Recipe Idea: Easy Turkey

Having the most frugal grocery budget in the world isn’t going to help you any if you can’t put together at least a few healthy, tasty, and cheap eats! Every month, The Outlier Model features a cheap recipe idea, along with the cost breakdown.

Brian and I stocked up on turkey while it was cheap back at Christmas.  We cleared out our freezer a week before the holidays and when turkeys went on sale, we got two.  If I still had my deep freeze, I probably would have grabbed more!  Buying turkey is a great way to get a good source of protein for cheap.  It’s also a good “batch cooking” project because one bird provides enough meat for many, many meals with very little effort.  Many people are intimidated at the thought of cooking a turkey, but it really isn’t that hard.  Here’s how you do it:

Roast Turkey

  • turkey ($10-15)
  • 1/3 cup butter ($1)
  • salt and pepper (< $0.10)
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoning mix ($0.30 based on availability in bulk for ~$2.99 for a giant container)
  • root vegetables ($2)

Ensure that the turkey is thaw by taking it out of the freezer a night or two before the day you intend on cooking.

On the morning of the day you are cooking, wash the turkey in room temperature water and set aside the neck and organs for gravy.  Set out butter for softening.

When you are ready to begin, mix the butter and seasoning together along with a bit of salt and pepper.  The butter should be malleable, but still solid.  Place the turkey on a flat surface, such as a large plate.  Using a spatula or flat plastic spoon, gently lift the skin from the bird, starting at the breast.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands!  As you loosen the skin, spoon the butter mixture underneath the skin. If you are careful, you should even be able to force the butter into the thighs and drumsticks.  Once the turkey is well buttered (you should be able to see the herbs and spices through the skin!) take the remaining butter and smear it liberally over top the skin.  Finally, sprinkle a bit of salt into the turkey cavity.

In your roasting pan, toss in a few large pieces of potato, carrot and onion.  Do not overfill the bottom though, otherwise your turkey will not cook well.  I try to leave 1-2 inches of space between anything I toss in the bottom of the pan.  Place your bird on top.  If you have a roasting rack, even better!

Preheat your over to 375F.  While it’s heating, wrap the wing tips and drumstick ends of your turkey in tinfoil.  This will help prevent burning.  Then, cover the entire roasting pan in tinfoil.  Make sure there is space between the foil and the bird so that heat can circulate properly.  Then, pop your turkey into the oven – you’re almost done.

At this point, you can prepare sides or just chill out for a few hours.  Make sure you base your cooking time on the size of the bird!

Now, every oven is a bit different.  I like to say that things are done cooking when they are done cooking.  So about 45 minutes before your turkey is supposed to be done, pull it out and check it:

  • If you poke it, do the juices run clear?  The breast, the thigh, and the drumstick are good places to check.
  • Has the skin and meat started to pull away from the bones, especially on the drumsticks?
  • Does it look dry, burned and shriveled?  (hopefully not)

Depending on what you find, you should get a better idea of exactly how much longer you should be cooking your bird.  At this point, if it’s overdone – holy crap, get that bird out!  If you think it’s just done, pop it back in for another 15 minutes.  And if you think it’s not done, leave it for another 30 minutes and check again at that point. Brian and I have a good idea of how our oven behaves, but it might take you a few tries.  But when it’s done… Ta-da!  Easy turkey dinner.

Servings: Depends on the size of the bird.  Our ~10lb turkey will provide at least 20 meals by my estimation, and that’s not including soup!

Cost per serving: For the meat alone, it’s about $0.50 per serving, again probably less, especially if you include soup and meals that are not meat-heavy like fried rice.  After adding a bit of starch and veggies, you’re looking at around $1 – $1-50 per meal.

Frugal hack:  Use it all.  That’s the key to turkey.  There’s a lot of meat on each bird, so it’s important to make sure none of it goes to waste.  Make gravy, soup, sandwiches, fried rice, casseroles… whatever.  I also always make sure to freeze some so that I’m not eating turkey until I’m sick of it.

Feeling adventurous: I like to brine my turkey before cooking it.  To brine it, make sure it’s thaw the night before.  Put it in a large bucket and fill the bucket with 7-Up or Sprite and sliced oranges.  Leave it in the fridge until you’re ready to butter it.  The soda and citrus will impart some sweetness and moisture to the turkey.  Yum!

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