By Barry C. Parsons

Recipe inspiration for me is often born of boredom. I think that’s why I became interested in cooking as a kid in the first place. This Thanksgiving recipe is a great example of trying to break the repetition of the same old turkey dinner.

Here in Newfoundland, dressing is king. Practically everyone roasts their turkey the same way their neighbours do: in a covered roaster, generously stuffed with the traditional dressing, a stuffing of breadcrumbs, onions and summer savory. Growing up, my family was no different, but these days I tend to host family holiday dinners most often, so I take the opportunity to bring different flavours to the table.

With several turkey days to celebrate in the waning months of the year, I try to buck tradition on at least one of them. This Thanksgiving dinner was one of my biggest successes to date. With locally grown, maple-roasted vegetables and little twists like adding a touch of citrus to the cranberry sauce, nobody bemoaned the absence of tradition. I’ve always thought it’s great to maintain culinary traditions, but maybe it’s just as important to create new ones; particularly when they are this delicious.

Lemon-Sage Butter Roasted Turkey, Courtesy of Barry C. Parsons,, St.John’s, Nfld.

The lemon-sage butter gets tucked under the skin of the bird, infusing its flavour directly into the meat while adding extra moisture, and ensuring a succulent, juicy turkey.

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
Yields: 8-10 servings

¾ cup (175 mL) butter
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh sage (or 1 tsp/5 mL) dried sage)
zest of one lemon
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
½ clove garlic, finely minced (optional)
One 10-15 lb (4.5-6.75 kg) turkey
1 small onion, or large shallot, cut into chunks
½ lemon
3 sprigs fresh sage

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. Beat together butter, sage, lemon zest, salt, pepper and minced garlic until well combined.
3. Loosen skin on turkey breasts and thighs by gently pushing fingers between skin and meat, taking care not to tear skin.
4. Using about 1 tbsp (15 mL) of lemon sage butter at a time, gently push butter under turkey skin until butter is all used up. Pat turkey to distribute butter as evenly as possible.
5. Heat onion, lemon and sage sprigs in microwave on high for 1 minute; stuff into body cavity of turkey.
6. Tie turkey legs together with butcher string; tuck wing tips beneath turkey.
7. Place turkey on roasting rack; roast, uncovered, until turkey is completely cooked, about 3 hours or until instant-read meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast shows 170ºF (75ºC). It is not necessary to baste this turkey.
8. Remove from oven. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving. (This step is essential for a juicy turkey; carving a turkey too early can result in drier meat, especially breast meat.)

Note: Individual variations in oven temperature may mean your turkey cooks faster or slower than suggested in the recipe. Trust the internal temperature of the meat more than your oven setting.

Tip: Preheating the aromatics helps them begin to immediately start infusing their flavours as the turkey roasts.

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Barry C. Parsons has one wife, two kids, one mortgage, and is a perennial student and life-long food obsessive. He is a full-time blogger at, a freelance recipe developer/writer and author of two cookbooks published by Breakwater Books. He’s been blogging family-friendly meals, home baking and entertaining ideas since 2007, with now boasting over 1400 recipes.