Smear Your Entire Turkey With Butter

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Most turkey prep is designed to compensate for its lack of fat, and therefore, flavour. Dry brining is the best way to season your bird from the inside out, but for the juiciest, most delicious meat, you’ve gotta add some fat — and there’s no better fat than butter.

This is one of those “does what it says on the tin” techniques. Just soften a stick of butter (or two, if your turkey is bigger than 7kg) and massage it over every square inch of turkey right before roasting.

Really go for it: The skin is important, but don’t neglect the cavity, and be sure to get as much butter under the skin as you possibly can. Unsurprisingly, I prefer salted butter, but unsalted is fine, especially if you went hard on the dry brine this year.

Plain butter is great and all, but this Christmas is going to be a the feast of feasts. A quick compound butter still keeps your turkey nice and juicy, but imparts even more flavour as it roasts. Any of these would be great, but turkey is a blank enough flavour canvas that you can really go wild:

  • Fresh rosemary, black pepper, and a head or two of roasted garlic: Hard to argue with a classic.

  • Lemon zest, cinnamon, and sage: It’s Jamie Oliver’s milk chicken, but for turkey!

  • Miso paste and a little brown sugar: Funky, salty, sweet, and downright addictive.

  • Champagne vinegar reduction, tarragon, lemon zest, and shallots: Turkey béarnaise, anyone?

One thing to keep in mind: all of these mix-ins will burn in the oven almost instantly — unless you keep them under the skin. Add flavoring agents to just half of the butter you’re using, and save the other half for surface-level smearing. This produces deeply flavored meat and buttery, crackly skin, with no burned garlic to ruin the party.

Feel free to take this in any direction you like. You can swap out lemon zest for orange, use whole herbs for a pretty stained-glass effect under the skin, or even brown and cool the butter before mixing in other ingredients. Just don’t overthink it; when you’re basting meat with butter, it’s kinda hard to go wrong.


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