This Smoky Bacon Wrapped Turkey is the mother of all roasted turkeys. Saying it's over-the-top might be an understatement, and it will surely bring your Thanksgiving and/or Christmas feast to the next level!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's the combination of amazing food and family for me.
This Bacon Wrapped Turkey recipe is one of our Thanksgiving food traditions and we never tire of it.
There are many bacon wrapped turkey recipes, but this one is not about eating the bacon. It's about the bacon being a magical basting ingredient for the turkey. And in this case, on top of an incredible basting butter that includes a delicious combination of fresh herbs and spices.
Ingredients You'll Need
- turkey - You can buy a fresh or frozen turkey. Either way, choose a natural turkey, which will not have additives or preservatives, and one with a well-rounded breast, which will likely be juicy. The best way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. You should figure about 1 day in the refrigerator per 4 pounds.
- bacon - You can use any bacon you like. I use applewood smoked because I love the flavor and the touch of added sweetness.
- butter - Be sure it's unsalted. This way you can better control the flavor of the final results.
- smoked paprika - Any paprika is okay, but the smoked variety adds a touch of extra smokiness that goes so well with all of the flavors working together here.
- garlic - Look for firm heads of garlic without any soft spots or green shoots, which is an indication of old garlic.
- lemon juice - If you can get your hands on a Meyer lemon, do it, but any lemon is okay.
- fresh rosemary
- fresh sage
- fresh thyme
Equipment You'll Need
- roasting pan with a roasting rack (or you can make a DIY roasting rack-- see below image and instructions)
- butcher's twine to truss the turkey
- basting brush
- meat thermometer
- heat resistant silicone kitchen gloves or large kitchen tongs (this is especially helpful with a larger turkey)
How to Make a DIY Roasting Rack
- Roll a few large pieces of foil into tight cylinders and place them a few inches apart, horizontally, across the middle the pan. You can make as many as you need, depending on the size of your turkey and pan.
And here is a great guide for a few other DIY roasting rack methods from Cook's Illustrated.
How to Make Bacon Wrapped Turkey: Step-by-Step
Step 1: If possible, brine the turkey first, the day before — or two days if you’re starting with frozen turkey. (Here’s my favorite turkey brine recipe of all time.)
Step 2: Prepare a large roasting pan with a raised rack and add about a cup of water to it. Then preheat the oven to 500°F and adjust a rack to a low shelf so your roasting pan and turkey will easily fit.
Step 3: Make compound butter by combining softened butter with paprika, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme and lemon juice.
Step 4: 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.
Step 5: Rub all but about 2 tablespoons of the compound butter under the skin.
Step 6: Truss the turkey with butcher’s twine. Here's How to Truss a Turkey.
Step 7: Place the turkey, breast side up on the roasting rack and into the oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes.
Step 8: After 15 minutes, use a basting brush to spread the rest of the butter on the turkey's surface.
Step 9: Continue to roast until the skin is golden, about 10 more minutes. Then remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F.
Step 10: Gently turn the turkey over so the breast side is down on the rack. (Yes, this is tricky with a big bird, which is why you might want to use heat resistant kitchen gloves (see above equipment list). Cover the entire back of the turkey with bacon strips, using rosemary sprigs to hold them in place if they’re slipping.
Step 11: Return the turkey to the oven, as it is, breast side down, and roast until the internal temperature is 155°F. (The final internal temperature will be about 165°F, 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 for this size turkey.
Step 12: Remove the bacon and add it to your serving platter (if desired). Place the turkey slices over the bacon as you carve. (Wait at least 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle).
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- This recipe is for a 12 pound turkey. The general rule of thumb when you're buying a turkey, is 1 pound per person. (Remember each person won't eat a pound of meat! The weight includes bones and everything.) You should purchase your turkey only one to two days before you plan to brine and/or cook it, and keep it stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to pop it in the oven.
- If you've made your compound butter ahead of time, be sure to set it out a few hours before you're ready to roast the turkey, so that it's room temperature.
- If you don't brine your turkey before making this recipe, season the butter mixture with salt and pepper to taste. (Here's How to Season to Taste.)
- If you're working on a wood cutting board, it's a good idea to place a piece or two of wax or parchment paper under the raw turkey while you're prepping it. (Bacteria can get trapped in scratches or grooves in the wood.)
- A microplane zester is the best way to easily mince garlic.
- Do not use turkey bacon! It will not be the same.
- Wrap the tips of the wings in foil so they don't char. (I usually do this after the initial 15 minutes of the roasting time.
- Don't skip trussing the turkey. It helps it stay juicier and hold its shape for a pretty presentation.
- Be certain that when checking the internal temperature, to have the thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey, the breast. It's easy to do this, even with the back side up since there's space between the part of the breast and the rack.
- If your turkey is getting too brown before it has finished cooking, cover it loosely with foil.
What does wrapping the turkey in bacon do?
Covering the turkey with bacon is brilliant. This "trick" serves as an automatic baster -- and adds an insanely delicious smoky flavor to the turkey as it very slowly seeps into every nook and cranny.
The bacon is delicious to eat along with the turkey -- but it's much more about what it does during the cooking process than eating it.
Why should you brine the turkey?
- If time permits, I highly recommend brining. When roasting a whole turkey, it's a great way to add moisture and flavor, and will help keep it from drying out.
Can you Brine a Frozen Turkey
- Yes, you can actually thaw and brine a frozen turkey at the same time. If you do this, the brining time should be close to 48 hours.
Make this scrumptious Thanksgiving Bacon Wrapped Turkey! Everyone at the table will be totally wowed. And that's a promise.
Since Thanksgiving is such a busy cooking day, here's a timeline to help you out . . .
This timeline is for roasting a turkey that is approximately 12-pounds. Roasting times will change based on the weight of your turkey.
At least 24 hours ahead of time: If desired, brine the turkey. I highly recommend it! (The turkey will be removed from the brine after at least 18 hours.)
Up to 5 days and at least 3 hours ahead of time: Make the butter portion of the recipe.
About 3 ½ hours ahead of serving time: Begin roasting and assembling the turkey with the bacon.
I hope you find this turkey as amazing as my family and I do!
More Thanksgiving recipes:
- Show-Stopping Thanksgiving Appetizers
- Cornbread Stuffing with Caramelized Onions
- Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes
- Hazelnut Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts
- Baked Rosemary Sweet Potato Slices
- Pecan-Orange Green Beans
- Pecan Crusted Caramel Pumpkin Pie
- Butternut Squash Pie with Nut Crust
Smoky Bacon Roasted Turkey Recipe
For the butter mixture
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, washed and dried
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves washed and dried
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme washed and dried
- 1½ tablespoons lemon juice
For the turkey
- 1 approximately (12-pound) turkey
- about 12 strips bacon
- about 10 small and strong fresh rosemary sprigs, washed and dried
- If you're brining your turkey, it must be brined before you begin the remainder of the steps, about 18 hours ahead. (Brine recipe and instructions are here.)
- Set the oven and prepare the pan. Preheat the oven to 500°F and adjust a rack that will fit your roasting pan and turkey. The rack will likely need to be towards the bottom of the oven. Then prepare a large roasting pan with a raised rack, and add about a cup of water to the bottom of it.
For the butter mixture
- Make compound butter by combining the softened butter with the paprika, garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme and lemon juice. Set aside.
For the turkey
- Prepare the turkey and add the butter to it. 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 2 tablespoon of the compound butter under the skin, being careful to leave it intact. Set the remaining butter aside.
- Truss the turkey. Truss the turkey with butcher's twine. Trussing the turkey helps it stay juicier, and helps it hold its shape for a pretty presentation. Here's How to Truss a Turkey.
- Begin roasting. Place the turkey, breast side up, on the roasting rack and into the oven. 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 golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Then remove from it the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F.
- Turn the turkey and add the bacon. Gently turn the turkey over so the breast side is down on the rack. (Yes, this is tricky with a big turkey -- you might want to use heat resistant gloves or hold each end with paper towels for a better grip.) Cover the back and sides of the turkey with the bacon strips, using rosemary sprigs to hold them in place if they're slipping.
- Continue roasting. Return the turkey to the oven (as it is, breast side down) and roast until the internal temperature is 155°F. The final internal temperature will be about 165°F, 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 loosely with foil.
- Rest the turkey, carve and serve. 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.
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