Turkey 101: Beginners Welcome

We asked a Michelin-starred chef for a recipe that anyone could pull off. Even a “Butterball virgin.”

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It’s not the casseroles and cranberry sauce that worry me – my friends will bring those. It’s the bird. When it comes to cooking a turkey, I’m a Butterball virgin.

I assure myself that, if other women can do it, so can I. But unfortunately, I rode the short bus to culinary school. The only turkey I know comes pre-sliced in a plastic container, and the mere thought of roasting something the size of a toddler drives me to drink.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. Each Thanksgiving, I give thanks that I’m not hosting the dinner. I can’t play Martha Stewart for 12 people. I don’t even have 12 plates! I’m much better as a guest, where all I have to do is show up with corn pudding and a .750 ml of something 80-proof. Then I sip several pre-dinner cocktails, recline at an overcrowded table and gorge myself with fowl and starches until I’m more stuffed than the turkey – at which point, I need to shift my clothes around to hide my first trimester food baby.

But this year, it’s my turn to wear mismatched oven mitts and pretend that entertaining comes as naturally to me as being able to hold my liquor. The ghosts of dead pilgrims are taunting me. 

So I called Executive Chef/Proprietor Brendan Collins of Waterloo & City in Los Angeles. And thank God—this Michelin Starred British chef completely saved my ass! Here’s his simple, foolproof recipe for cooking a Thanksgiving Day turkey that, if you’re like me, will trick your guests into thinking you’re a poultry goddess.


The Uncomplicated Turkey  *Feeds 10 – 12 people (1 lb of turkey per person)



1-16 lb. fresh, (not frozen) unbrined turkey

Chicken bouillon cubes

A couple cartons of liquid chicken stock

A few sticks of soft butter

Big handful of herbs—rosemary, thyme, parsley

Couple pounds of chopped vegetables—carrots, potatoes, parsnips, etc.



An oven roasting turkey bag, a big turkey pan, a turkey baster and a turkey syringe (all available at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Target)


IMPORTANT:  Start this recipe the day before Thanksgiving, or you will be screwed.


The day before


1)    Remove the giblets—Shove your hand up the ass-end of the turkey, remove the plastic bag of giblets and refrigerate them.


2)    Brine it—Mix 2 ½ cups salt in 16 cups of water. Put the turkey in an oven roasting turkey bag, add the salt water, tie it up and throw it in the fridge for the day.



On Thanksgiving, 5 ½  hours before your guests arrive


1)    Rinse it off—Take the turkey out of the bag, put it in a pan in the sink that’s filled with cold water, and leave it there for a half-hour.


2)    Preheat your oven—325 degrees F


3)    Add herbs to softened butter.


4)    Give your bird a butter massage—Shove your hand between the neck and breast to remove the skin between it. Put some of the soft herb butter in your hand and rub it under the skin between the neck and breast.


5)    Make a trivet—Line the bottom of your turkey pan with the veggies. (This stops the bottom of the turkey from being burned.) Add the refrigerated giblets and some stock cubes to make the gravy.


6)    Cook it—Put the turkey on top of the vegetables, and cook for 6 hours and 40 minutes. (25 minutes per pound)


7)    Bathe it and shoot it up—Every 20 minutes, use the baster to suck the juices out of the bottom of the pan and pour them over the turkey. Then, fill the turkey syringe with canned broth and inject it into the turkey breasts so they don’t get dry.


8)    Check it—When it’s time to take the turkey out, cut into the joint where the thigh meets the body of the turkey to make sure the meat closest to the bone is no longer pink.


9)    Let it rest—Finally, let your turkey cool for 15 minutes.


10)  Carve it—If you’ve had a cocktail or five, hand off the carving duties to someone else. Remember: Stainless steel cutlery + booze = bleeding and a YouTube video you likely won’t live down.


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