Food & Recipes

Sunny Anderson’s Perfectly Peppery Turkey Will Save You Serious Cooking Time This Thanksgiving

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Growing up in a military family, Sunny Anderson spent many Thanksgivings far from home, but no matter where in the world their travels took them, her family always celebrated the holiday with a down-home delicious Southern feast. “It created the feeling of home,” she recalls.

Over the years, the co-host of Food Network’s The Kitchen has kept up the tradition by offering her own twist on the holiday staple: Thanksgiving turkey. And when she’s not busy in the kitchen, you’ll find her spending the holiday “watching football, eating really good food, and being grateful — because there’s so much to be grateful for!” To make Sunny Anderson’s “Honey, Who Pecanned the Bird?” Turkey, follow the recipe below.

Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 cup kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, plus 4 to 6 leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1⁄2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 turkey, 14 to 16 lbs., thawed if frozen
  • 1⁄2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Coarse ground pepper
  • 16 oz. beer, preferably a pilsner 
  • 1⁄2 cup salted butter
  • 1 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika
  • 1⁄2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 1⁄4 cups pecan halves, coarsely chopped, toasted

Instructions

  1. In large pot, combine 6 qts. water, 1⁄4 cup salt, lemon, 1 bunch sage, thyme, and black peppercorns. Over medium-high heat, bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cook until salt is dissolved and water is fragrant, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
  2. Put turkey in a roasting bag, a large plastic bag, or a bowl large enough to fit (should still have more space to give). Pour in brining liquid; seal or cover. If there’s not enough room for all of liquid in brine, be sure to at least include herbs, lemon, and peppercorns in with turkey. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.
  3. When ready to cook, discard brining liquid and solids. Pat turkey dry with paper towels; place breast side up on rack in roasting pan. Let sit on counter until turkey comes to room temperature, about 2 hours.
  4. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using finger, gently release skin from turkey meat; insert unsalted butter pieces under skin all over bird. Season skin with salt and ground pepper. Put roasting pan in oven; pour beer into bottom. Lower oven temperature to 350°F. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thigh registers 160°F, 3 to 3 1⁄2 hours, basting every 30 minutes. Let rest 30 to 45 minutes before glazing and slicing.
  5. In large nonstick pan, melt salted butter with paprika, pie spice, and 4 to 6 sage leaves; once fragrant, remove sage. Add honey and pecans. Increase heat; when mixture simmers, remove from heat. Pour over turkey.

This recipe originally appeared in our print magazine.

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