This delicious Compound Butter for turkey is how you’re going to infuse your Thanksgiving turkey with amazing flavor both inside and out, resulting in a juicy tender turkey with beautiful crisp skin.
Thanksgiving is a time for tradition, and in many homes, the turkey is the undisputed centerpiece of the meal. But how do you elevate the classic bird to new heights of flavor and texture? One word: butter.
Not just your run-of-the-mill butter, but a homemade compound butter that packs a punch of flavor and aids in achieving that coveted crispy skin. Here’s how you can craft your own compound butter for a turkey that’s sure to impress at your holiday feast.
What is Compound Butter?
Compound butter combines the creamy richness of butter with a variety of added flavors such as herbs, spices, and sometimes even other ingredients like garlic or citrus zest. It serves as a versatile ingredient that can be used to enhance the flavors of a prepared dish, much like a sauce or condiment would.
Creating compound butter is simpler than you might think and doesn’t require any special kitchen gadgets. You’ll need quality unsalted butter, fresh herbs, aromatics, and some arm strength for mixing.
- Unsalted Butter – Make sure the butter is softened or it won’t be easy to incorporate the herbs.
- Herbs – You can really use any fresh herbs that you like, but our recipe today has garlic, thyme, sage, and rosemary – typical Thanksgiving herbs.
- Salt & Ground Black Pepper – Just give an extra boost of flavor to the butter with some seasonings. You can add other seasonings too if you like.
- Bowl or food processor
- Parchment paper
How Long Does it Take to Make Herb Garlic Compound Butter?
Making herb garlic compound butter typically takes around 5 to 10 minutes of preparation time. This includes mincing the garlic, chopping the fresh herbs, and mixing all the ingredients together.
After it’s been mixed and rolled into shape, the butter is chilled in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to allow it firm up and for the flavors to meld together.
- Ensure the butter is softened at room temperature before mixing it with the other ingredients. This will make it easier to incorporate and achieve a smooth consistency. Don’t soften it in the microwave because you run the risk of melting it.
- Try to use fresh herbs whenever possible, providing a vibrant flavor and aroma. However, if fresh herbs are unavailable, you can substitute them with dried herbs, but reduce the quantity by half since they have a more concentrated flavor.
- Try using roasted garlic in place of the fresh garlic for a more mild flavor.
- Adding fresh lemon, lime or orange zest will boost the flavor. Try different combinations of herbs, citrus, and spices.
- Using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in the compound butter. If you only have salted butter on hand, reduce the added salt accordingly.
- You can add all of the ingredients to a food processor to chop and mix instead of cutting the herbs before hand.
How to Make Herb Garlic Compound Butter
In a medium bowl, place the softened butter. It’s essential for the butter to be room temperature to blend smoothly with the herbs and seasonings.
Add your minced garlic, chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
Use a fork or a spatula to mix the ingredients thoroughly. If you’re feeling a bit more old-school or want to get a mini-workout, you can use your hands to knead the mixture together.
When fully incorporated, spoon the butter onto a piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap. Form it into a log and roll it tightly.
I found that parchment paper worked better than plastic wrap, which is just a bit too sticky for this. You also don’t have to worry about the plastic wrap clinging to itself while you are rolling the butter to form it.
Chill it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until you’re ready to use it. It will take at least this long for the butter to firm back up, so don’t plan on using it before that. The longer the better.
Preparing the Turkey
Now, you’ve got your butter ready, but what’s the best way to apply it for that crispy skin we all crave? You might think just slathering it on the outside will do the trick, but there’s a better way.
- Pat your turkey dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture, which can inhibit crispiness.
- Gently separate the turkey’s skin from the breast, creating a pocket. Here’s where you get hands-on: take a portion of your compound butter and spread it evenly under the skin. This not only flavors the meat directly but also helps the skin get wonderfully crispy.
- Spread the remaining butter over the entire outside of the turkey, which will help in achieving a golden-brown, deliciously crispy exterior. Then season with salt and pepper to finish.
- Baste with purpose: While the butter does a lot of the work, basting your turkey with the pan juices every hour ensures even crispiness and color.
- Resting is crucial: After your turkey is cooked, let it rest before carving to ensure all those juices (and flavors) stay where they should be – in the turkey.
With your homemade compound butter for turkey ready and applied using this technique, your Thanksgiving turkey is poised to be more than just a traditional dish—it becomes a statement of flavor and texture. The crisp skin will give way to tender, herb-infused meat that tells a story of care and craft. This year, let’s make the turkey not just a ritual, but a revelation. Happy Thanksgiving, and here’s to a meal that’ll be remembered!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between regular butter and compound butter?
Compound butter is regular butter with a variety of added flavors such as herbs, spices, and sometimes even other ingredients like garlic or citrus zest. It is used to enhance the flavors of a prepared dish like meat, sauces, and baked potatoes.
What kind of butter works best?
Use unsalted butter whenever possible. It allows you to control the amount of salt in the compound butter. If you only have salted butter on hand, reduce the added salt accordingly.
Can compound butter be frozen?
Yes! Once it has firmed up freeze it in slices for individual use or in the whole roll. Wrap it tightly so air can’t get to it and label it for future use.
Before You Go
Since you made it to the end of this article, you might be interested in more turkey recipes and information. Here are a few more articles we think you might enjoy.
- How to Choose the Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
- Beer-Brined Turkey: Thanksgiving with a Malty Kick
- How Long to Rest Turkey Before You Carve It
- Best Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe for Thanksgiving
- Dry Brine for Smoking a Turkey with Tons of Flavor & Crisp Skin
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Compound Butter for Turkey
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks) room temperature
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon (7 g) fresh thyme finely chopped
- 3 leaves fresh sage finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons (0.2 g) fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (0.5 g) freshly ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. When fully incorporated, spoon the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Form it into a log and roll tightly.
- Chill it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until you’re ready to use it.
- 1 batch makes 1/2 cup
🥧 If you’re interested in more great recipes, I share all my favorite recipes at A Food Lover’s Kitchen, Instant Pot recipes over at A Pressure Cooker Kitchen, air fryer recipes at Air Fry Anytime, and cocktails and drinks at Savored Sips. Check it out today!
Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.