Thai Roasted Turkey

I bought a large turkey on sale for $.47 a pound and stuck it in the fridge to let it thaw for a few days which gave me plenty of time to contemplate a recipe for the large bird. I like turkey but I planned on sharing the bird with my dogs, who refuse to eat dog food without human food on top.

My original idea was to make a bacon-wrapped roast turkey. But then I thought about the amount of bacon it would take to cover this mega large turkey and the expense of the bacon alone was a deterrent.

Then I began looking for Asian-inspired recipes. Ever since I was introduced to Korean BBQ I’ve become intrigued with Asian-style meats. Believe it or not, there are not a ton of recipes out there for Asian-inspired roast turkey. I did find a Thai recipe for roast turkey at Thai-Foodie. I found the recipe rather interesting as it called for cilantro stems. I can’t say I’ve ever used cilantro stems in a recipe before. Plus there was a ton of garlic in it and some good Asian sauces. All-in-all the recipe seemed very promising.


The turkey is rather easy to prep. You make a paste and rub the paste all over the turkey and allow it to marinate overnight. While I’ve made several roast turkeys over the year I didn’t remember ever rubbing anything under the skin of the turkey before. Which is not to say I’ve never done it; I just couldn’t remember. I found the act a bit intimidating at first because I had a hard time getting the skin up and away from the meat. But the more I persevered the easier it got and I felt very happy with my cilantro-garlic paste rubbed turkey. It’s an oddly intimate thing to rub a turkey all over under it’s skin. I’m glad I got over my initial discomfort because I swear the paste under the skin made all the difference.

I have no idea how long this turkey took to roast because I waited for the built in thermometer to pop up and didn’t worry much about the time. I just kept brushing the turkey with butter every once in a while and pulled it out when the thermometer popped.

I waited a while to carve the turkey. More than 30 minutes. And it was still hot when I sliced into it. I’ve never carved a turkey before because the only time I ever roast turkey is for Thanksgiving and it’s always my dad’s job to carve the turkey. I do not believe I “properly” carved the turkey, but I didn’t bother to research proper methods prior to slicing into it. I was too impatient.

Carving a turkey is an arduous process. I sliced the breast into very thick pieces out of laziness and eventually threw the knife and fork to the side and began pulling at the bits of chicken sticking to the ribs and the bones. I found myself dipping the turkey meat into the pan drippings and I’m sure I had turkey grease all over my face by the time I was done.

I kid you not, this is the best turkey recipe I’ve ever eaten. I can’t say it tastes distinctly Thai to me but it is distinctly delicious. I made about six cups of gravy using the drippings and I cannot wait to begin eating my way through this bird.


  • 1 turkey thawed, 20 to 22 lb
  • 1 head of garlic, skin removed from cloves
  • 1 c. cilantro stems, minced (use leaves if do not have enough stem; 1 bunch of stems was not enough for this recipe so I threw in some leaves as well)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (use white if you have it)
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • ⅓ c. oyster sauce
  • ⅓ c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. melted butter
  • 4 T. soy sauce


  1. Make the paste by adding the garlic, cilantro stems and pepper to a food processor. Puree until a paste is formed. Add the oyster sauce and brown sugar to the paste, and pulse to combine.
  2. Remove the neck and giblet pouch from the turkey’s cavity. Rub the marinade under the skin. Find the area of the turkey, where the neck and breast meet (where you just removed the giblet pouch.) Pull the skin up just enough, so you can stick your hand under the skin, and rub the paste all over the turkey up to the narrow end of the breasts. Push gently with your fingers if you run into skin that is sticking to get it to pull away from the meat.
  3. Turn the turkey over, and slip your hand in again to add paste to the back of the turkey up to the tail end and into the legs as much as you can. Once you’ve added all the paste to the flesh, pull the skin over, so the flesh is covered. Cover the entire turkey with the remaining paste and wrap in saran wrap. Let paste marinate on the turkey overnight in the fridge.
  4. The next day, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place the turkey breast-side up on a roasting rack pan. If the legs have a plastic clasp holding them together, keep it on. If not, tie the legs together with twine. Cover the wing tips with a bit of aluminum foil so they don’t burn.
  5. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes so the bird starts to brown. Meanwhile, mix the butter and soy sauce together in a pot and keep it on top of your stove. Remove the turkey from the oven and brush the butter mixture all over the turkey.
  6. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees. Put a tent of aluminum foil over the turkey, and bake for another 3 to 4 hours or so, depending on the size of your turkey while brushing the turkey with the butter mixture every 45 minutes or so.
  7. Once a thermometer put in the thickest part of the breast measures 160 degrees, the turkey is done. Or watch for the built in thermometer to pop out. Let the turkey rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

A note on gravy: I find that gravy recipes rarely turn out exactly as they should. I often have to add extra flour or even corn starch to thicken it up or thin it out with chicken broth or water. Don’t fret if your gravy doesn’t seem to be turning out at first try. It’s easy to salvage. If your gravy is too thin, add some more flour and whisk, whisk, whisk to get any lumps out. Pour through a strainer at the very end to eliminate any clumps of flour your whisk couldn’t obliterate. See basic recipe for gravy below.

basic gravy ingredients.

  • fat + flour in equal parts (you can start with 2 or 4 tablespoons of each)
  • pan drippings + chicken broth or water (start with at least two cups total)

basic gravy directions.

  1. While your turkey is resting, pour the drippings into a measuring cup and place in the fridge or freezer so the fat rises to the top. Once the fat has started to turn a bit solid, scoop the fat off the drippings and place in a bowl.
  2. Mix fat and flour in a sauce pan over medium high heat with a whisk to make sure flour is completely dissolved. Let cooke for a minute or two and then begin pouring the drippings and additional liquid into the pot. The mixture should begin to thicken. If it gets too thin, whisk in some additional flour.
  3. Pour through a fine mesh strainer if you need to remove any lumps.

Recipe rating: 

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