Karl’s Thanksgiving Orange and Sage Roast Turkey

My original plan for this year was to get a small turkey (10 pounds) and to spatchcock it. I was planning to lay the turkey over the dressing so that the turkey juices would drip onto the stuffing. However, for the second year in a row, Whole Foods got my Kosher turkey order wrong. I still got a turkey, but it was 16 pounds—way too big to lay over the pan if I opened it up. I would have to go with a more traditional approach.

Karl’s Thanksgiving Orange and Sage Roast Turkey

Karl’s Thanksgiving Orange and Sage Roast Turkey

Note: Ever have one of those weeks where you are too busy cooking to write about cooking? Before I got around to posting this Thanksgiving recipe, my neighbor gave me a large bag of oranges to make my Christmas marmalade. Every year we make jam and cookies as give-aways for our friends and neighbors. If I’m making the jam, I might as well make the rum balls and peppermint bark.  Finally, if I am doing all of that, I may as well finish it off and make the biscotti.

Every Thanksgiving, the primary spicing of my roast turkey is always Bell’s Seasoning. It is what my mother, Claudia, always used and it says “Thanksgiving” to me. If it is not available in your area, you can make a close approximation with this recipe.

However, this powdered spice mix is only the beginning. I usually mix Bell’s with butter to spread under the skin. I also stuff the turkey’s cavity with other fresh herbs and usually some citrus fruit, so that fragrances steam the bird from the inside.

I am using orange juice for the sweet potatoes, so to tie the meal together I decided to using an orange on the bird. I will mix some orange juice and orange zest with the butter and Bell’s spice under the skin and insert the rest of the orange in the cavity with some fresh sage.

There is a constant problem in cooking a large bird, like a turkey. The lean white meat cooks much more quickly that the fat rich dark meat.  If you spatchcock the bird you can put the legs in first and place the breast in later in the cooking time.

Many of the avant-garde cooks recommend roasting the turkey breast side down to prevent over cooking the white meat. While this technique works it leaves your bird’s breast will large ridges from the wire rack. I usually prefer to simply cover the breast with aluminum foil to reduce the heat that reaches the white meat.

Karl’s Thanksgiving Orange and Sage Roast Turkey


1 Kosher turkey (14-16 lbs.)
1 orange

Seasoning rub

4 Tbs. butter, melted
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. Bell’s Seasoning
2 Tbs. orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest

1 small bunch fresh sage
1 Tbs. Bell’s Seasoning
1 can low sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz.)

4 Tbs. flour
4 Tbs. milk (or water)


1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.

2. Defrost, rinse turkey. Remove any remaining feather quills.

3. Zest and squeeze some of the juice from the orange, but do not discard the skin.

Tip: You want some of the zest and juice to mix into the rub, but you still want the rind of the orange to be juicy enough to steam the inside of the bird.

4. Melt the butter in a small bowl and add the rest of the rub ingredients. Mix it into a paste.

Tip: The olive oil prevents the butter from hardening into clumps when it comes in contact with the cool bird.

5. Use your fingers to separate the skin from the breasts and thighs.

Tip: Do your best not to tear or make any holes in the skin.

6. Rub about half of the seasoning paste under the skin, on the breasts and thighs.

7. Rub the remaining paste on the outside of the skin and inside the bird’s cavity.

8. Stuff the turkey’s cavity with the orange rind and sage.

9. Seal the bird’s cavity by stitching together the loose skin with toothpicks. Tie the legs together with string to truss the bird.

10. Dust the outside of the bird with the remaining bell’s seasoning.

11. Place the bird, breast up, in a large roasting pan with a wire rack.

Tip: The wire rack keeps the back of the bird from stewing in the pan juices and getting soggy.

12. Add the chicken broth to the pan and place the turkey into the oven.

Tip: The broth helps steam the bird in the oven and prevents the first juices released by the bird from burning onto the dry pan.

13. Roast the Bird for 20 minutes at 400º F

14. The breast skin should be well browned after 20 minutes. Use aluminum foil to make shield that covers the breast.

15. Insert a constant read thermometer into the breast near the wing joint and set the alarm for 155º F.

Note: Rule of thumb cooking time for a turkey is about 15 minutes per pound. This will only give you a guesstimate for planning your other dishes. Only a thermometer will tell you when the bird is actually done.

16. Reduce the oven temperature to 325º F and continue to roast the turkey until done.

Tip: Baste the bird with the pan juices every half hour.

17. When the bird is ready, use a turkey-baster to transfer most of the pan juices to a fat-separator and cover the bird with foil for 30 minutes.

18. While the bird is resting, de-fat the juices and put them in a small pot to make the gravy.

Note: During the resting time the heat and juices inside the bird will redistribute raising the internal temperature to 165º F

19. Mix four tablespoons of flour with some milk or water.

20. Bring the pan drippings to a boil and them remove them from the heat. Stir the flour mixture into the pot and return it to the heat.

Tip: Adding the flour mix away from the heat reduces the chance of lumps in your gravy.

21. Transfer the gravy to a bowl and the bird to a serving platter.

Note: I do not have a platter big enough for a large bird, so I present the turkey in the roasting pan and then remove the bird to be cut up and displayed in slices at the table.

Karl’s ThanksgivingTurkey carved

Karl’s ThanksgivingTurkey carved

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Filed under Holidays, Main Dishes, Poultry, Turkey

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