It’s time to talk turkey. Whether you’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for years, or this is your first time in the kitchen, this recipe guides you step by step to the perfect bird.

The recipe comes from Rick and Sue Duerksen, owners of Duerksen Turkey Farm in Mancelona. The Duerksens offer natural, pasture-raised poultry. Their birds live on 12 acres of fenced pasture planted with ryegrass, alfalfa and red clover. Read the story about the Duerksens and their Northern Michigan turkeys.

Now, without further ado, the recipe.

How to Make the Perfect Turkey

For the bird:

  • 1 20-pound fresh Duerksen Farm turkey
  • ½ stick unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • ½ cup water

For the gravy:

  • Reserved pan drippings
  • 2–3 cups water
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method (for the bird):

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove turkey from the package, rinse, pat dry and set aside. In a small mixing bowl fold together the butter, olive oil, sage and garlic, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Rub butter mixture generously over the outside of the turkey and beneath the skin on the breast. Stuff the onion, carrot and parsley in the bird’s cavity, and place the turkey in a deep roasting pan. Place bouillon cubes in the bottom of the pan, add the water and roast the turkey for one hour at 400 degrees. After the first hour of roasting, reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast for approximately 3 to 4 hours, basting with pan drippings every 20 to 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted into the deepest part of the thigh. Remove cooked turkey from oven, transfer to large cutting board, tent with foil and let the bird rest for at least 20 minutes.

Method (for the gravy):

Combine the reserved pan drippings with water to reach 4 cups of liquid. Transfer to a medium saucepan, and heat to a light simmer. Place turkey roasting pan over two burners on the stove at medium heat. Deglaze the pan by adding ½ cup of water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from the bottom and sides of pan. Add deglazed pan liquid to the saucepan with broth, reserving ¼ cup of mixture. In a medium saucepan, heat ¼ cup of broth mixture over medium heat and gradually whisk in ¼ cup of flour. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk constantly until mixture becomes golden.

Add the 4 cups of the reserved broth to the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Raise heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until the gravy thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to gravy boat and garnish with chopped sage. Carve the turkey and serve on a warm platter. Reserve carcass for soup.

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski