen turkey, make sure it is fully defrosted before cooking. Thaw in the fridge following pack instructions. Let the turkey (fresh or defrosted) stand at room temperature for at least an hour before roasting.
Best Bread Stuffing with Cranberries and Pecans
I hadn’t tried bread stuffing before Julia’s Thanksgiving dinner but it is so delicious, I came up with my own version. It brings together elements of my mum’s Christmas stuffing (which has chestnuts, liver and pine nuts) with the more traditional American bacon and leek stuffings.
You can prepare it the day before and assemble it on Thanksgiving, cooking it in the oven while your turkey is taking a much needed rest. Make sure you read my companion post for more Thanksgiving side dishes.
The best roast turkey and gravy
- 4 kg | 8lbs fresh turkey or frozen and defrosted thoroughly
- 150 g | 5.3oz unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tbsp French's Classic Yellow mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
- zest of 2 lemons
- zest of 1 orange
- dash Tabasco
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 carrot halved
- 1 celery stick halved
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 parsley stalks
- small piece fresh rosemary
For the gravy
- Giblets heart, gizzard and liver from the turkey
- 3-4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small leek finely diced
- 1 celery stalk with leaves
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lt | 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp cornflour diluted in a little cold water
- 1 tbsp Bourbon
- 1 tbsp French's Classic Yellow mustard
- 1 tsp soy sauce
For the Stuffing
- 350 g | 12oz bread cubes, toasted sourdough or ciabbata bread
- 200 g | 7oz smoked bacon cubes
- 150 g | 5.3oz pecans roughly chopped
- 150 g 5.2oz cooked chestnuts roughly chopped
- 100 g 3 ½oz dried cranberries finely diced
- 6 tbsp crispy onions ground to a powder optional
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 celery sticks diced
- 2 leeks white and light green parts only, finely diced
- 2 large sage leaves very finely diced
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley chopped
- 360 ml | 1 ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- pinch chilli flakes
- dash Worcestershire sauce
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and set the shelf on lowest rack.
- If you are using a frozen turkey, make sure it is fully defrosted before cooking. Thaw in the fridge following pack instructions. Let the turkey (fresh or defrosted) stand at room temperature for at least an hour before roasting.
- Tie the carrot, celery, lemon, bay leaf, parsley stalks and rosemary together with kitchen string and put into the turkey cavity.
- Put he butter, mustard, thyme leaves, lemon and orange zest and Tabasco in a small bowl. Use a spoon to mix everything together.
- Massage the butter paste all over your turkey, pushing some under the breast skin. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Place the turkey in a large roasting bag and seal. Place flat on a large, deep roasting tray and pierce a few holes on the top of the bag.
- Cook the turkey for 2 hours, rotating the tray halfway through.
- While the turkey is cooking, make the stock. Heat 2 tbsp butter in a pot and cook the leek, celery and onion for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes.
- Add the water bay leaf, gizzard and heart. Bring to the boil then simmer for 45 minutes. Straing the liquid into another pot. Pan fry the liver in the remaining butter and cook for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Chop very finely and add to the stock. Set aside.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Carefully open the roasting bag - be careful as the steam will be very hot and can easily give you a bad burn!
- Check the temperature - it should be 170°F (77°C) in the breast and 180°F (82°C) in the thigh. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
- Pour the liquid that's collected in the bag into the stock pot. Bring to a rolling simmer and stir in the bourbon, cornflour, mustard and soy sauce. Cook until slightly reduced and thickened. Check the seasoning and strain into a gravy boat.
- Carve your turkey and serve with the gravy and stuffing.
Pecan and Cranberry Stuffing
- Preheat the oven to 115C (250F). Cut the bread into small cubes and spread on a large baking tray in a single layer. Toast in the oven until crisp, mixing occasionaly. This can take 12-15 minute or longer. Cool before using.
- Mix the bread cubes, pecans, chestnuts and cranberries in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp of butter n a non-stick frying pan and sauté the leeks and celery for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the sage, parsley and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Cook the bacon cubes in same frying pan over medium high heat until crisp. Transfer to the bowl containing the vegetables.
- Heat the frying pan and deglaze with the stock, scraping any browned bacon bits. Stir in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and transfer to a measuring jug. Allow to cool slightly and then mix in the eggs.
- Stir in with the leeks and bacon. Add the breadcubes and pecans and fold together.
- Place in a buttered ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the ground crispy onions and chilli flakes. Dot with remaining butter and cook at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve hot.