Preparing and roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving, a cherished occasion where families gather to celebrate…

Here’s how to ensure a moist and tender roasted turkey that’s oh-so-delicious!

Moist and Tender Roasted Turkey

Moist and Tender Roasted Turkey Recipe!


  1. Whole turkey (12-14 lbs for a medium-sized gathering)
  2. For Brine:
    • Water
    • Kosher salt
    • Brown sugar
    • Herbs (thyme, rosemary)
    • Garlic
  3. For Stuffing (Optional for inside or outside cooking):
    • Bread cubes
    • Onion
    • Celery
    • Chicken broth
    • Butter
    • Sage, thyme, parsley
  4. For Roasting:
    • Butter
    • Salt and pepper
    • Onion, carrot, celery (for the roasting pan)

Moist and Tender Roasted Turkey


1. Brining the Turkey (1-2 days before roasting)

  • Dissolve kosher salt and brown sugar in water.
  • Add herbs and garlic.
  • Submerge turkey in brine and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

2. Preparing the Stuffing/Dressing

  • Sauté onions and celery in butter.
  • Mix with bread cubes, herbs, and enough chicken broth to moisten.
    Inside or Out? (Details ↓)
  • If cooking inside the turkey, loosely stuff it before roasting.
  • If cooking outside, bake in a buttered dish at 350°F for about 45 minutes.

3. Roasting the Turkey

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Remove turkey from brine, rinse, and pat dry.
  • Rub the turkey with butter, then season inside and out with salt and pepper.
  • Place onion, carrot, and celery in the roasting pan and set the turkey on top.
  • Roast until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (about 3-4 hours for a 12-14 lbs turkey).
  • Baste occasionally with pan juices.
  • Let rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Stuffing Inside or Out?

Deciding whether to cook stuffing inside or outside the turkey involves considering several factors, including taste, tradition, and food safety.

Cooking Stuffing Inside the Turkey:

  1. Flavor: The stuffing absorbs the turkey juices, creating a rich, savory flavor that many find appealing.
  2. Tradition: For many, the tradition of stuffing the bird is a cherished part of the Thanksgiving ritual.
  3. Presentation: Serving the turkey with stuffing inside can be more visually appealing on the holiday table.
  4. Food Safety Concerns: The main downside is the risk of bacterial growth. The stuffing needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F to be safe to eat. Often, by the time the stuffing reaches this temperature, the turkey meat can become overcooked and dry.

Cooking Stuffing Outside the Turkey:

  1. Safety: It’s easier to cook stuffing to a safe temperature without overcooking the turkey.
  2. Flexibility in Preparation: Cooking separately allows more control over the moisture and texture of the stuffing.
  3. Vegetarian-Friendly Option: For guests who don’t eat meat, a separate stuffing avoids cross-contamination.
  4. Texture: The stuffing can achieve a more consistent texture, with the top becoming crispy while the inside remains moist.


  • Safety and Consistency: If your priority is food safety and consistent texture, cooking the stuffing outside the turkey is the better choice.
  • Flavor and Tradition: If you value the traditional flavor that comes from cooking the stuffing inside the bird and are diligent about temperature monitoring, then stuffing the turkey might be your preferred method.

Regardless of your choice, both methods can yield delicious results and can be tailored to your personal preferences and the needs of your guests.

Nutrient Notes

A serving of roasted turkey (without skin) is about 135 calories, with 25 grams of protein and minimal fat.

The stuffing, if made traditionally, is approximately 350 calories per cup, varying based on ingredients.

Optional Side Dishes

  • Cranberries
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green bean casserole
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Dinner rolls

Cranberries – Smooth Sauce vs Berries

The preference for cranberry sauce—whether as a smooth sauce or with whole berries—varies greatly among individuals and is often influenced by personal tastes, traditions, and regional preferences.

Cranberry Sauce (Smooth):

  • Texture: This type is generally smooth with a consistency similar to jelly or jam. It’s often found in canned form and is known for its uniform texture without whole berries.
  • Flavor Profile: The smooth cranberry sauce tends to have a consistent flavor throughout, often sweeter and more refined.
  • Convenience: The canned, smooth version is very convenient, easy to serve, and has a familiar shape and texture for many people, often reminding them of family traditions.

Cranberry Sauce with Whole Berries:

  • Texture: This sauce contains whole or partially whole cranberries, offering a varied texture.
  • Flavor Complexity: The presence of whole berries provides bursts of tartness and texture, often with a more complex and less uniformly sweet flavor.
  • Homemade Appeal: Many people prefer this type because it can be homemade, allowing for customization in terms of sweetness and additional flavors (like orange zest, cinnamon, or nutmeg).

Overall Preference:

  • Cultural and Personal Influences: In some regions and families, the smooth, jellied sauce is a nostalgic staple, while others prefer the rustic, homemade feel of whole berry sauce.
  • Diversity of Preferences: Surveys and polls often show a split in preference, with no clear winner. People’s fondness for one over the other is usually linked to their childhood memories or the traditions they’ve grown up with.

Ultimately, the “best” kind of cranberry sauce is subjective and depends on individual tastes. Some families even serve both types to cater to all preferences.

Leftover Turkey Ideas:

turkey leftovers offer a fantastic opportunity to create a variety of delicious dishes. Here’s a quick list of ideas:

  1. Turkey Sandwiches: Layer slices of turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy in a sandwich.
  2. Turkey Soup: Simmer turkey bones with vegetables and herbs to make a rich broth, then add chopped turkey meat and noodles or rice.
  3. Turkey Salad: Mix chopped turkey with mayo, celery, onion, and your choice of seasonings for a refreshing salad.
  4. Turkey Pot Pie: Use leftover turkey, vegetables, and gravy as the filling for a comforting pot pie.
  5. Turkey Tacos: Shred the turkey and serve in tacos with toppings like avocado, salsa, and cheese.
  6. Turkey Curry: Cook the turkey in a curry sauce and serve with rice for a flavorful twist.
  7. Turkey Casserole: Combine turkey with pasta, vegetables, and a creamy sauce, then bake until bubbly.
  8. Turkey Stir-Fry: Stir-fry turkey with vegetables and a savory sauce for a quick and healthy meal.
  9. Turkey Fried Rice: Use chopped turkey in fried rice, adding vegetables and soy sauce.
  10. Turkey and Bean Chili: Add turkey to a pot of chili for a hearty and warming dish.

These ideas can help you creatively use up your turkey leftovers in meals that are both delicious and varied.

Dinner Table Fodder

Thanksgiving, primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada, originated as a harvest festival.

The first Thanksgiving in the U.S. was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days. It was originally attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

The turkey became associated with Thanksgiving in the 19th century when the holiday evolved into a day of national thanksgiving and unity.

Interesting Tidbit: Did you know that Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” campaigned for Thanksgiving to be recognized as a national holiday?
She wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States. Her efforts paid off when in 1863 Abraham Lincoln finally declared it a national holiday.

The Actual History of Thanksgiving

The original Thanksgiving, celebrated in 1621, was indeed a joint effort between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, specifically the Wampanoag tribe.

This three-day feast marked a brief period of peace and cooperation between the two groups.

  1. Native American Contributions:
    • The Native Americans, led by Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe, were instrumental in the success of this feast.
    • They contributed significantly to the food supplies, most notably venison. Historical accounts suggest that the Wampanoag hunters brought five deer as a gift.
    • They also likely brought other traditional Native American foods, which could have included various types of seafood (like fish, clams, and lobsters), wild fowl, corn in various forms, beans, squash, and possibly native fruits and nuts.
  2. Pilgrim Contributions:
    • The Pilgrims, who had harvested their first crops in the New World, also contributed to the feast.
    • Their contributions likely included crops they had grown, such as corn, wheat, barley, and peas.
    • Additionally, they likely provided some poultry, which could have included ducks, geese, and possibly turkeys, although the specific mention of turkey is more traditional than historical certainty.

The original Thanksgiving was a collaborative effort that reflected the food resources available to both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans at the time.

It stands as a historical event that is both a symbol of cooperation and a prelude to more complex and often tragic interactions between European settlers and Native American tribes.

Moist and Tender Roasted Turkey Recipe

By following these detailed steps, you’re set to prepare a memorable Thanksgiving meal that’s not only delicious but also enriched with historical significance and tradition.

You might also be interested in this Sweet Potato Pie recipe

Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast!

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