Weeknight dinner
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Sear-Roasted Turkey Thighs with Tomato Sage Sauce

My kids start school today, so this week I’m featuring weeknight dinners. Today, I’m using the sear-roast technique on turkey thighs.

The sear-roast results in crisp, browned skin, with juicy, flavorful dark turkey meat. Even better, it is done in under forty-five minutes. It’s a touch long for a weeknight dinner, but it is very easy – there is a lot of hands off time in the recipe. This lets me relax and get a couple of side dishes done while I wait for the turkey to finish cooking.

The other reason I’ll put up with the extra time on a weeknight is the crispy turkey skin and juicy, flavorful dark meat. I’ve always been a dark meat fan, and the big, flat expanse of turkey skin on the thigh is just asking to be browned until crackling. The thigh finishes cooking gently in the oven, where the dark meat becomes tender and juicy – no dry as dust turkey here; the dark meat gives you a cushion, and is hard to overcook.

Finally, the turkey juices and browned bits left in the pan make the base for a pan sauce. I went with a tomato sauce because I had some fresh tomatoes from my CSA that needed to be used up.

Want a recipe that shows why turkey shouldn’t just be for Thanksgiving? Give this one a try.

Recipe: Sear-Roasted Turkey Thighs with Tomato Sage Sauce

Adapted From: Pam Anderson How to Cook without a Book



  • 2.5 lbs bone in turkey thighs (2 to 3, depending on size)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Pan Sauce

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced (or 1 large tomato, or a 14oz can diced tomatoes if it is not tomato season)
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade, or substitute water)
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the turkey: Heat your oven to 350F. Sprinkle the turkey with the salt and pepper, using 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp pepper per turkey thigh. Let rest at room temperature until the pan is heated.
If you have the time, you can dry brine the turkey by salting it 4 to 24 hours in advance, and leaving it in the refrigerator. Or, you can brine the turkey. Dissolve 1 cup of kosher salt in 2 quarts of water, then soak the chicken in this brine for 1 to 4 hours. Pat dry with paper towels before using.

2. Sear the turkey: Put the teaspoon of oil in your fry pan, and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Swirl the oil around to coat the pan, then add the turkey, skin side down. Sear for 4 minutes, or until the skin is a dark golden brown. Flip the turkey and sear the bone side for 4 minutes.
*Searing time will depend on how crowded your pan is. With 3 thighs, which crowds the pan a little, it may take as much as 6 to 8 minutes with the skin side down to get good browning. If your pan isn’t very crowded (like in the picture below), searing will take less time.

3. Roast the turkey: Move the pan into the oven and roast until the turkey is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. The turkey should be 170*F in the thickest part of the meat. (I’m using an instant read thermometer in the pictures, but the best way to track this is with a probe thermometer – the wire runs into the oven, and it beeps when the thighs are ready.) Using an oven mitt or pot holder, remove the pan from the oven, and move the turkey to a serving plate.

Saute aromatics
Boil chicken broth
…until reduced

4. Make the sauce: Remember, the handle is still rocket hot!* Using an oven mitt or pot holder, put the pan over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and the sage, and cook for another minute. Add the chicken stock, then turn the heat to high. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the browned bits of chicken, then boil the stock until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. The plate holding the turkey thighs will have some turkey juice on the bottom; add it to the pan. Turn off the heat, then whisk the butter into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste – you want the sauce to be highly seasoned, so don’t be afraid to add more salt or pepper if it needs it.
*From time to time, I forget that the pan just came out of the oven, and brand myself with the handle. I try to leave my oven mitt on the handle of the pan to remind me that it is still hot.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

5. Serve: Spoon a teaspoon of sauce over each breast, then serve, passing the rest of the sauce on the side.

*Different herbs: I had sage from the farmers market

*Change up the sauce. If you have a favorite pan sauce, use it here; the only real key is to use enough liquid to loosen the browned turkey fond from the pan. The simplest sauce I know is: deglaze the pan with 1 cup chicken stock or water, with some salt and pepper for seasoning. The browned bits in the pan give this simple sauce a surprising depth of flavor.

*The tomato and garlic pan sauce gives this dish an Italian flavor, so I usually serve it with pasta. Quick orzo pilaf is my favorite, and spaghetti works just fine. But, my kids are on a kick right now where they only eat bow tie pasta, so that’s what I made.

*Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Use cherry or grape tomatoes, or canned diced tomatoes. Please don’t buy out of season tomatoes. They won’t have enough flavor. Go with the can of diced tomatoes, picked and canned at their peak of freshness.

*If you want to cook more turkey, you can probably squeeze three large thighs in a pan, but you’d be better off to double the recipe and use two pans. Or, a trick I learned from Pam Anderson at ThreeManyCooks.com – use a roasting pan over two burners instead of a frypan.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Sear Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon Sauce
Sear Roasted Chicken Breasts with Shallot Herb Sauce

Adapted from:
Pam Anderson How to Cook without a Book

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Filed under: Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

1 Comment

  1. Linda says

    You’re a thorough guy when you cook! Hope mine turns out juicy and crispy like yours. However, am making turkey gravy for my dinner this time and will definitely try your tomato version 🙂 Kudos!


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