This wild turkey recipe from 'MeatEater' host Steven Rinella 'is your best path to the perfect Thanksgiving'

“This is your best path to the perfect Thanksgiving,” says Steven Rinella,  the host of the hit Netflix series “MeatEater” and the "MeatEater" podcast, of his favorite wild turkey recipe.

Rinella, an accomplished hunter, fisherman and a great-outdoors gourmand, is debuting his first-ever tome of wild game recipes with the release of “The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook,” available this Tuesday, Nov. 20.

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In the cookbook, Rinella shares 100 of his favorite recipes for cooking everything from small game and waterfowl to reptiles and amphibians. But seeing as Thanksgiving is coming up, he’s also got a few pointers for helping hunters and chefs keep their wild-caught turkeys moist, succulent and tasting terrific.

“If you don’t take the necessary precautions, you could end up with a dry, leathery mess,” Rinella writes.

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The below recipe, which comes courtesy of Shannon Harper, a personal chef and friend of Rinella’s, isn’t all that intricate — but it packs in a ton of flavor.

Keep reading for the step-by-step instructions, then try recreating Rinella’s go-to turkey dish this Thursday.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole wild turkey
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1½ tablespoons dried thyme
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons (reserve the rinds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 1 Vidalia onion, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh sage
  • 6 thick-cut slices smoked bacon (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Bring the bird to room temperature one hour before roasting. Rinse the bird with cold water, inside and out. Then dry it well – also inside and out – with a clean kitchen towel. (Ideally, let the bird sit in your fridge uncovered overnight to fully dry. This helps to get crispier, caramelized, and more flavorful skin.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Peel and mince 2 cloves garlic, then mash into the butter along with the thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  4. Sprinkle the bird inside and out with salt and pepper. Cut the remaining garlic heads in half horizontally and stuff them into the turkey’s cavity along with the lemon rinds, carrots, onion, rosemary and sage.
  5. Smear about half of the herbed butter all over the exterior of the bird. Leave no part uncovered — even the pope’s nose. Put the remaining butter in a saucepan or bowl on top of the stove to melt so you can baste the turkey while it roasts.
  6. If you choose to use the bacon, drape it over the turkey in the oven.
  7. After 45 minutes, baste with the melted herb butter. After 30 more minutes, crank the oven to 375 F and baste again. Baste with the butter every 20 minutes until the butter is used up, or the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 160 F. (To test the internal temperature of the bird, insert the thermometer into the fattest part of the thigh. For accurate measurement, be sure that the probe is not touching the bone.)
  8. After the turkey is fully cooked, place it on a cutting board or platter, cover loosely with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.

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From the book "The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook" by Steven Rinella. Copyright © 2018 by MeatEater, Inc. Published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.