The Secret to A Moist and Flavorful Turkey

How many of you have stuffed and roasted a big, beautiful turkey only to have it come out dry and tasteless?  You know…when you ask how it is and everyone just smiles and nods while chewing as hard as they can.  You see them try and swallow that big lump of dry poultry, hoping they don’t choke and you have to give them the Heimlich.  Yeah, been there…

So what’s the big secret?  Butter. And to make it really special, a compound or seasoned butter.  What is a compound butter, you say?  A compound butter is a butter that is seasoned with herbs and spices.  You can use fresh or dried herbs, citrus zest, aromatic vegetables such as onion and garlic and your favorite spices.  The great thing about a compound butter is that you can add any flavor profile you want.

Seasoned butters are easy to make, and add so much flavor to any number of dishes.  I usually make a large amount and freeze it, then slice off what I need as I need it.  This recipe makes a pound of seasoned butter, but smaller amounts are just as easy to make. I used a food processor for this, but only because I was using a lot of fresh herbs, was in a lazy mood and did not feel like chopping the herbs by hand.  If you are doing a butter with just dried herbs or spices, its easy to make it by hand.

My friend Holland has a wonderful herb garden and she was cutting the last of her summer herbs.  I got a huge variety of herbs; lemon basil, thyme, rosemary, two types of oregano, savory, sweet basil and lemon thyme.  My car smelled so good when I drove home!  She lives close to me, so I almost took a detour just so I could keep that incredible fragrance in my car!

Assorted fresh herbs
Assorted fresh herbs

With the holidays right around the corner I knew those herbs would make some great compound butter.

The key to a compound butter is to make sure your butter is softened.  Not melted, just softened.  You want all the ingredients you are using to be evenly distributed in the butter.  Be flexible with your ingredients, and don’t worry about exact measuring.  Add a little of this, a little of that and TASTE! Then adjust your ingredients as needed. I have included approximate measurements so you have a basic idea of the amounts needed to make a good seasoned butter.

Fresh Herb Compound Butter

About 1 cup fresh herbs of your choice, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil

1 lb butter, softened

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Strip the leaves of your herbs from the stem, and place them into the bowl of a food processor.  The thyme I used was so tender and fresh the stems were not woody, so I didn’t worry if I got a bit of stem in the processor.  But if the stem is woody, be sure to strip the leaves off.  You can keep the stems for seasoning stocks if you wish.  Just wrap them tightly and throw them in the freezer.

Fresh herbs in processor
Fresh herbs in processor

Chop the herbs roughly in the processor.  Add the butter and process until smooth.  You will have to stop the processor a few times, and scrape down the sides.

Roughly chopped herbs and butter in processor
Roughly chopped herbs and butter in processor

The butter will be soft and smooth when done.

Finished butter in processor
Finished butter in processor

Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. If you don’t have parchment, use wax paper.  Scrape the butter out of the bowl, and put it in the bottom 1/3 of your parchment.  I used a rolled parchment, so I needed to weight it down to stop it from rolling back up on me.  That is why you see my pepper grinder in the picture.

Finished butter ready to be rolled in parchment paper
Finished butter ready to be rolled in parchment paper

Fold the short end of the parchment over the butter tightly, and begin smoothing the butter out while shaping it into a log.  Press firmly but gently on the parchment so any air bubbles are smoothed out.  Pull back on the parchment that is folded over the butter to tighten and compress the butter.

Shaping butter into a roll in parchment paper
Shaping butter into a roll in parchment paper

Roll the butter up completely in the parchment paper, and fold the ends to close it.  If it’s not perfectly round, don’t worry!  It will still taste good, and that’s whats important.  The cylindrical shape just makes it easier to cut when it is frozen.  Kind of like a tube of cookie dough.

Butter rolled up in parchment paper
Butter rolled up in parchment paper

Place the roll in the refrigerator to firm the butter up, and it is ready to use.  If you wish to freeze it, wrap it in a couple layers of plastic wrap. When you want to use it, just unwrap the frozen butter, and cut off slices with a sharp knife.  Then re-wrap and put it back in the freezer.

To make your Thanksgiving turkey moist and flavorful, rub your compound butter all over your turkey.  Lift the skin of the turkey and rub some butter directly on the meat, especially the breast area.  I even rub the inside of my turkey before I place my aromatic vegetables in the cavity. Then roast your turkey slowly in a 200 – 250 degree oven, basting often with the drippings.

You can use the butter for flavoring other dishes too.

  • Melt the butter over pasta, add some grated parmesan cheese and toss
  • Place a teaspoon or so of butter on top of baked or grilled chicken breast or salmon
  • Place a tablespoon or so on a grilled or broiled steak
  • Melt some butter on your steamed or sauteed vegetables for extra flavor
  • Use a seasoned butter to make garlic bread

Whatever you make with your butter, enjoy it and be sure to experiment with different flavors.

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista

9 thoughts on “The Secret to A Moist and Flavorful Turkey”

  1. Just getting my winter herb garden up to speed and this recipe will be a perfect use for those trimmed off shoots.

  2. I am all about the butter too! I always slide it under the skin and rub it on the outside as well 🙂
    That butter is great on chicken and steak as well 🙂 (for hubby)
    Thanks for all the great pictures!!!

  3. I do so believe in a butter/herb rub but I mix it with olive oil placing a good amount under the skin on the breast and wrap the breast completely in cheese cloth .. moist everytime..juices runs out with each slice…

  4. Injections…nice! And I so agree with using a brine. I brine my turkeys also, though I did not mention that in the post. Was saving that for a turkey roasting post!

  5. I’ve taken similar butter and herb combinations and melted them, then injected it between the skin and flesh of the bird, also injected it into several areas of the breast meat, and between the wings, thighs and legs too. Also, another way is to brine the turkey in a salt and beer brine for several days. Talk about moist!

  6. I don’t know Cheryl — I roasted a turkey yesterday, it was a damn fine turkey and there was no butter involved! I’m going to post it on my blog sometime this week. This compound butter does look fantastic though — would be great on a steak!

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