Thanksgiving Day is a festive observance of giving thanks for the blessings of a good harvest. It is a secular holiday occurring on different days throughout the globe and here in America we observe annually on the fourth Thursday in November. The celebration of giving thanks was brought to New England by the Pilgrims at Plymouth (present-day Massachusetts) along with the Puritans who had both previously practiced the holiday put forth in Great Britain by King Henry VIII in order to replace Christian Holidays. This first American thanksgiving occurred in 1621 but did not become a regular occurrence until the late 1660s.

Nearly three hundred and fifty years later marks the 2013, 1st annual Bonzer Thanksgiving Turkey Cook-off. The location; Palm Springs, CA (3,000 miles southwest of Plymouth Rock). The contestants; my husband, his parents, and myself. The stakes; 12 months of glorious dominance.
With two eleven pound Butterball turkeys, an oven, a smoker and a good bit of thanks we are prepared for a women versus men Battle of the Bonzers.

The Ladies Roasted Turkey
Top R-L: Granny’s Green Beans, Roasted Turkey Leg, Veloute Gravy
Bottom R-L: Yams, Jacobs Homemade Cornbread Dressing
Baked yams for brown sugar marshmallow casserole.
Cornbread Stuffing

Roasted Turkey

Recipe: Katie Bonzer

11 lb Butterball Turkey
1 Medium Ice Chest
1 Turkey Perfect Brining Kit
1/2 lb Butter (Unsalted, Clarified)
1 Thermometer
1 Lemon
10 Whole Cloves
2 Cups Cornbread Stuffing


  1. Choosing the right size bird: 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person will allow for enough turkey with a bit of leftovers.
  2. Thawing a Turkey: Every 5 lbs of Turkey takes 24hours to thaw in the fridge. This is the preferred method.
  3. Wednesday afternoon: We boiled our brine and then let it cool down to room temperature for a few hours. Around 5pm we filled our ice chest half way with ice, unwrapped the turkey, placed the turkey in the brining bag inside the ice chest and poured in half of the brine and filled the rest of the bag with water just enough to cover. The fire and flavor herb brining kit by turkey perfect makes enough brine for a 25lb turkey. Use the brine accordingly with the size of your turkey otherwise the bird will be over-salted.
  4. Thursday 11am: Remove Turkey from Brine Bag and bring to room temperature on countertop.
  5. Preheat oven to 500. Check your thermometer in a cup of ice water. It should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Clarify butter for basting.
  7. Our turkey was stuffed loosely with two cups of cornbread stuffing and in the neck we stuffed a lemon with whole cloves.
  8. By pulling up on the skin lightly we were able to spoon in clarified butter between the skin and meat, we also basted the legs and wings. We use clarified butter because the milk solids have been removed therefore it doesn’t burn. I recommend inserting a leave in digital thermometer with an alarm set to the temperature desired for an easy cooking experience, make sure the thermometer is in the meat not touching the bones.
  9. Thursday 12:15: Our bird goes into the oven at 500degrees for 15 minutes to release the glutamates for the initial browning of the skin. Make sure none of your stuffing fell into the pan or it will burn in the 500degree oven.
  10. 12:30: Turn oven down to 325 degrees, open the oven door to release some heat. Cover bird with tinfoil to avoid burning the skin.
  11. 1:45: Quickly as to not lose too much heat, baste the bird with clarified butter one more time.
  12. 3:15: Our turkey is 161 degrees Fahrenheit so we remove it from the oven and let the juices rest for 30 minutes before carving.

*Disclaimer- We cooked our turkeys between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Refer to FDA website for poultry cooked temperature guidelines; 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

This brining kit provided flavor with ease.
Boiling the brine for the roasted turkey.
Oven Roasted Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Recipe: Jacob Bonzer

1 g Stock – Vegetable
1 Cup Salt – Kosher
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns – Whole
11 lb Butterball Turkey – Thawed w/ Giblets Removed
1/4 Cup Butter – Clarified
As Needed Salt – Kosher
As Needed Black Pepper – Ground
As Needed Cooking Twine
1/2 Piece Celery – Stalk
1/2 Onion
1 Piece Carrot – Peeled
1 Piece Cinnamon – Stick
As Needed Water
1 Piece Rosemary – Fresh Whole
1 Piece Sage – Fresh Whole


  1. For Brine: Boil:
    Stock, Salt, Brown Sugar and Peppercorns.
  2. Turkey Prep Let brine cool completely. Add Turkey and brine in a small bucket. Add water as needed to increase water level to just below the tips of the legs. Complete this operation just before you go to bed the night before. Add two handfuls of ice now and when you wake up. Store in a cool area.
  3. Drain turkey and allow to come up to room temperature for 30-45mins.
  4. Coat Turkey in Clarified butter rub with Salt and Pepper.
  5. Stuff Turkey loosely with Aromatics: Combine the celery stalk, carrot, onion, cinnamon stick, and enough water to fill 1/4 the way up a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Let cool/steep for 15mins. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage.
  6.  To Truss the Turkey: Here is a link to one of our favorite educators, AB’s Good Eats Turkey Truss .
  7. Place in 200-250 degree smoker for 4 hours or until turkey reaches 161 degrees in the thickest part of the breast meat.* I recommend a leave in digital thermometer with an alarm set to the temperature desired for an easy cooking experience.

For Additional smoking tips and information.

*Disclaimer: This is how we like to cook our meat and the temperatures we like to cook them at. Please consult the CDC website for Food Safe Cooking Temperatures along with proper food handling to avoid any foodborne illness.
Let Turkey rest covered for 30-45mins before carving.

Hickory Smoked Turkey

For our Thanksgiving desserts we had Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and Katie’s Browned Butter Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Caked.


So who won the turkey cook-off? Well Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without the house smelling like perfectly cooked turkey and leftover juicy smoked turkey sandwiches are nearly a necessity so we agreed upon a tie! There will be a rematch next year though and maybe Jacobs brother and his soon to be wife will join the competition and deep fry a turkey… A girl can dream!

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