Bacon Wrapped Turkey and How I learned to Cook It

Thanksgiving, 1992, San Francisco, CA, my first away from home as a newly minted full-grown adult. I figured I would make the turkey, since of my 3 roommates, 2 were veggie, and one had no interest in taking on the bird. And so, I got us a huge frozen turkey that sat in our fridge for a few days befoere Thanksgiving.

The big day arrived. I went to the fridge and found that the turkey was nowhere near thawed. It was around 8am PST and our party started at 6pm. The phone (which had a very long cord, we for some reason didn’t have a cordless, and no cell phones yet) was dialed and Gran Fran came on the line (it being 3 hours later in NY, her turkey was well on its way. Must also mention here, that Joe was well out of the house, too, since he cannot be in the house with odor of the roasting bird.)

“Well, you’ll need to run cold water on it to get the ice to thaw. And, to make sure it’s ready to cook, you don’t want to give everyone salmonella.” (note: Gran Fran is very wary of all manner of undercooked food for fear of diseases.)

OK, so the turkey is huge, our sink is not. Into the bathroom I go with the turkey, dragging the phone through the length of our flat. The bird is dumped into the bathtub, cold water is run over it for an hour or so, and it is thawed. (Picture my two veggie roommates coming into the bathroom and seeing me wrestling with a gigantic turkey. Needless to say, as soon as it was thawed, I was back in the bathroom armed with bleach and tub cleanser to get all meaty-juices off the surfaces).

The turkey made it into the oven around 10am, plenty of time for it to cook through. I went about my business to make other dishes, and help get the house ready for our guests. We were dressed up and the house lit with candles just in time.

The turkey had a beautifully browned skin, the meat was moist, the side dishes were delicious.

But, I had forgotten one thing. The paper wrapped innards were still in the turkey cavity. Oy, this was a tough one to explain to the guests. Suffice it to say, the turkey had been cooked for so long that the innards had been cooked, too, no danger of salmonella. But, boy, what a discovery was made when that cooked white sack was found!

Luckily, we were mostly a bunch of out-of-towners on our first solo Thanksgivings, so all was ok, as long a the wine and beer kept flowing and the pies made their way to the table.

Now, 20 years later, I have perfected many a turkey, but my all time favorite is this bacon wrapped version. The skin is rubbed with brown sugar, sage and cayenne pepper. Spicy, sweet and wonderful. I did also use butter, which I don't usually do for poultry, but it really added a great depth of flavor. You can stick with just the bacon to moisten the turkey, but I have to say the butter added amazing flavor.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Bacon Wrapped Turkey

serves 6


  • 1 turkey breast
  • 2 turkey legs
  • 2 turkey thighs
  • 1 1/2 pounds bacon
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cayenne
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees f
  2. Place bacon on a rimmed backing sheet in a single layer.
  3. Bake bacon for five minutes, just until the fat starts to liquify in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Put the butter, brown sugar, cayenne, sage and garlic in a food processor and pulse until a paste has formed.
  5. Place the turkey in a large baking dish.
  6. Coat the pieces with the brown sugar mixture. It may not adhere 100%, but you should try and put some under the skin of the turkey where the flavors can really permeate the meat.
  7. Remove the bacon from the oven, let it cool a bit and then start wrapping the turkey with the bacon slices. If you have enough bacon, create a lattice by laying one piece of bacon over another to create a shell over the turkey. Don't worry about making it perfect, just try to cover the whole surface of the turkey. This helps keep the meat moist.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour. Check on the thighs after 45 minutes, they may cook a bit quicker than the breast.
  9. Remove from the oven, let rest for ten minutes, tented under aluminum foil, and then serve!