Butcher Struble on Roasting Turkey

Editor's Note: Our former head butcher at New Pi Coralville (now returned Ohioan), Tim - known on his raw-meat-filled Instagram (vegetarians probably want to skip it) as Butcher Struble - has something to admit to you, and you're probably not going to like it. But we don't like to hide anything, so enjoy this reblog from Tim, and then think whatever you want to think. But don't say we didn't warn you.


I don’t like turkey. I never have, and likely never will. I would much rather have a piece of cow or pig than an entire bird. Except for the skin. I’ll fight you for the skin.

Tim Struble
Tim Struble, New Pi Coralville's head butcher. Get the straight stuff on his personal blog,
Butcher Struble.

That being said, imagine my disdain when, attending my lovely girlfriend’s parents' house for Thanksgiving, I watched her dad (who is a pediatric ER doctor) remove all of the skin from the carcass before presenting a naked, nicely portioned carcass on the table.

I secretly ate some skin from the cutting board. I couldn’t help myself. I then had a piece of thigh (the only poultry part worth eating, in my book) and about four pounds of stuffing.


I know, however, that you – gentle web surfer – love turkey. You love the tradition of it, and I understand that. I do. To that end:

My preferred method of turkey preparation is breast down. You won’t have the same presentation of a big, bold, beautiful Norman Rockwell breast, but you will have a more delicious and succulent bird.

If you have a large crowd, get two smaller turkeys. It will be so much easier than one massive 35 pound bird.

  1. Begin with butter. A lot of it. Rub your bird; massage it lovingly. With butter. Copious amounts of high quality, grass fed butter. Get under the skin of the breast. Wriggle your phalanges under the skin. Really get to know your meal personally.
  2. Next: Salt. Good sea salt, all over the outside of the bird.
  3. Then: Pepper. Fresh cracked black pepper. Not too much.
  4. Now: Sage. Sprinkle liberally. This is the same herb likely going into your stuffing, so it will be nice to have some on the bird as well.

This is really all you need for a good, basic turkey. Roast it breast side down, in a relatively shallow baking dish, covered, or in a roasting pan. Just be certain to keep either tin foil or a lid over tweety so as to preserve the juices.

If you want to get fancy, add some citrus. Lemons, oranges, some rosemary. No lime. That would be weird. Also probably no buddha’s hand, and definitely not this.

As far as baking time… there are lots of ways to do it, but I’ll just go with some simple, direct times at 350°F. If you do roast breast-down, you can flip the bird over for the last 20 minutes or so and crank your oven up to 400°F to crisp things up. But for me, I’m all about flavor over presentation.

  • 12 - 14 pounds:  2.5 - 3 hours
  • 15 - 16 pounds:  3.5 - 4 hours
  • 18 - 20 pounds:  4 - 4.5 hours
  • 21 - 22 pounds:  4.5 - 5 hours

The farmers raising free-range turkeys for us at Ferndale Market tell us your bird is done when it hits 165°F internally (taken with a meat thermometer).

The most important thing (something my grandfather never did) is let the turkey rest. As with any meat you cook, don’t dig right in. Let it sit for a few minutes – up to 20 minutes for a larger bird. This will serve a dual purpose: you won’t lose as much juice, and you WON’T BURN THE SH*T OUT OF YOUR HANDS, PAPA – WHY DON’T YOU JUST WAIT YOU ARE CLEARLY IN PAIN.

Moving on.

3 thoughts on “Butcher Struble on Roasting Turkey”

  1. Dena S. says:

    How about some tips for spatchcocking? Trying this for the 1st time this Thanksgiving. Thanks!

  2. Tim Struble says:

    Turn the turkey's back toward you, legs up. Simply run your knife on either side of the back bone. Look for the difference in color of the skin as a guide. Once the back is removed, the turkey will be able to lay flat. This is all it takes to spatchcock.

  3. Lorele Thompson says:

    Hi, quick question. When they say 165 for the desired temperature for the turkey, is that in the thigh or breast? Usually those two areas don't reach 165 at the same time. I am putting it in the roaster for the first time. Usually grilled the turkey.

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