The Best-Ever Thanksgiving Turkey Starts With a Surprising Pantry Ingredient

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Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and the lead-up to the feast is all about choosing the right combination of sides (mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and rolls? ), selecting the right dessert for your crowd (it’s gotta be pie), and ensuring the turkey comes out of the oven moist, delicious, and gorgeously golden. Many people use butter to roast a turkey, tucking it both under and on top of the skin. While that is a tasty way, we have a better, simpler one for you: mayo. While you’re probably using mayo on your leftover turkey sandwich, have you considered using it on your roast turkey as well? The method gained popularity a few years ago, and celebrity chef, cookbook author, and Master Chef finalist Nick DiGiovanni was one of the first to introduce it to amateur chefs. We recently sat down with him to speak turkey—and all things Christmas cooking—and the unconventional manner came up.

The Best-Ever Thanksgiving Turkey

“I would say my family keeps the Thanksgiving meal fairly classic, although I’ve been roasting a turkey with mayonnaise for a couple of years now and I love it,” he told me. “I get a lot of strange looks, but I think it’s fantastic.” It imparts a distinct, almost creamy flavor to the turkey.” Mayonnaise is also easier to apply on a turkey than butter or oil. “The butter, if it’s melted, it’s going to fall off,” he explains. “If the oil, there’s not going to be enough on there, but the mayonnaise, it just perfectly coats the bird and you can see it.”

And DiGiovanni isn’t the only one who appreciates this approach. Last year, New York Times contributor J. Kenji López-Alt produced a mayo-roasted turkey for the paper, and none other than Kevin Bacon recreated it for his Thanksgiving dinner. They all agree that mayonnaise provides a lot of taste, keeps the meat moist and soft, and aids in browning. Furthermore, unlike slick softened butter, it is quite simple to apply. Do you still need convincing? If you search “roast turkey recipe mayo” on TikTok, you’ll find a plethora of videos with over 220 million views. To entice you, we quizzed DiGiovanni on the approach, so you’ll have all the tips and tricks you need if you decide to give it a try this year (and you should).

The Best-Ever Thanksgiving Turkey

We took notes while DiGiovanni waxed poetic about mayo-roasted turkeys. Here’s what you should know. Allow to dry. This is sound advice regardless of how you prepare your turkey before roasting. To ensure that the mayo, butter, or flavorings stay to the bird, first thoroughly dry it with a paper towel.Begin on the inside. Before you season the outside of the turkey, stuff some delectable things inside the cavity to flavor the meat from the inside out. Nick added butter, a half onion, large slices of lemon, and dill (or were those fennel fronds?) last year. Other delicious possibilities include carrots, shallots, parsley, thyme, oregano, and sage. Make use of what you like and what you have.

The Best-Ever Thanksgiving Turkey

Season the turkey or the mayonnaise. DiGiovanni suggests flavoring the turkey before rubbing the mayo on it, or stirring the seasoning into the mayo before slathering it on.Keep it simple—or amp it up. You can’t go wrong with simple salt and pepper, but because it’s Thanksgiving, you might want to kick it up a notch (or seven). To the mayo, add your favorite seasoning blend, fresh or dried herbs, and/or lemon zest for a little zing. Mix in some butter. If all mayo is too much for you, mix melted butter and mayo 50/50. You can also divide and conquer, like DiGiovanni has done before. “I’ve done some melted butter or just regular butter that I’ll shove under the skin in between the skin and the meat of the turkey, and then on the outside I’ll put the mayo,” he saidDon’t be afraid to speak up. This is not the time to be frugal. You don’t want the mayo to be very thick, but you do want a nice layer. “Mayo is great because you can see exactly where it is,” DiGiovanni explains. “It’s almost like putting on sunscreen.”

 

 


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