US Thanksgiving Dinner 2009, Part 2: Roasting and Eating the Monster Turkey


(…or how Adam and I cooked a meal for 16 people -including a 21lb turkey- and survived)

Following up on yesterday’s post, the turkey has now been brining for about 16 hours, and it’s time to do the final preparations and get that thing in the oven. So after a morning of getting other things prepped, we got the turkey out of the fridge. This part was pretty easy, really. We rinsed it off, and stuck the aromatics from Alton Brown’s recipe inside. Then I just tied up the legs with some kitchen twine and tucked the wings under to prevent burning.

Just about ready to go in the oven.

Now, I was a bit wary of one part of that recipe – the only thing it coated the skin with was canola oil with no other flavourings. I was worried it wouldn’t make for a flavourful enough skin – and so I poked around a bit more. I ended up sort of combining two recipes – I skipped the canola oil and did a butter rub as per Food Wishes blog post. He just made it seem so easy!

I made the herbed butter (a bit of my own combo of spices) and rubbed it up inside the turkey skin. His video gives a great tutorial on how to do that – it really wasn’t too bad. I tried rubbing it on the outside as well, but it didn’t really spread out so evenly – so I rubbed it as best I could and then melted the rest and kind of poured it over the top. I got it as coated as I could, an stuck it in the oven. The only other thing I did was chop up some carrot, celery, and onion and stick it in the bottom of the roasting pan along with about an inch of water as per Food Wishes’ blog. This is probably the one part I wish I’d just skipped.

About 30 minutes in.

Into the oven it went – at around 2pm. I followed Alton Brown’s cooking instructions, though I was a bit nervous as they were quite different than other recipes in that he had you blast it at a high heat (500°F) for 30 minutes, and then reduce the temp to 350°F for the remaining roasting time, with some aluminum foil over the breasts to keep the skin from browning too much. According to most things I read was going to be 4 1/2  – 5 hours for a 22lb turkey. We’d planned on eating around 7pm, so we were right on track.

This is where we hit the first big snag. The “done” temperature for a turkey is 165°F, and we had a digital thermometer set to alert us. I’d even planned on taking it out a bit early, as apparently it will rise a few more degrees once you take it out of the oven. But after just an hour and a half, we were getting readings of 150-160°F. Huh? How is that possible? I kept thinking maybe the thermometer was touching a bone, or that I didn’t have it deep enough. I kept moving it around to different parts and got a consistent temperature. I turned the oven temperature down just a bit and assumed something must be wrong.

By the time some of our friends arrived around 5:30pm, parts were telling me it was 170°F. I’d kind of given up on paying attention to it and just was trusting it wasn’t done yet. I asked for some help from a few people who had done it before – and got the suggestion that we actually flip the turkey over and cook the last bit upside down. Luckily, he was also willing to actually do it. I’m honestly not sure I could’ve flipped over a 22lb HOT turkey on my own. Sure enough, the underneath of the turkey wasn’t cooking nearly as fast, and only showed about 150°F. Still, I turned the temperature down to about 200°F and let it continue to roast upside down. We finally took it out around 6:30pm and called the thing done. Covered it with aluminium foil and let it rest while we finalized the rest of the meal.

Flipped back to breast side up: DONE!

Speaking of the rest of the meal… our complete menu!


  • Cheese plate with havarti, two types of goat cheese, and crackers
  • Baked brie
  • Artichoke Toasties (toasted bread with a spicy mayo-y, artichocke filling)
  • Veggie plate with two vegan dips.
  • Vegan spinach dip with vegan brown bread (Contributed by our vegan guest, Angie)

Main Meal:

  • Salad (Contributed by the Neuman’s!)
  • Pine Nut Bread
  • Baking Powder Biscuits (straight out of the oven)
  • Turkey!
  • Macaroni & Cheese (Betty Crocker version)
  • Macaroni & Cheese (Joel’s version) – he thought he could one up my mac & cheese 😉
  • Mini Pot Pies for the vegetarians/vegan
  • Stuffing with turkey drippings (or dressing, as I guess it should be called since it wasn’t inside the turkey)
  • Vegetarian Stuffing (from Matt)
  • Vegan Stuffing (from Matt)
  • Zucchini (from Matt)
  • Carrots (from Shane)
  • Mashed Sweet Potato (from Shane)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Turkey Gravy
  • Vegan Gravy
  • Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce (from Mandi)


  • Sweet Potato Pie (from Emily)
  • Chocolate Cake w/Berry Topping (from Diana)
  • Pumpkin Pie (from Mitzi)
  • Ice Cream (from Mitzi)

I think that’s everything. Wow, what a meal. We had quite a bit of leftovers, but not as much as you’d think from all of that. In fact – today is Tuesday and I think Adam and I are finishing off the last of it for lunch. Whew.

The full meal.

In all, a fabulous meal and a truly great time with our friends. Adam and I are very thankful to have such a great group of friends, and look forward to doing it again next year!


A close up on the turkey skin, looking out to the dining room.



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7 Responses to “US Thanksgiving Dinner 2009, Part 2: Roasting and Eating the Monster Turkey”

  1. anotheryarn Says:

    We had almost the exact same problem with our turkey the first year we made one – we kept getting temp readings indicating doneness, went so far as to pull the bird out and let it rest only to discover pink meat when we started carving.

    • Cari Miller Says:

      Glad to know I’m not alone! Hopefully next year we can sort it out better. I think the turkey just filled up the oven too much – next year we’ll use the convection setting for sure.

  2. Rick Says:

    Great recap! What a delicious experiment — it turned out great, guys. Very delicious… and a fun story to go with it! Looking forward to next year — perhaps Carina and I will bring some Mac & Cheese to create a real challenge.

    • Cari Miller Says:

      Thanks, Rick! We really enjoyed it.

      And absolutely bring on the mac and cheese competition! Joel’s actually was pretty good 🙂

  3. Matt Says:

    Completely fantastic! I look forward to next year! Then with more side dishes!

  4. Life at No.71: A Year In Review « Life at No. 71 Says:

    […] 23rd, 2009: US Thanksgiving Dinner Part 1 & Part 2 After 2 years of going the Butterball cook-from-frozen turkey route, this year we decided to keep […]

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