Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Thanksgiving Recipes: The Perfect Traditional Turkey

November 23rd, 2009 · 3 Comments

Editor’s note: Readers, I’m asking for your recipes now through the winter holidays. Send them to me by clicking on “Contact” above, and emailing them to me. We’ll print many of these, and maybe send you a cookbook as a reward!


Moist turkey comes from rubbing and basting the bird the night before

Cooking teacher Sheilah Kaufman writes: “This recipe is for people who are tired of dry, tasteless turkey. I have been making it for almost 50 years. Every time I tried to change to a new turkey recipe, there were riots in my house!

The secret is basting the turkey the night before, and the seasoning goes in all the way to the bone.”

A flavorful rub is also used; this “pre-cooking rub” also helps keep the bird moist.

Sure Success Moist Turkey Recipe
(Note: Begin recipe the day before with thawed turkey; allow up to 7 hours for cooking a 20-pound bird.)

  • 20 to 23 pound turkey, thawed, cleaned, with bag removed from the inside

For the rub:

  • 5 tablespoons paprika — see cook’s note
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons pepper
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

For basting:

  • 1 stick melted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup white wine or sautern, or gingerale
  • 1 cup cold water

For stuffing:

  • 1 pound Ritz salted crackers, or matzo
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • l bunch celery, chopped
  • 4 or 5 carrots, peeled into strips
  • butter or margarine for sauteing

 The day before cooking, combine the paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning in a medium bowl with just enough hot water to make a mud-consistency rub.

Rub mixture on the inside and outside of the turkey, making sure to get into both cavities. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

To cook: Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the margarine, and mix together with the wine and water to baste the turkey.

In a large skillet, melt some margarine and saute the onions and celery, and place in a very large bowl with the crushed crackers or matzo. Melt more margarine as needed, and saute the mushrooms, then add to the cracker mixture. Peel the carrots into strips, add to cracker mixture and mix well.

Stuff both cavities of the turkey lightly with the stuffing.

Place turkey in roasting pan, pour the basting liquid over the turkey and make a tent with 2 pieces of aluminum foil.

Bake at 325 F according to the cooking chart on the turkey wrapper. A 20-pound stuffed turkey takes from 5-1/2 to 6 hours, if not a little more. (Ed. note: Stuffing a turkey takes longer; to reduce time, bake the stuffing outside of the bird in a casserole dish for 45 minutes, covered till the last 10 minutes.)

Allow turkey to rest, tented, about 30 minutes before slicing. Collect the juices for gravy.

Remember to refrigerate the turkey and carcass after two hours at room temperature.

Note: All red spices (chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes and blends) should be kept in the refrigerator to avoid weevils and to stay fresh longer.  Do not store herbs and spices around the oven or over the refrigerator –  heat and light cause them to lose their flavor quicker.

(Sheilah Kaufman is a traveling cooking teacher, author of 26 cookbooks, national culinary lecturer and food writer. She lives in Maryland where’s she’s finishing her newest book, The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories. Visit her web site at www.cookingwithsheilah.com)

Tags: Holiday cooking

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sirio ross // Jan 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I will surely try this one next December. But I have to find a decent sized bird!! Thanks.

  • 2 Jan Coleman // Nov 7, 2017 at 8:49 am

    I have been making this for years! I use a 15 pound turkey which serves 10 people. I use Ritz crackers for the stuffing! Don’t deviate!!!
    Jave a Great Thanksgiving!!

  • 3 Jan Coleman // Nov 7, 2017 at 9:03 am

    I live in Baltimore! Meant to print “Have”
    You can call me at 9419935205 or 941387274.

    I will be staying with my daughter Lisa
    Lisa Ftank@specialkidscompany.com
    4103231058! I look forward to speaking with you.

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