Sage & Butter Roasted Turkey

Yesterday (January 2) I successfully cooked my first turkey! It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while, but we always find ourselves at relatives’ homes for the holidays when we would normally cook a turkey. I went ahead and bought a Butterball turkey when it was on sale before Thanksgiving and stuck it in the freezer. I’ve had most of this week off of work, so I used yesterday as a “kitchen only” day to prepare my turkey dinner. I was in the kitchen for eight hours straight, but don’t get scared and run off! Those eight hours included several time-consuming side dishes and the resulting piles of dishes. The turkey itself is not that complicated. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wanted to challenge myself on a day when it didn’t matter if the whole thing flopped (i.e. no guests for dinner). This recipe is a combination of an Alton Brown recipe and my brother Shayne’s over-the-phone tutoring. He was a huge help to this turkey rookie.

Brining is essential in keeping a turkey moist throughout cooking. A brine is made up of basically a lot of salt and water. Sometimes sugar or other spices are added for additional flavor. The water makes the bird extra moist and the salt helps break down the muscle fibers so the bird is very tender even after hours of cooking.

Please read this recipe in its entirety before beginning!


What You’ll Need {for the brine}:

12-18 lb. frozen turkey

5-gallon bucket

Lots of water & ice

1 cup salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

What You’ll Need {for the seasoning}

Fresh sage

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Kosher salt


To Thaw: Remove your turkey from the freezer 36-48 hours before you plan to serve it. Place the turkey (leaving onย the plastic wrapping) into a clean 5-gallon bucket (I used one from our garage). Fill the bucket 2/3 of the way full with cold water. Gently lower the turkey into the bucket. Place a plate on top of the turkey to help it stay submerged in the water.ย Now, ask a strong, muscular guy to lift the bucket and put in an out-of-the-way place for thawing. I happen to have one handy. ๐Ÿ™‚ย Thawing in cold water (rather than on your countertop or in your sink) allows the entire turkey to come to the same temperature at the same rate. I allowed my turkey to thaw for 24 hours.

To Brine: Remove your thawed turkey from the bucket. Discard water and remove packaging from turkey. Remove innards. (eeeewww!!!) Some of you may want to save the innards for stock, but they kinda gross me out. I think the carcass is sufficient for stock. To the bucket, add 1 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Fill bucket 2/3 of the way with cold water and ice. Drop your turkey in for another swim! Make sure your bucket stays very cold throughout the brining process. Add ice every four hours or as needed. You’ll need to add extra ice before going to bed to ensure the turkey stays cold all night. You can also put the bucket in your fridge overnight if your fridge is big enough to handle it.

To Season: Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours. Discard the brine. Place turkey on roaster pan (with rack). Blot the skin of the turkey dry with paper towels. Do this very thoroughly to ensure the butter and seasonings stick. Combine the two sticks of butter with a handful of chopped, fresh sage. Rub the sage butter over the entire surface of the turkey using your hands. Every nook and cranny needs butter, even the inside cavity! The butter helps the skin to brown and crisp just perfectly. Season the entire turkey with kosher salt and pepper. Allow turkey to sit for 1-2 hours, or until at almost room temperature. (Don’t worry, you won’t do any harm to yourself or others by allowing it to get to room temperature. Again, this just helps the turkey cook evenly).

To Cook: Preheat oven to 500 degrees (not broil at 500; bake at 500). Add 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. Place uncovered turkey in oven and cook for 30 minutes. (*Please watch the turkey carefully during this high-heat cooking segment). Remove from oven and add a tin foil “tent” over just the breast of the turkey. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and return the turkey to the oven. Cook until the temperature of the breasts are 163 degrees and the legs are 180 degrees. (My 12-lb. turkey took approximately two hours total to cook). Remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Basic Turkey Gravy

After removing turkey from roasting pan, pour the drippings into a pyrex measuring cup. Allow fat and drippings to separate. Heat medium sauce pan to medium heat. Spoon 6 TB of fat off and add to pan. Add 6 TB of flour to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. The consistency should be thick and creamy. Slowly add 3 cups of chicken stock, stirring constantly. Add several sprigs of fresh sage. Bring to a simmer to thicken, then reduce heat to medium-low.

Meanwhile, heat two stove burners to medium heat and place your roasting pan on the burners. Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 cup-1 cup of chicken broth or white cooking wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all of that yummy flavor! Strain the contents of the roasting pan over the gravy mixture and stir to combine. Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste. Who doesn’t LOVE gravy?!?! ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope you will challenge yourself to a turkey if you have never cooked one before!!


One thought on “Sage & Butter Roasted Turkey

  1. Pingback: Our Thanksgiving Menu – Beautiful Living

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