It’s Thanksgiving and you need a memorably mouthwatering roasted turkey recipe. We’ve got one for you! This orange, anise and thyme roasted turkey, inspired by Savory Experiments, boasts big citrus flavor and the complementary meat-loving tastes offered by star anise, fresh thyme, and garlic.
This is the Thanksgiving turkey recipe that even the most critical holiday guests will rave about for months to come. We suspect they’ll even want to know your secret for creating such a succulently moist and flavorful bird. The tongue-tantalizing secret goes beyond the basic list of sweet and savory ingredients. This roasted turkey recipe is not only slathered—under the skin—with a garlicky citrus compound butter and stuffed with a heady combination of aromatics, it is also generously infused with fresh orange juice with a turkey injector.
Never used a turkey injector before? Once you do, you’ll never again roast a turkey or chicken without this invaluable kitchen gadget. A turkey injector (or flavor injector) is exactly what it sounds like: a huge syringe fitted with a needle filled with a tasty liquid. You use it to inject the liquid deep into the meat of the turkey for a sumptuously juicy, thoroughly flavored holiday bird. This recipe calls for orange juice, but you can also fill the turkey injector with your favorite marinades or other delicious liquid concoctions of your choice.
In addition to injecting citrus flavor directly into the turkey meat, the other secret to this scrumptious roasted turkey recipe is the offbeat use of star anise. Not a common Thanksgiving ingredient, this strong licorice-like spice is the unusual fruit of a small Asian tree; it’s picked before it ripens, and then it’s dried. It is also one of the spices in Chinese five-spice powder. As the name suggests, star anise is shaped like a star, each arm being a seed pod. The spice is available in whole star or ground form. The whole pods, as in this recipe, can be used to add their bitter licorice-like flavor, but small amounts of ground star anise are also effective in giving recipes a welcome licorice flair. Note: Star anise is not the same as its close namesake anise or aniseed, which similarly—but less pungently—tastes like licorice.
Fun ingredients and intentional flavor-boosting techniques make this roasted turkey the best you’ll ever serve.
One of the keys to crisp turkey skin is to start with dry turkey skin. When you pull the turkey out of the bag, it is dripping with moisture. This moisture can hinder the turkey skin from crisping up while roasting. Place the turkey in the roasting pan on the roasting rack. Use paper towels to dry the outside of the turkey. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 1 hour. This will help the turkey cook more evenly and shorten the cooking time.
Make a sweet and savory paste
In the bowl of a food processor, make a coarse paste by pulsing together the orange zest, garlic, thyme leaves, salt, brown sugar, and black pepper.
Make a compound butter
Compound butter is just a fancy term for softened butter that is mixed with other ingredients. For this recipe, the sweet and savory paste is added to softened butter to make an orange, garlic, and thyme compound butter. Place the softened butter in a bowl and mix in the paste until fully incorporated.
Butter up the turkey
Simply rubbing the outside of the turkey with butter, herbs, and spices is effective in making the skin taste great, but rubbing flavorful ingredients underneath the skin onto the turkey breast embeds flavors directly into the meat. Use your fingers to loosen and lift the turkey skin from the flesh. Generously smear the compound butter under the skin all over the turkey breast then rub it on the outside of the turkey.
Stuff the turkey with aromatics
Flavor the turkey from the inside out by filling the cavity with orange slices, red onion pieces, star anise pods, fresh thyme sprigs, and any leftover compound butter.
Inject the turkey with orange juice
Fill the container of a turkey injector with orange juice. Inject the orange juice into all areas of the turkey. This secret step will make the turkey meat drip with sweet citrus flavor.
Roast the turkey and let rest
Roast the turkey uncovered at 350°F until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F. While you’re roasting the turkey, rotate the roasting pan occasionally to help evenly cook the meat and brown the skin. If the turkey begins to brown too quickly, tent it with a piece of aluminum foil.
Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute through the meat. If you carve the turkey right after it comes out of the oven, you’ll see juices rapidly seeping out of the meat, leading to a dry slice of turkey. Move to a serving platter and garnish.
4 large oranges, zest and juice in separate bowls, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1-1/2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup butter, softened
1 orange, cut into slices
1 red onion, cut into 6 chunks
5 whole star anise pods
2 to 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Equipment needed:Turkey injector
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare the turkey by drying it with paper towels. Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
In the bowl of a small food processor, combine orange zest, garlic, thyme leaves, salt, dark brown sugar, and black pepper. Pulse until the mixture forms a coarse paste.
Scrape the paste into a bowl with softened butter and use a spatula to mix it until well-combined.
Loosen the skin of the turkey with your fingers. Smear the herb butter under the skin and all over the turkey breast. Add more butter to the legs, sides, and outside breast of the turkey.
Stuff the cavity of the turkey with orange slices, red onion pieces, star anise, thyme sprigs, and any leftover herb butter.
Fill the container of the turkey injector with the orange juice.
Inject the orange juice into all areas of the turkey.
Place the turkey in the oven, and cook until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F.
Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
Place the turkey on a serving platter. Garnish with additional orange slices and fresh thyme leaves.
Carve and serve.
Note: It is helpful to rotate the turkey occasionally throughout the roasting process to ensure even browning. If the turkey starts to become too brown, place a piece of aluminum foil over the the top of the bird.