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Expert advice on preparing Thanksgiving

We don't often talk about food on Now with Alex Wagner, but in preparation for Thanksgiving we talked turkey with Sam Sifton, the author of "Thanksgiving: How

We don't often talk about food on Now with Alex Wagner, but in preparation for Thanksgiving we talked turkey with Sam Sifton, the author of "Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well."

The New York Times' national editor and former restaurant critic spent a couple of Thanksgivings manning the Times' help desk, where he answered questions from frantic cooks looking for advice on how to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Years of helping others prepare for the holiday led to this book, a collection of recipes on how to make the turkey (fried, roasted and smoke-roasted) and all of the necessary sides. (Remember, Sifton thinks appetizers should be off-limits on Thanksgiving.)

One of Sifton's favorites is a "simple roast turkey," a fairly easy recipe with big flavor. "The thing that I like about this recipe is that it gives the skin of the bird a remarkable burnished, awesome, golden color and leads to a gravy that is superior," said Sifton.

Here's the recipe. And start cooking!

"A Simple Roast Turkey," courtesy of “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well” by Sam Sifton

1 12- to 18-pound turkey, thawed, with giblets and neck removed

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered

2 stalks celery, cleaned and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin 

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 cup turkey stock or water

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse turkey and dry carefully with paper towels. Rub the bird inside and out with salt and pepper and place in roasting pan fitted with a rack. Rub 3 tablespoons butter over the top of the turkey. Place vegetables into cavity. Tuck the tips of the wings under the bird.
  • Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan with soy sauce and mirin (you can substitute a commercial teriyaki sauce for these liquids), add rosemary, and stir. Keep warm on stove, but do not allow to boil.
  • Pour stock or water into the pan, beneath the bird. Put turkey in oven and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 325 degrees and baste turkey with pan juices. After 30 additional minutes, baste again, supplementing the pan juices with a little bit of the butter mixture from the top of the stove. Repeat every 30 minutes.
  • At 325 degrees, the turkey will cook at approximately 15 minutes per pound. (If the turkey starts to get too dark, tent it loosely with aluminum foil.) After a few hours, insert a meat thermometer straight down into the fleshiest part of thigh, where it meets drumstick, and check the temperature. Do not let the thermometer touch the bone. Thigh meat should reach no more than 165 degrees, with juices running clear when you remove the thermometer.
  • When bird has reached desired temperature, remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes, covered in foil. Remove foil and carve.