As a person who doesn't really love turkey and wishes we'd just trade the ol' bird for a beef tenderloin or a honey ham, bacon-wrapped turkey was a bit of a surprise to me. Bacon-wrapped turkey is the turkey for turkey haters. Wrapping a turkey in bacon is fun, taking some of the stress off of roasting a Norman Rockwell-worthy turkey and wowing your guests at the same time.
What's even better? Wrapping a turkey in bacon eliminates any brining, salting, or basting to make a flavorful turkey and creates a stunning, crispy "skin" — a welcome contrast to the tender turkey meat. And it's much easier than it looks.
Why a Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Is Better
I was skeptical of the idea of roasting a turkey covered in bacon. Would the bacon slide off? Would the bacon burn in the time it took the turkey to cook? And beyond that, would a bacon-wrapped turkey even be worth the effort? The answers are: "nope," "no," and an enthusiastic "yes!" A bacon-wrapped turkey is not just a fun party trick; the bacon creates a barrier of salt, fat, and moisture that keeps the turkey moist and seasons it as it cooks.
4 Reasons a Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Rocks
- No salting, no brining, and no basting required.
- Crispy bacon "skin" looks and tastes amazing.
- Bacon keeps the turkey meat moist.
- You can impress your guests with little effort.
The Bacon Butter
By buzzing some chopped bacon and butter together in a food processor, we make a flavorful bacon butter that helps season the turkey and hold the bacon in place. Rubbing the bacon butter on the inside and outside of the turkey also assures that every bite is going to have the salty, smokey taste of bacon. Don't worry about bringing the butter to room temperature before mixing; the food processor will do the work of softening the butter and bacon together. You can freeze this bacon butter weeks in advance. Just thaw in the fridge and then bring to room temperature before slathering on the turkey.
How to Weave a Bacon Blanket
Weaving together rashers of thick-cut bacon will be the hardest part of making this turkey, but if you made a woven placemat in elementary school, it really isn't that hard. Weaving the bacon in place on the turkey is not impossible, but can be messy and frustrating with poor results. Instead, make the woven bacon "blanket" on a piece of parchment paper and transfer the finished blanket to cover the turkey's breasts. The turkey's legs and wings can be wrapped in individual strips of bacon.
3 Keys to Bacon Blanket Success
- Use butter as "glue" to hold the bacon in place.
- Buy the longest strips of bacon you can find, for best coverage. Avoid center-cut bacon for this method; it tends to be the shortest cut of bacon.
- Weave the bacon strips tightly together to prevent shrinking in the oven.
Make ahead tip: You can wrap the turkey in bacon up to 2 days in advance and store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. Bring the turkey closer to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator 2 hours before roasting.
Roasting a Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
Roasting a bacon-wrapped turkey isn't vastly different from roasting a regular turkey. You need to roast the turkey on a roasting rack to ensure even cooking: Start with a hot oven for the first 30 minutes to brown the bacon, then reduce the oven temperature to slowly cook the bird until it reaches 165°F internally. The one notable difference is that for the bacon-wrapped turkey, you'll want to add two cups of water to the roasting pan before you begin. The water creates steam in the oven and helps the bacon cook slowly, which prevents the bacon from sliding off or burning during its long cook time.
Serving and Carving a Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
Rest the turkey for at least 30 minutes after roasting and before carving. You can remove the roasting rack to a cutting board or baking sheet and use the roasting pan and drippings to make gravy while you wait for the bird to cool. Just as you would carve a chicken or plain turkey, start by removing the turkey's legs before carving the breasts. To keep the bacon lattice intact, cut through the bacon first and then carve the breast beneath. Serve the turkey with any of the bacon crumbles that may fall off the bird as you carve. No one has ever been sad about bacon crumbles in their gravy either!
Bacon-Wrapped Turkey: Watch the Video
How To Make a Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
What You Need
For the bacon butter:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces thick-cut bacon (about 4 slices), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
For the turkey:
1 (12- to 15-pound) turkey, thawed if frozen
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 pounds thick-cut bacon (about 22 slices)
Measuring cups and spoons
Roasting pan (or an alternative roasting dish)
Roasting rack (or something to keep the turkey off the bottom of the roasting pan)
Kitchen twine (optional)
- Thaw the turkey. If your turkey is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator. For a 12- to 15-pound turkey, this will take about 3 days, estimating 5 hours of thaw time for each pound of turkey.
3 days before or the morning of roasting:
- Make the bacon butter. Place all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until smooth. This can be done up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator, but bring the butter back to room temperature before rubbing down the turkey.
- Prepare the turkey and rub with the bacon butter. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey's cavity. Save the neck for making stock and the giblets for making gravy. Set the turkey breast-side up on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan. Liberally rub the turkey inside and out with the bacon butter. Put the onion pieces in the cavity of the turkey. Tie the turkey's legs together with a piece of kitchen twine, if desired.
- Wrap the legs and wings with bacon. Wrap each leg with 2 slices of bacon. Wrap each wing with 1 slice of bacon, tucking the ends underneath the bird or in the crease between the leg and the breast.
- Weave the bacon blanket. Lay 8 slices of bacon side by side on a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Make sure the slices are as close together as possible. Working from the bottom up, weave another 8 slices of bacon into the first layer. Again, make sure these slices are as close together as possible.
- Blanket the turkey breast. Place the woven bacon onto the turkey breasts: Set the piece of paper next to the roasting pan and line the bacon blanket up at an angle to create a diamond. Carefully flip the paper over the turkey breast. Don't worry about aligning it perfectly — you will still be able to move the blanket a little once you get it into place. Remove the parchment and tuck the blanket in and around the breast and into the leg crease. Trim any excessive overhanging bacon with scissors, if desired.
Day of roasting:
- Bring the bird to room temperature. You can make the bird from start to finish in 1 day or refrigerate the bacon-wrapped bird overnight. Either way, the bird should sit at room temperature for 2 hours before roasting.
- Roast the bird. Arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven, remove any racks above it, and heat to 425°F. Pour 2 cups of water into the roasting pan underneath the turkey. This will create steam in the oven and prevent the bacon from rapidly shrinking and falling off the bird. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes to darken and crisp the skin.
- Reduce the oven temperature and roast until it reaches 165°F. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Roast for an additional 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 13 minutes per pound, but more important than time is the temperature of the turkey. Use a probe thermometer to test the turkey in 3 places: the breast, the outer thigh, and between the thigh and breast. The turkey should reach 165°F in all 3 places.
- Rest for 30 minutes and then carve: Carefully remove the turkey and the roasting rack to a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet. Rest the turkey for at least 30 minutes before carving. Use the drippings to make gravy, if desired. Just as you would carve a chicken or plain turkey, start by removing the turkey's legs before carving the breasts. To keep the bacon intact, cut through the bacon first and then carve the breast beneath. Serve the turkey with any of the bacon crumbles that may fall off the bird as you carve.
- Make ahead: You can wrap the turkey in bacon up to 2 days in advance and store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. Bring the turkey closer to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator 2 hours before roasting.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.