Thanksgiving Recipe: Smoky Paprika-Bacon Roasted Turkey

As you know from yesterday’s Cornbread Stuffing recipe, Thanksgiving is full of wonderful food memories for me — and it happens to be my favorite holiday!  After all, it’s all about food!

I go nuts with the turkey, and I love the entire process.  If time permits,  I highly recommend brining your turkey.  Brining will add moisture and flavor and will help keep the turkey from drying out.  My Thanksgiving turkey brine recipe is here.

Covering the turkey with bacon is brilliant!  This “trick” serves as an automatic baster — and adds an insanely delicious smoky flavor.

So go nuts!  Make this oh-so-amazing Thanksgiving turkey!

Thanksgiving Recipe: Smoky Paprika-Bacon Roasted Turkey

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 12


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 (12-pound) whole brined turkey (see how to brine your turkey below)

About 1 dozen strips applewood smoked bacon

About 10 fresh rosemary springs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and adjust a rack that will fit your roasting pan and turkey. The rack will likely need to be below the middle. Then prepare a large roasting pan with a raised rack. Add two cups of water to the bottom of the pan and set aside.
  2. Make compound butter by combining the butter with the paprika, garlic, herbs and lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. Remove the neck and insides of the turkey, rinse it inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Use your hands to loosen the skin on the turkey breast and legs. Then rub all but about 1 tablespoon of the compound butter under the skin, being careful to leave it intact. Set the remaining butter aside.
  4. Place the turkey, breast side up, on the roasting rack. After about 15 minutes, use a basting brush to spread the rest of the butter on the turkey's surface. Continue to roast until the skin is brown, about 10 more minutes. Then remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
  5. Gently turn the turkey over so the breast side is down on the rack. (Yes, this is tricky with a big turkey -- you might need to hold each end with paper towels for a better grip.) Cover the back and sides of the turkey with the bacon slices, using rosemary springs to hold them in place.
  6. Return the turkey to the oven (as it is, breast side down) and roast until the internal temperature is 155 degrees. The final internal temperature will be about 165 degrees, as the turkey will continue to cook for several minutes outside the oven. The juices should run clear and the legs should move easily when it's done. Cooking times might vary, but it should take about 2 hours. If your turkey is getting too brown before it has finished cooking, cover it with foil.
  7. Wait at least 20 minutes before carving (this allows the juices to settle). Remove the bacon and add it to your serving platter. Place the turkey slices over the bacon as you carve. Garnish your platter with fresh herbs.


When purchasing your turkey, allow about one pound per person. It's always better to get more than you think you'll need. Leftovers are the best!

You should purchase your turkey only one to two days before you plan to cook it and keep it stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to pop it in the oven.

The below timeline is for roasting a turkey that is approximately 12-pounds.  Roasting times will change based on the weight of your turkey.

at least 1 day ahead of time: If desired, brine the turkey. (The turkey will be removed from the brine after up 10 18 hours.)  My Thanksgiving turkey brine recipe is here.
Up to 5 days and at least 3 hours ahead of time: Make the compound butter.

About 2-1/2 to 3 hours ahead of serving time: Begin roasting the turkey.

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    • valentina says

      Patricia — it’s soooo good! Here’s the deal, you roast the turkey sans bacon, breast side up for the first 30 min at 500 degrees F. It’s gets a beautiful brown, crispy skin. Then you flip it over, coat the turkey back with the bacon, and finish the cooking. Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

    • valentina says

      Hi Mary, wine is not my area of expertise but I think Zinfandel, Pinot Noir or maybe even a Shiraz would be great with this turkey — the bacon and the paprika are strong enough flavors to stand up to a bold wine. Hope you try the turkey! :-)

  1. MissiL says

    Hi there. Have you or anyone ever cooked a turkey in the Ninja Cooking System? I just got one and have no idea what to do with it. We did ribs the day we got it and they were too juicy and didn’t have the crispy outer texture. My family wants me to do a small turkey in it but I’m afraid I might have the same problems. I really want to try this recipe for Thanksgiving and it would be nice to use the ninja so I have the oven free for all the other foods. What do you think?

    • valentina says

      I so wish I could help with this one, but I don’t have any experience with a Ninja Cooking System. Maybe if it doesn’t crips up like the ribs, you could finish it in the oven at a high temp, for a short period of time — just to brown the skin. Anyone else out there have one, who can help??

  2. Trinity says

    Hi! Thank you so much for this recipe! Just wondering if I’m supposed to remove the spice bouquet after simmering it or leave it in with the turkey for the 18 hours??

  3. Jeannie says

    Hi There! This recipe looks wonderful. I have a question. It says to turn the turkey over breast side down and wrap the bottom and sides. Does the top (breast side) of the turkey not get wrapped?

  4. valentina says

    Hi Jeannie! Correct, the bacon will not wrap the breasts. In the picture you see of the bacon-wrapped turkey, that’s back facing up. ENJOY! :-)

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