compound butter

A perfectly roasted turkey is often the centerpiece of a delightful holiday meal, and the secret to making it extraordinary lies in the compound butter. This flavored butter not only enhances the taste of the turkey but also keeps it moist and succulent. In this article, we will delve into the art of making the best compound butter for turkey, ensuring your festive feast is memorable.

Understanding Compound Butter

Compound butter, also known as flavored butter, is simply butter that has been mixed with various ingredients to create a blend of flavors. This versatile concoction can be used in a myriad of culinary applications, but it shines brightest when paired with turkey. The key to an exceptional compound butter is in the balance and selection of ingredients.

Essential Ingredients for Compound Butter

High-Quality Butter

Start with unsalted, high-quality butter. Unsalted butter allows you to control the salt content more precisely. Ensure the butter is at room temperature to make it easier to mix with other ingredients.

Aromatic Herbs

Fresh herbs impart a vibrant flavor and aroma to your compound butter. Common herbs used include:

  • Parsley: Adds a fresh, slightly peppery taste.
  • Thyme: Offers a subtle earthy flavor.
  • Rosemary: Provides a robust, pine-like aroma.
  • Sage: Contributes a warm, slightly peppery note.

Zesty Citrus

Citrus zest brightens up the flavor profile. Lemon and orange zest are popular choices, providing a hint of acidity that complements the richness of the butter.

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Garlic and Shallots

Minced garlic and finely chopped shallots infuse the butter with a savory depth, enhancing the overall taste of the turkey.


Seasonings such as salt, black pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper add layers of flavor. Adjust these to suit your taste preferences.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Compound Butter

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Gather all your ingredients and ensure the butter is softened. Finely chop the herbs, mince the garlic, and zest the citrus fruits.

Step 2: Mix the Butter

In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter with the chopped herbs, garlic, shallots, citrus zest, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the butter.

compound butter

Step 3: Shape and Chill the Butter

Place the mixed butter onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Shape it into a log or a desired form, and wrap it tightly. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld together.

Applying Compound Butter to Turkey

Under the Skin

For maximum flavor infusion, carefully loosen the skin of the turkey without tearing it. Using your hands or a spoon, insert the compound butter under the skin, spreading it evenly over the breast and thighs. This method ensures that the butter melts directly onto the meat, keeping it moist and flavorful.

On the Skin

In addition to applying the butter under the skin, rub a generous amount over the skin of the turkey. This will help achieve a crispy, golden-brown exterior.

Inside the Cavity

Placing a few dollops of compound butter inside the cavity of the turkey adds flavor from the inside out. Add aromatics such as onion, garlic cloves, and citrus halves for an extra burst of flavor.

Roasting the Perfect Turkey

Preheat the Oven

Preheat your oven to the recommended temperature, usually around 325°F to 350°F (163°C to 177°C), depending on the size of your turkey.

Prepare the Turkey

Truss the turkey if desired, to ensure even cooking. Place it on a rack in a roasting pan to allow air to circulate and the heat to reach all sides.

Baste Regularly

Basting the turkey with its juices or additional melted compound butter every 30 to 45 minutes helps keep it moist and enhances the flavor.

Check the Temperature

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The breast should reach 165°F (74°C), and the thighs should be at 175°F (79°C). Ensure you do not overcook the turkey, as this can lead to dryness.

Serving Suggestions

Carving the Turkey

Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes after roasting. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Carve the turkey carefully, ensuring each slice has a bit of the crispy skin and moist meat.


Serve the turkey with classic sides such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and roasted vegetables. The rich, flavorful compound butter will have permeated the turkey, providing a delightful eating experience.

Tips for Enhancing Your Compound Butter

Experiment with Ingredients

Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices to create your unique compound butter blend. Ingredients like smoked paprika, Dijon mustard, or even a splash of bourbon can add interesting twists to the flavor profile.

Make Ahead

Compound butter can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. This allows for easy preparation during the busy holiday season.


Beyond turkey, use compound butter to enhance other dishes such as roasted chicken, grilled steaks, steamed vegetables, or even as a spread for bread. Its versatility makes it a valuable addition to your culinary repertoire.


Creating the best compound butter for turkey involves selecting high-quality ingredients and balancing flavors to enhance the natural taste of the meat. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can elevate your holiday meal, impressing your guests with a turkey that is both succulent and bursting with flavor. Experiment with different ingredient combinations to find your perfect blend, and enjoy the compliments that are sure to follow.

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