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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Patricia from Fresh Food in a Flash
I'm inspired with your idea of wrapping the turkey in bacon. It looks really amazing! Do you miss having the crispy turkey skin when you do this? Do you ever remove the bacon at the end and then brown the turkey as the last step?
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! 🙂
Any ideas for a wine pairing with this? Everything is better with bacon!
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! 🙂
Definitely will be making this! My husband wants a "test run" the week before LOL. Maybe a big Oregon Pinot. Hmmmm?
Hope you enjoy it, Nancy. The whole process is fun and I'd happily have it twice in a week! 🙂
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?
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??
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??
Leave it in with the turkey! 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!
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?
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! 🙂
Bacon makes everything better, doesn't it? This sounds great! Next time we have a turkey (ahem, I am going in-American this year and having porch extra), I will make this version!
Thanks, David. It's super fun to make. I look forward to it every year. 🙂 Gobble gobble. 😉
David Scott Allen
Haha - I obviously didn’t proof my comment from 2015! Porchetta was what we had that year. This year, no turkey. But we did a variation two years ago (very closely following yours with a couple of exceptions) and loved it! Self-basting Turkey is right you there with self-defrosting refrigerators, and self-cleaning ovens! But better!
David, I love that analogy! Thanks. 🙂 ~Valentina
Do you think this will work in a Bradley smoker?
Hi Lauren, I so wish I could help you out with this question, but I've never used a Bradley smoker. If I had to guess, I'd say yes, and maybe removed the bacon after a couple of hours. Best of luck and happy Thanksgiving! 🙂
Oh. My. Yum You had my attention at bacon!
Thank you, Sara! Tis' the season!
This looks great. We are also brining this year. Excited to try. Happy Thanksgiving
Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! 🙂
Brining your turkey before cooking is a great suggestion, definitely helped keep it moist. Bacon wrapping also keeps it super moist. What a sensational flavour.
Thank you, Sara! Hope you try it! 🙂
I love the brine ingredients. Bacon wrapped turkey as well, but what about all the nice browned skin? Does the bacon make that not happen?
The skin still browns! You brown the bird, breast side up, at a very high temp, for a short time before adding the bacon, and reducing the heat. It's gorgeous!
My daughter made this turkey and the gravy made from the drippings was amazing as well!
Thanks so much Linda. It's become the one I make every year. 🙂 (Thanksgiving or not!)
This sounds intriguing but I am curious about the gravy...how do you deal with the excess fat?
Hi Staci, Thanks for writing -- If there's time before I serve, I try to separate the fat and any excess juices. I add the juices to the gravy. Then I let the excess fat cool in the pan and toss later, OR I save it for cooking other things. Enjoy!
We made this last year, without the brine (son had an unexpected hospitalization). I did get some of the butter and inject into the turkey. This was the first time I had ever made a turkey. It was sooo good. My husband won't stop talking about it and is requesting I make the same turkey again. This is definitely a keeper. Thank you so much.
Thanks so much, Karen! I so appreciate you taking the time to share this with me. I hope you enjoy it as much this year. (And I hope your son is okay!) Happy Thanksgiving - almost. 🙂
Can I ask why you turn the turkey over before the bacon because mine is already in the oven and I just remembered that it said to flip it over first?
Hi Brittany, I'm sorry that I likely missed this while your turkey was still in the oven.
The turkey is cooked initially at such a high heat, breast side up, to very nicely brown the top/presentation side of the turkey. Then, when the oven temp is reduced, and we turn the turkey over, (and coat the back with bacon), for the remainder of the roasting time -- it allows for the juices to run down into the breasts, resulting in a super juicy turkey. The breasts/white meat is often the part of the bird that gets too dry. It's this roasting method (and the brine), that will greatly help prevent this.
I hope your turkey was still delicious -- and now you have an excuse to have it again. 😉 Happy holiday season!
Christina | Christina's Cucina
This turkey is the star of the show! No getting upstaged by some fancy dessert or spectacular side dish! Love it, Valentina. Perfect for THanksgiving or Christmas, even New Year!
Thank you, Christina! It is a fun one, that's for sure. 🙂 xo Valentina
Yes to BACON! The turkey must have tasted particularly yummy and flavourful.
Thanks for all your tips! Whatever you can do to keep that turkey nice and juicy, right? Will definitely give this a go. Thanks so much for sharing!
David @ Spiced
I totally smoked a bacon-wrapped turkey a few years ago. It turned out pretty good except the bacon got a little too overcooked. However, the good stuff all dripped into the turkey, so the turkey itself was awesome. This post is totally inspiring me to try that bacon-wrapped turkey again. We've switched over to frying our turkey now. If you've never fried a turkey, then try that out! (Tip: Once you go there, you won't go back! Haha!)
Thanks and wow, I've never fried a turkey. I heard about how delicious that can be, too. One day. 🙂 ~Valentina
Dawn - Girl Heart Food
Ok, so you've seriously taken turkey to another level here, Valentina! Bacon wrapped? Whoa! Love that you used smoked paprika too. Such a yummy twist from a traditional turkey.
Thanks, Dawn. My dad usually make a big soup with the turkey leftovers. 🙂 I love when he does because it makes his house smell delicious. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
What a beautiful turkey all wrapped up in that crispy bacon. Great tips how to brine, I'd never done it. I love coming here to see what you're going to teach me next! xo
Thanks, Kim! I hope you try this -- especially since you haven't brined a turkey before. The difference is amazing. 🙂 ~Valentina
This turkey is a showstopper, Valentina! I've never considered wrapping turkey in bacon, but it sounds incredible!
Thanks so much, Marissa. I do admit it is indeed a show stopper. 😀 ~Valentina
Oh, my gosh, wrapping a turkey in bacon is genius!! As gorgeous and delicious!!!
It is! Thanks for checking it out, Liz. 🙂 ~Valentina
You had me at "bacon" and then you just had to throw in the smoked paprika - which means I will now be making 3 TURKEYS for Thanksgiving! Such a brilliant recipe Valentina - can't wait to make it!
Well now I'm wondering what the other two will be. 😉 Thanks, Nancy. Hope all the boys love it! 🙂 ~Valentina
Kelly | Foodtasia
Wowwwww Valentina, this is the pinnacle of Thanksgiving turkeys! How brilliant - automatic basting and such wonderful flavor!
Awwww, thank you so much, Kelly! Hope they indeed go gaga for it. 😀 ~Valentina
We prepare turkey for Christmas and I am pinning this for later.... absolutely amazing dear Valentina ! Thank you !
Thank you so much, Davorka. I hope you love it!! 🙂 ~Valentina
Super looking forward to trying out this recipe for Thanksgiving this year! Will be starting the brine tomorrow night, but I had a quick question: when preparing to roast the turkey, instead of putting 2 cups of water in the roasting pan, could you substitute 2 cups of the leftover brine, or would this be overkill? I was brainstorming ways to get the most flavor into the turkey as possible and thought this might work. Thanks for sharing this stellar recipe! 🙂
Hi Dylan, Thanks for writing in. 🙂 I love your thinking, but I wouldn't suggest this. The main reason for adding water to the bottom of the roasting pan, is that when it goes in the very hot oven, it creates steam, which helps brown the top of the turkey. The brine is super salty and even though the turkey will be on a rack, you don't want to risk it roasting in it. I hope this makes sense and I hope you love the results. I'm right there with you -- just made the butter and getting brine ready for tomorrow. 🙂 Cheers and thanks for being on Cooking On The Weekends, ~Valentina
Made this turkey for Thanksgiving. Brining was not a bit difficult, the baking of the bird was a bit tricky, temperature taking must be a tried and true art form, we don't get to host very often. The taste of the turkey was amazing, tender and moist from all the brining and bacon! The one complaint I got was that the honey and maple syrup make for a sweeter gravy. Thank you for the recipe - HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!
Hi Elizabeth, Thanks so much for writing in. I'm so happy you loved the taste of this turkey. Yay! It can be a bit tricky at first, but every time you do it, it should get a bit easier. I have a quick question for you about the honey and syrup, so I'm going to send an email. 🙂 ~Valentina
Hi! If my turkey is 24 pounds, do you recommend keeping at 350 degrees or rather 325 degrees? Some conflicting information on which temperature is best for a large turkey. Thanks
I would keep the 350. I usually roast a 22 pound turkey and keep the temperatures the same. Enjoy, and thanks so much for visiting Cooking On The Weekends. Hope you love this recipe. 🙂 ~Valentina
This is a gorgeous turkey! Love the bacon, but I also really love the smoked paprika. Beautiful photos.
Thanks so much, Mimi! Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving. 🙂 ~Valentina
I love turkey, so this bacon wrapped version looks super delicious to me!! I can only imagine how good it is freshly made and I bet the leftovers are equally as good on a sandwich...and now I'm hungry!! 🙂
Dawn, from what I've seen of your recipes, you would create the best ever leftover turkey sandwich. I'm sure you already have! Enjoy and thank you. 🙂 ~Valentina
Frank | Memorie di Angelina
We all know that turkey (especially the breast) needs some "help" in the taste department. And this recipe certainly does the trick!
Hi Frank! True the turkey needing some assistance so it's not dry. This recipe (brine included) definitely does the trick. Wishing you a delicious and happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 ~Valentina
Turkey is the main star of our Christmas menu so I will make this lovely version in December! Soooooo pinning!!!!!!
Thanks so much, Davorka! Hope you and your family love it! 🙂 ~Valentina
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
Bacon and compound butter! Count me in! This turkey method sounds fantastic. I appreciate all the tips you included, and especially the timeline. For me, if I'm cooking a turkey, it means I'm expecting guests, and figuring out timing for meals like that is always stressful.
Hi Jeff! Thanks so much. I too am only cooking a turkey when expecting guests. Never really thought about that. Wishing you and yours a very delicious and happy Thanksgiving. 🙂 ~Valentina
Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina
Such great tips for preparing a superb bird....love the aluminum foil 'rack'! All of those dishes sound delicious too, Valentina! Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi Roz. Thanks so much for visiting and for the comment. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 ~Valentina