This Chipotle Citrus Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe is juicy, tender and roasted to golden perfection for the best holiday feast!
This post is sponsored by my friends at Honeysuckle White.
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Slathered in a flavorful compound butter made from chipotles, orange and lime zest, fresh rosemary, garlic, oregano, salt, black pepper and lots of butter, this roast turkey is juicy, tender and super moist. It’s everything you could ever want in a Thanksgiving turkey. And the best part? It’s so easy to make!
Believe me. I’m a total newbie at roasting a whole turkey, so if I can do it, you can totally do it, too!
To help your turkey roasting adventure go smoothly, I’ve packed this post with everything you could ever want to know about cooking a turkey this Thanksgiving.
Choosing the right turkey
First things first, you need to select the perfect turkey for the job. Let’s talk a little bit about size and quality.
Picking the right size turkey
Knowing what size turkey to buy for your Thanksgiving gathering is important. The last thing you want is to run out of turkey on the big day!
Here’s a handy little guide to how much you’ll need depending on the number of guests.
- 2 to 4 guests — 8 to 12 pounds
- 5 to 7 guests — 12 to 16 pounds
- 8 to 10 guests — 16 to 20 pounds
- 11 to 13 guests —20 to 24 pounds
These amounts will allow you to have some leftovers and ensures that you won’t run out if you have unexpected guests.
Selecting a quality turkey
Not only is size important, but the quality of your bird is matters, too. Knowing where your food comes from and feeling good about what you feed your family is important. Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkeys are all raised with care by family farmers on over 700 independently-owned farms. And this year, over 200,000 Honeysuckle White turkeys will be traceable back to the family farm where they were raised!
Notice the blue tag in the photo above that says “Meet Your Farmer.” This means it’s a Fresh Traceable Whole Bird Turkey! To find out where your bird is from, simply enter the code on the back of the tag at HoneysuckleWhite.com, and you’ll get information like the family farm where the turkey was raised, the location of the farm, photos of the farm, the story of that particular farm and a message from the farmer.
These traceable turkeys are available in more than 3,500 retail stores across the country. To find where you can get one of your own, click here. And in case you’re anything like me and love online shopping, traceable turkeys are also available on Amazon here! How stinking cool is that?!
Making the turkey seasoning
Let’s talk seasoning. There are a few popular options out there to help pack in as much flavor as possible while making sure your turkey is juicy and perfectly seasoned. From brining to injecting and even basting every half hour, there seems to be a “new way” to do things every year!
For this recipe, I’m keeping it simple by making a dry rub and mixing it with a stick of butter to create a sort of paste/compound butter. In my humble opinion, more butter is always the answer. Here’s what you need.
Chipotle Citrus Compound Butter
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves, minced
- 1 tablespoon coarse Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Zest of 1 orange and 1 lime
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
To make the compound butter, add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a paste forms. That’s it! The whole thing smells absolutely amazing and will definitely get you excited for the meal ahead.
How to cook a turkey
Cooking a whole turkey can be so intimidating for the holidays, especially if you’ve never done it before, but it doesn’t have to be! I tested this recipe so many times to make sure it was foolproof for the big day. Here’s what to do.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the thawed turkey from the packaging and remove the turkey neck and bag of giblets. You can keep them if you’d like to make something with them, but I discarded them for this recipe.
- Pat the turkey dry with a handful of paper towels or a large kitchen towel until it’s completely dry. Place turkey on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Fill the bottom of your roasting pan with the juice of 1 orange, the juiced orange quarters, and 2 cups of turkey stock.
- Fill the turkey cavity with an onion (halved), an orange (quartered) and a sprig of rosemary. Tie the turkey legs together with kitchen twine to help the turkey cook evenly.
- Spread the compound butter turkey seasoning all over the turkey as well as underneath the skin. Secure the edges of the skin with some toothpicks so it doesn’t ride up the bird while roasting.
- Place the turkey breast side up in the roasting pan and insert an in-oven meat thermometer deep inside a breast of the bird. Make sure it’s not touching a bone, but it’s still deep in the bird. Set the thermometer temperature to alert you when it reaches 165°F. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 25 minutes to crisp the skin.
- Remove turkey from oven, lower the heat to 350°F, loosely cover the breast with a tent of aluminum foil and return to the oven.
- Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the temperature of the meat reaches 165°F.
- Carefully remove from oven and check the temperature of the bird in different places to make sure everything is at least 165°F. If there are spots that are under, leave the thermometer in that spot and return it to the oven to roast until it reaches the temperature.
- Transfer the turkey carefully to large cutting board and rest for 30 minutes. Slice and serve.
Tips for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey
Whether you’re roasting a turkey for the very first time or the hundredth time, it’s the simple things that make all the difference. Here are a few tips to make sure your turkey comes out great every time.
Make sure to thaw your turkey ahead of time
This is probably THE MOST important thing to remember. Don’t underestimate how long it will take for a turkey to go from frozen to thawed. Here’s a handy guide to how long it will take to thaw in the fridge depending on the size of your bird.
- 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
- 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
- 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
- 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days
Use a meat thermometer
This is the most accurate way to make sure your turkey is completely cooked. I highly recommend using an in-oven meat thermometer that allows you to set your desired temperature. Here’s the one that I have.
Cover the breasts with foil to prevent overcooking
After the initial 25 minutes of roasting on high heat, I recommend covering the turkey breasts with a loose tent of foil to help prevent any overcooking. This will help slow down the cooking process of the breasts and ensures that everything is finished at the same time.
Related: How to carve a turkey
Thanksgiving Turkey Side Dishes
Woo! That was a lot of turkey information, right? Thanksgiving is no joke, but in the end it’s all about family and the delicious food that we get to share with loved ones.
While turkey is often the star of the meal, we can’t forget about all the tasty side dishes that tie everything together! Here are some of my favorite sides to serve on the big day.
My experience visiting a turkey farm
Last month I had the honor of visiting Roger and Coleen Plemmons’ beautiful farm in Iberia, Missouri where they’ve been raising turkeys with Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms for 25 years. The care and love they have for raising healthy and happy animals is amazing and it certainly showed as they walked me and a couple of other bloggers around the farm.
I got to go inside an actual turkey barn to meet some of the turkeys, but before I could step inside, I had to put on some protective clothing like this awesome footwear. So stylish. 😊
Inside the barn, Roger and his family talked to us about the 5 week old turkeys that we were looking at and how much hard work and around-the-clock dedication it takes to raise healthy and happy turkeys.
Visiting the Plemmons’ farm was truly inspiring. Their commitment to transparency and to feeding families food they’re proud of shines through in everything they do. It was so great to be able to meet the people who care for and grow the food I eat every day.
In addition to meeting the Plemmons’ and learning about their farm, I also got to meet some amazing food bloggers! Cara from Caramelized, Jessy from The Life Jolie, Jess from Plays Well With Butter, Chrissy from The Taylor House, and Jessica from Fantabulosity. Getting to hang out with other food-loving entrepreneurial women was just so much fun. The whole experience was amazing and I feel so blessed and lucky to have been able to go!