Classic, No-Fail, American Roasted Turkey

Classic, No-Fail, American Roasted Turkey

This recipe draws inspiration from Native American culture and the harvest celebration for maple sap.

I found it in a local newspaper about 20 years ago and have used it ever since. It’s always delivered a moist, flavorful bird.


turkey in a roasting pan


The recipe is the work of Chef David Smoke McClusky, who is part Native American. It’s really simple. You just stuff it with a few ingredients. You don’t eat this stuffing. It just adds flavor to the turkey while it cooks.


Ingredients to flavor the turkey
You’ll find the turkey neck wrapped in paper inside the bird. Be sure to remove that and the package of giblets before cooking.


I recommend cooking your favorite stuffing in a separate baking dish, rather than stuffing the bird with it. That way, you’ll avoid problems with cooking the bird and won’t have to worry about contaminating the stuffing.


Raw turkey in a roasting pan
After removing the neck and giblets put the neck back in the cavity of the bird, along with some onion, carrots, celery, and a sprig of fresh sage.


Fresh or Frozen?

I always use a fresh turkey. Those that use frozen swear there is no difference in taste and that may be true. But using a fresh turkey is a lot easier to cook. The problem with frozen turkeys is you have to figure out when to put them in the refrigerator to thaw. Frozen turkeys usually take several days to thaw out and you have to time it so that it’s ready to cook on the big day.


Turkey with a bowl of maple syrup
The maple syrup adds a bit of sweetness and depth to the turkey flavor but is not overpowering.


To make sure your turkey comes out moist, don’t overcook it.  Baste it with its own juices about every 30 minutes. If you don’t have a turkey baster, buy one. This recipe also calls for basting the turkey with maple syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooking, which is a pretty simple thing to do.


Sliced turkey on a plate
You can add gravy to this turkey, but you really don’t have to as the meat is never dry.


When it’s finished cooking, let it rest for about 15-20 minutes before carving it.


Turkey slices with gravy on a plate


Get a good sharp knife, and remove one of the legs first; then slice out a breast and slice that into thick pieces. Thin pieces will dry out on the platter faster.


Sliced turkey on a plate
This turkey was fork-tender (no knife required).


If you’re not convinced or still worried about making sure your turkey is moist, try this trick. Prepare a gravy (see recipe for Sage Gravy, below) and then pour some of it on the serving platter. Add the turkey slices and pieces on top of that and cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

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Classic, No-Fail, American Roasted Turkey

November 12, 2018
: Medium

This recipe from Chef David Smoke McClusky has never failed me. It's always produced a moist and flavorful turkey.


  • Turkey, 16-20 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Onion, 1 quartered
  • Carrot, 1 cut into four pieces
  • Celery, 1 rib, cut into four pieces
  • Fresh sage, 1 large sprig
  • Maple syrup, 1 cup
  • Step 1 Set oven to 350 degrees
  • Step 2 Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Rinse the turkey, inside and out under running cold water and then pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Step 3 Season the cavity with salt and pepper and then stuff it with the neck, onion, carrot, celery and fresh sage.
  • Step 4 Put the turkey in roasting pan and cook for about 3-4 hours. Figure about 15 minutes per pound.
  • Step 5 Baste the turkey with its own juices very 30 minutes or so. During the last 30 minutes, brush on the maple syrup.
  • Step 6 When finished cooking, put it on a platter and let it rest for about 15-20 minutes before carving it.


Sage Gravy For Turkey

November 12, 2018
: Medium

Warning: This recipe is a little tricky, especially if you've never made gravy before. It's worth trying and if it doesn't turn out well, don't worry. You can always serve the turkey without gravy.


  • Hot water, 2 cups
  • Cold water, 2 cups
  • Flour, 1/2 cup
  • Chopped fresh sage, 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Step 1 Place the roasting pan on the stove and spoon off the fat.
  • Step 2 Pour in the hot water and place the pan over two burners on the stove. Bring the water to a boil, scraping the caramelized juices on the bottom of the pan.
  • Step 3 Turn the heat to low.
  • Step 4 In a separate bowl, add the cold water to the flour a little at a time until if forms a smooth paste.
  • Step 5 Gradually whisk in this mixture into the simmering liquid until the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Step 6 Add chopped sage and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Add salt and pepper.

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