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Make-Ahead Turkey Recipe: Guaranteed Moist and Stress-Free

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Wild turkey

Wild turkey

Great for Thanksgiving or Any Time

Are you getting ready to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another occasion? Are you fretting about how it will turn out—whether it will be moist and tasty or dry and flavorless? With only one oven in your kitchen, are you wondering how to roast the turkey and simultaneously prepare other foods that also need some oven time?

If any of these questions strike close to home, I may have the answer for you!

Upside-Down Roasted Turkey

For many years we hosted relatively large-sized groups of friends in our home for the Thanksgiving day meal. Back then, our kitchen had only one oven. It would have been a big problem had we not stumbled upon a way of preparing the turkey ahead of time: the upside-down roasted turkey method. Once we discovered this, we never returned to the old way.

When you prepare your turkey in this manner, you will not have a golden, glowing, plump-breasted bird being carved tableside for everyone to admire and drool over in anticipation of eating. But then you will also not have to fret over the moisture content of the turkey, nor the problem of juggling oven timing. Your work is all done ahead of time, and the turkey only needs reheating.


  • 1 whole turkey, thawed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon or more garlic powder, to taste
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 to 3 stalks celery, chopped


  1. Salt and pepper the bird inside and out. Add other herbs and spices if you like. We generally add some garlic powder and fresh sage leaves.
  2. Spray a large baking dish that has a tight cover with Pam or another nonstick coating medium. This will keep the turkey from sticking to the sides of the pan.
  3. Stuff the turkey with anything you like by way of flavoring the bird while cooking. We add onions, carrots, and celery, but anything that will add some flavor is a plus. Place these flavorings inside the cavities as well as alongside the turkey in the pan.
  4. Place the turkey breast side down in the pan with all the other vegetables to flavor the bird.
  5. Place in a preheated 275 degree Fahrenheit oven and cook 20 minutes per pound. That's it! The turkey will draw lots of juices when done in this manner.

How to Prep a Turkey

If purchasing a frozen turkey, make sure that you have allowed enough time for it to have thawed in the refrigerator ahead of time.

The latest theory about washing any poultry is not to do it because it can spread pathogens. Thoroughly cooking the bird should eliminate that problem. Be sure to wash your hands, sinks, countertops, and any utensils that have touched raw poultry well after touching.

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Storing the Turkey for Later Use

If the turkey is being prepared well in advance, slice off the large pieces of meat, keeping most of it intact. Discard the skin, cool the juices, remove the vegetables, and remove the fat.

We store the turkey pieces in the broth until ready to slice and use. We have even frozen the cooked turkey in this manner in freezer bags for later use. Naturally, you can use the juices to make gravy if desired.

What to Do With Leftovers

I generally make soup as a project the second day after defatting the stock. I roast the remaining turkey bones and add the veggies used in flavoring the meat, adding other ingredients as desired.

Of course, the sliced turkey makes a tasty component for sandwiches, pasta dishes, and more.

When turkeys are priced low, as they are almost every year around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we like to put one or more into our freezer to make soups and other recipes later in the year.

I hope that this gives you an idea of how you also can prepare an upside-down turkey for Thanksgiving meals or anytime, for that matter. Let me know if you tried and liked this easiest of recipes. You may never again go back to the traditional way of roasting a turkey!

Health Benefits of Consuming Turkey

People have discovered the health benefits of eating turkey. It is available year-round in various forms. Turkey is often used to replace higher calorie or higher cholesterol-containing meats in many recipes. It is not only a good source of protein but is also a good source of selenium, tryptophan, niacin, vitamin B6, and phosphorus, among other things.

How to Debone a Turkey Leg

© 2009 Peggy Woods

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