The Secret Ingredient to Make the Juiciest Thanksgiving Turkey

Add this one ingredient for a major boost of unexpected flavor and texture.

Traditions are hard to break. It's nostalgic to serve and eat the same holiday dishes every year. Yet we still want twists to pique our interest and awaken our taste buds, like maybe the Thanksgiving turkey gets a makeover or the pumpkin pie skips the oven. Now, your basic roast turkey can only divert so far from tradition, but we suggest one sneaky ingredient that brings so much flavor to the table and keeps the meat so juicy and tender, it might just become the Thanksgiving recipe you make for years to come.

That simple ingredient is—wait for it—pepperoni, which we consider as way more than a pizza topping. This Italian salami, made of pork and beef, is generously seasoned with black and red pepper, so it's no surprise it lends a punch of flavor to a Thanksgiving turkey (which, let's face it, has a tendency to be dry and bland). And when pepperoni meets butter in the food processor, and then gets slathered under the turkey skin to add flavor and improve texture for a very juicy turkey: magic!

It may be no surprise that pepperoni provides so much flavor—but you may not know there's a term (which originated in the 19th century) for this way of improving the texture of your Thanksgiving turkey: barding. For this classic culinary technique, lean meat is wrapped in fatty meat (think bacon) to retain moisture and prevent overcooking. In our case, the fatty meat is pepperoni butter, which surrounds the main-event meat (Thanksgiving turkey) and naturally bastes as it cooks. With the turkey skin providing a layer of protection, the meat stays juicy and flavorful while the skin crisps to golden brown perfection.

For this trick, first combine ½-pound of pepperoni slices with leaves from two sprigs of rosemary (about 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried) in the food processor until it almost turns into a paste. Next add ½-pound of softened butter (that's two sticks) until combined.

To stuff the pepperoni butter under the skin, set the turkey breast-facing-up. Starting from the neck end, slide your fingers under the skin to loosen and lift until you reach the end of the breast, being careful not to tear or totally detach the skin. Use a rubber spatula to help loosen harder-to-reach places, if necessary. Use the same technique for the thighs and legs. Next, gently rub the pepperoni butter evenly under the skin of breast, thighs, and legs; grabbing that rubber spatula to once again reach those hard-to-reach places. Pat down the top of the skin to help smooth out the pepperoni butter clumps and distribute it evenly under the skin.

We guarantee this technique will lead to the most exciting Thanksgiving turkey you've tried in years. Here are more tips for a smooth (and delicious!) Thanksgiving, including a list of the tools you need to pull the holiday off like a champ. And don't forget the pumpkin pie.

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