Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy
(American holiday turkey)
Roast turkey is so central to American Thanksgiving that the holiday is often referred to as Turkey Day. The two-step roasting method in this simple recipe produces a golden-brown turkey with tender, moist breast meat. Roasting the turkey breast-side-down forces juices into the white meat of the breast that might otherwise dry out — the ultimate Turkey Day fail.
Roast turkey is a also a traditional main course for an English or American Christmas dinner.
Enough for about 8 to 10 people
- Whole turkey, with giblets and neckbone -- 12 to 15 pounds
- Melted butter or oil -- 1/2 cup
- Salt -- 1/4 cup
- Pepper -- 2 tablespoons
- Water or chicken stock -- 4 cups
- Flour -- 1/4 cup
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before you put it in the oven to let it come to room temperature.
- Preheat oven 325°F. Wash the turkey well with cold water, pat it dry with paper towels and tuck the wings under the body to keep them from burning. Spread the melted butter or oil liberally all over the outside of the bird and season the inside and outside of the bird with salt and pepper.
- Set the turkey, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don't have a V-shaped rack, you may have to tuck balls of scrunched up aluminum foil around the body to keep it upright. Place the roasting pan in the lowest rack of the oven and roast the turkey for about 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, add the reserved giblets (minus the liver), neckbone and 4 cups of water or stock to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer while you finish roasting the turkey and preparing the rest of your dinner. Add water or stock as necessary to keep the amount of liquid around 4 cups.
- After about two hours, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Carefully turn the turkey over so it is breast side up. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F and return the turkey to the oven. Roast for another 30-45 minutes, or until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh measures between 165°F and 175°F (use a meat thermometer). If the breast begins to brown too much, cover it loosely with foil.
- Remove the turkey to a cutting board or baking sheet. Tent with foil and let it rest while you finish the gravy.
- Strain the simmering turkey stock. Pour any excess fat out of the roasting pan, leaving about 4 tablespoons in the pan. Place the pan over a medium-low flame on the stovetop and whisk the flour into the fat. Let the flour cook and bubble for a minute or two until it turns a light golden brown. Whisk in the turkey stock, scraping the bits of turkey drippings off the pan. Let the gravy simmer and thicken for about about 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and strain into gravy boat.
- Carve the turkey in the kitchen or at the table and serve with the turkey gravy.
Roast Turkey Notes & Variations
- Storing: Your turkey should be stored in the refrigerator until about an hour before you are ready to roast it. You could also store it in a large cooler with ice if fridge space is at a premium.
- Thawing: Frozen turkeys thaw in the refrigerator at a rate of about 4 pounds a day. That's three days for a 12-pound bird, and four for a 16-pound turkey. Do NOT try to roast a turkey that is not fully thawed. If you're pressed for time, one way to speed up the process is to place it in a cooler or sink full of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. It will thaw at the rate of about one pound every half hour. A 12-pound turkey should thaw in about 6 hours.
- Brining: Brining is the unparalleled way to a moist, flavorful turkey. Do not use a kosher or self-basting turkey (they will wind up too salty). Pick a big cooler or tub that will fit the turkey and enough water to cover it. Mix 1 cup of salt with every gallon of water needed to cover the turkey. Make sure the salt is totally dissolved. The turkey should stay refrigerated in the brining solution for at least 10 to 15 hours. Other seasonings can be added to the basic brine to give it flavor: sugar, molasses, honey, chopped onions, garlic, chili peppers, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, sage, cayenne. A portion of the brine should be boiled with the seasonings first to release their flavor.
- Dry Brining a Turkey: For the ultimate in crispy browned skin, use dry brining instead of a wet brine. Two or three days before you want to roast it, pat your turkey dry and then use clean hands to rub it all over, inside and out, with about 1/4 cup of kosher salt (for a 12 to 16-pound bird). Cover with plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. The night before you roast it, remove the turkey to a roasting pan with a rack and pat it dry. Then set the turkey back in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. This overnight rest will help dry out the skin and make it extra crispy and flavorful when you roast it then next day. Mix desired herbs and spices into the salt rub it you like.
- Stuffing: Due to safety and time issues, it really is better to serve stuffing - oops! dressing - in separate pan. But it is nice to stuff the turkey's cavity with some aromatics like chopped onion, celery, carrots and herbs to add some extra flavor. Other options are chopped apples or sliced lemons.
- Basting: Although a little basting doesn't hurt, it's not really necessary. It lengthens cooking time because of the heat you lose when you open the oven door. And it tends to inhibit the formation of a crispy skin (the opposite of what many people think). You can add flavor to the skin by stirring chopped herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) into the melted butter or oil you spread all over the bird before roasting.
- Gravy: The giblets from cooking the turkey stock can be chopped and stirred into the gravy after it is strained. Stir a little cream or butter into the gravy for added richness before serving.
- Leftovers: Good ideas for turkey leftovers are turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrazzini, turkey mole, turkey soup and turkey burritos. Save all the bones from your turkey to make excellent turkey stock (see chicken stock recipe).