PLUS: how to make great frozen turkey leftovers

Roast turkey recipe the traditional way. Photo/tuchodiThis roast turkey recipe produces a perfect golden brown bird that melts in your mouth.

This roast turkey recipe has been handed down in my husbands family for 100 years. It's the best turkey I've eaten. Tender, juicy and full flavored. A fresh turkey and basting every 20 minutes are the keys. Fill the turkey with onions, carrots, celery and salt and pepper to enhance the turkey's flavor.

Roast turkey recipes are abundant. Every one is different. Some exceptional some not. I make a big bird and double the stuffing and potatoes and gravy so I can make individual serving size dinners with my turkey leftovers. I wrap them in aluminum foil and freeze. Get home from work and put a couple in the oven. Sliced turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. It's all there.

Use a low fat stuffing recipe. Make your gravy with a fat free stock. Good leftover recipes are convenient and can save you money. My roast turkey recipe and turkey leftovers provide 5-7 meals for two people.

NOTES: The key to enjoying a good turkey meal with family and friends is a well thought out menu, enlisting the help of others and preparing as much as you can in advance. I make pies and side dishes the day before so that all my attention can be devoted to basting the turkey and making the stuffing and gravy -- and kicking back with family and friends to watch the football game and eating way too much.

Buy fresh, minimally processed, preservative free bird. Turkeys with an injected baste leave an aftertaste and tend to make the bird tough. My grocery store carries one or two brands of frozen turkey with no additives or preservatives and usually a never-been-frozen fresh turkey. Organic and free range turkeys are starting to show up as well. I've found that as long as the bird is minimally processed, it will roast well and be tender and juicy.

Never cook frozen turkey. It will cook unevenly, the outside will be burnt before the inside has a chance to cook through. A 15 lb. turkey takes about 2-3 days to thaw in refrigerator.

Before you bring home that 25 lb. turkey, make sure it will fit your pan.

CALORIES: About 400, white meat has less calories than dark meat.

Roast Turkey Recipe

This roast turkey recipe works because the initial high temperature seals in the juices and flavor while the remainder of the low temperature cooking time allows the meat to tenderize. Don't underestimate the simplicity of the recipe, start with a quality bird, don't muck it up with excessive seasonings and let the natural flavor of the turkey come through.

  • 1 fresh turkey
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oven to 375F. Prepare bird. Rinse inside and out under cold running water. Pat dry, inside and out. Salt and pepper lightly inside cavities and add celery, carrot, onion coarsely chopped. Fasten neck skin to back of turkey with a metal skewer. Fold wing tips under cavity. Tie legs and tail together with heavy string. Insert ovenproof thermometer in thickest part of INSIDE thigh without touching bone. Rub melted butter over entire bird and salt and pepper lightly.
  2. Roast uncovered in shallow roasting pan. After one hour turn oven temperature down to 300F and place a tent made of aluminum foil loosely over turkey to prevent excessive browning.
  3. BASTE - every 20 minutes with melted butter until enough liquid collects in bottom of pan to baste with, then use that. Baste quickly so you don't lose all the heat in the oven, this can lengthen cooking time considerably.
  4. Turkey is finished when thermometer reaches 180F, legs move easily when lifted and juices run clear. Even though my turkey comes with a pop up timer, I still use a thermometer and check the juices before pulling from oven.
  5. Turkey needs to sit at least 15 minutes to give the juices a chance to be reabsorbed. Cover with foil, set in a warm area for up to 45 minutes before slicing and serving.
  6. As soon as bird has cooled to room temperature, store turkey leftovers. Leave some in the refrigerator for sandwiches, prepare the rest for frozen homemade turkey dinners and freeze immediately for best flavor and quality. Use the bones to make killer broth for use in low fat gravy, soups and bread stuffing. Roasted turkey carcass makes the best broth.

Homemade Frozen Turkey Dinner

CALORIES: Around 600. If you use my dressing and low fat broth to make your gravy you can reduce calories by 100 or more.

Thank the Reynold's Wrap people for this one. A great use of their product, saves me time and makes my family happy!

For each individual serving size packet:

  • 12 X 18 inch piece of extra strength aluminum foil
  • 1/4 cup bread stuffing
  • 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/4 lb. sliced turkey
  • 3 oz. gravy
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  1. Center stuffing and potatoes on foil. Top with turkey slices. Spoon gravy over turkey and sprinkle dried cranberries on top.
  2. Bring up foil sides and double fold top and ends to seal packet. Leave a little room for heat circulation.
  3. Freeze immediately for up to four weeks.
  4. Bake frozen packets on a cookie sheet for 35-40 minutes at 450F. For unfrozen packets, bake 15-18 minutes.

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