Culinary Waves: The perfect Thanksgiving turkey

Nov 15, 2019 by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson

Not everyone gets to return to their roots for the holidays, but you can bring your roots to the yacht and turn your Thanksgiving into one to remember. 

If you are preparing the meals on board this Thanksgiving, consider this easy turkey recipe. It’s a foolproof recipe that will cook your turkey beautifully, and you will not have to worry about whether the breast meat is dried out when you start carving. And it will leave you more time to just enjoy the holiday.

Meanwhile. let’s not forget those in need. Not everyone will have a nice meal or a place to go for the holidays. If you can contribute canned goods or a turkey to a local shelter, please do. Think of others, enjoy your family and friends,  and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


  • One 12- to 15-pound turkey (remove the giblets and neck, and save for gravy)
  • 1 pound butter
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • cheesecloth
  • 1 bottle dry Chardonnay


  • Wash and pat dry the turkey.
  • Place on roasting rack.
  • Stuff the cavity with whatever you like – stuffing, apples, onions, oranges, carrots, and bundle of fresh seasonings such as thyme.
  • Melt the butter and add the chicken stock, Chardonnay, and any seasoning you like. 
  • Dip the cheesecloth in the chicken stock, making sure it is very wet. Drape it over the turkey. Make sure the entire breast is covered.
  • Place in a 325 F oven (13 minutes per pound). 
  • Baste the turkey often, about every 20 minutes, really covering the cheesecloth so it won’t dry out. 
  • Using a thermometer, check the temperature of the turkey in the deepest part – preferably near the bone – and also check the breast. You don’t want the breast to exceed 160 F. 
  • Once the turkey reaches the desired temperature of 155 F to 160 F, remove from the oven and let it rest 15 minutes before carving. 

If using a frozen turkey, it will require 50% longer cooking times. Defrosting a 15-pound turkey will take approximately 3 days, and a 20-pound turkey about 4 days. 

If you spatchcock the turkey – which means removing the back bone and splaying it out face-down on a roasting pan – it cooks quicker. 

To get an approximate cooking time for your turkey, the general rule of thumb is 13 minutes per pound. So, for example, a 14-pound turkey will take about 3 hours or so to cook.

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine, and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments are welcome below.


About Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years.

View all posts by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson →