Roasted Turkey with Gravy

Turkey preview hd1280
This delicious turkey is brined and brushed with a fresh herb butter for extra juiciness.
  • Serves: 10 to 12
  • Active Time: 6 hrs
  • Total Time: 16 hrs
  • Views: 88,809
  • Success: 98%

Step 1: Brining the Turkey

• 2 qt cold water
• 1 large onion
• 1 bunch fresh thyme
• 3/4 cup sea salt
• 1 turkey (15 lb)
• 2 qt ice
• 5 qt cold water


To brine the turkey, place 2 quarts of cold water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Slice the onion and add to the pot, along with the thyme and salt. Once all of the salt has dissolved, turn off the heat and set aside to steep and cool.

Next, clean the turkey by removing and reserving the neck. Discard the giblets, unless you choose to add them to your stuffing. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the top of the bird. Then rinse the turkey with cold water.

In a large container, add the steeped brine mixture and 5 quarts of very cold water. Top up with 2 quarts of ice. Add the turkey and make sure it is completely covered with the brine. Place into the refrigerator or a large cooler full of ice for up to 24 hours.

Step 2: Making the Compound Butter

• 1/2 lb unsalted butter
• 2 tsp fresh thyme
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 tsp sea salt


To make the compound butter, first add the salt and pepper to the butter. Finely chop the thyme and mash everything together until smooth. Set aside.

Step 3: Removing the Turkey From the Brine


Remove the turkey from the brine and let it drain briefly before placing it onto a tray. Discard the brine and pat the turkey dry.

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat it to 350° degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the turkey sit at room temperature for one hour. Meanwhile, you can prepare the short stock.

Step 4: Making the Short Stock

• 2 lb chicken bones
• 1 large carrot
• 1 rib celery
• 1 onion
• 4 tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 6 cups stock (turkey or chicken)


To make the short stock, chop the onions, carrots and celery and place into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a heavy knife, carefully chop up the bones, including the reserved turkey neck. You could also ask the butcher to do this for you.

Preheat a large, stainless-steel fry pan over high heat. Once hot, add the oil and half of the bones. Let the bones brown and caramelize, which will give the gravy its rich color and flavor. Add half of the vegetables and let caramelize slightly. Deglaze with half of the wine. Scrape up the bits from the bottom, then transfer to the roasting pan and repeat with the second batch.

Once done, add the stock to the roasting pan. Place the V-rack over top and cover with foil. Poke a few holes to let the juices run through. Coat the foil with a bit of oil then set the pan aside while you prepare the turkey.

Step 5: Seasoning and Roasting the Turkey

• 1 onion
• 6 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 large carrot
• 1/2 head fresh garlic
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil
• 2 bay leaves


To season the bird, sprinkle the inside with the salt and pepper and add the vegetables and herbs. Rub the outside skin with a bit of oil and then rub about one-third of the compound butter just underneath the skin.

Place the turkey, breast-side-down, onto the v-rack and then transfer to the oven. Set your timer for one hour.

Refer to this chart for estimated cooking times.

Step 6: Flip Turkey and Roast for the 2nd Hour


Before you remove the turkey from the oven, melt the compound butter. Using two cloths, carefully flip the turkey over. Brush the top with some of the melted butter and return to the oven. Set the timer for hour number 2.

Step 7: Roasting the Turkey for the 3rd Hour


Quickly brush the turkey with a bit more butter and set your timer for hour number 3.

Step 8: Testing the Turkey


At the 3-hour mark, test the turkey for doneness by inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Test the same area from the inside of the cavity. The inside reading will always be lower, so this is where the final reading should come from.

Because all ovens cook differently and your turkey may be slightly bigger or smaller, the timing will all depend on the reading you get from your turkey.

If your turkey isn’t done, brush it with the remaining butter and return it to the oven for about 15-30 minutes.

Step 9: Testing the Turkey for Doneness


Test the turkey again. The second reading on the inside of the thigh should reach 165° degrees Fahrenheit, which is perfect.

Loosely tent it with vented foil to allow steam to escape. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Step 10: Making the Gravy

• 3/4 cup fat drippings
• 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
• 6 to 7 cups stock (from short stock)


To make the gravy, strain the liquid from the roasting pan and let the fat rise to the top. Skim off the fat and place it into a separate bowl.

Measure the liquid to equal 6 cups. Take 3/4 cup of the reserved fat and pour into a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once the fat is nice and hot, add the flour and stir continuously. As the roux cooks, it will turn from a light tan color to a nice, rich brown color. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes but the end result is well worth it.

Add about 1/3 of the stock and stir constantly. Stir and continue to add the stock until smooth. Once the 6 cups of stock have been added, check the consistency. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken after you turn off the heat. If you like a thinner gravy, you may want to add up to one additional cup of stock.

For a super-smooth gravy, strain again. Cover and keep the gravy hot while you carve the turkey. Reheat over low heat if necessary.

Step 11: Carving the Turkey


There are two ways to carve a turkey. In either case, make sure you hone your knife so it’s nice and sharp.

The first method is carving at the table. First slice off the wing, followed by the breast meat. When it is difficult to slice off the remaining breast meat, cut off the drumstick and thigh. Now you can finish slicing off the breast meat. This is the traditional way to carve, for most people who prefer to carve at the table.

To carve the turkey in the kitchen on a cutting board, is actually better because it makes it easier to slice across the grain of the breast meat.

For this method, simply remove the whole breast, by cutting along the rib cage. Place the breast onto a cutting board and slice vertically against the grain. Remove the thigh and drumstick, then separate. This way of carving also makes for really nice presentation, which is much harder to obtain when you are carving at the table.

Chef's Notes

Purchasing the Turkey

If you can, buy a fresh turkey. The flavor is great and it’s worth the extra cost. If buying frozen, thaw it properly in the fridge, on a try and in its plastic. For every pound of turkey, plan for about 5 hours of thawing.

10 pound turkey: Approximately 50 hours (just over two days)
15 pound turkey: Approximately 75 hours (just over three days)
20 pound turkey: Approximately 100 hours (just over four days)

A thawed turkey can be kept in the fridge for up to two days before cooking.

What is brining?

Brine is a salty solution. The salt deeply penetrates the meat tissue, opening the pores and actually unlocks the fibers. Not only does it trap water molecules and keep the flesh juicy and moist, it seasons the flesh throughout which adds a lot of flavor.

How much salt should I use?

A moderate brine is approximately ½ cup of Kosher salt per 3 quarts of water.

Salt equivalents

Table Salt (without iodine) – 1 cup (10 ounces)
Morton Kosher Salt – 1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) so you’ll need to use 1.5 cups in total
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (half as potent as regular table salt) – use 2 cups (5 ounces per cup)

When using other salts, such as sea salt, pickling salt, or other brands of Kosher salt, simply weigh out 10 ounces on your kitchen scale to find its equivalent of table salt.

Create different brines by adding herbs, spices, and brown sugar, honey or molasses. Apple juice, cider, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, stock, tea, beer, wine, or other liquids can replace some or all of the water.

Always start with a cold brine

For food safety reasons, the brine must be cold (40° degrees Fahrenheit, 4° degrees Celsius) to ensure the meat stays at proper refrigerator temperature. If you need to heat the brine mixture to dissolve the salt, make sure you cool the brine down before using. The food must be completely submersed. Refrigeration is absolutely required during brining. The meat and brine solution must be kept below 40° degrees Fahrenheit at all times. If you can’t find a large enough container, fill a cooler with ice.

Brining time

The turkey should sit in the brine for at least 10 hours. It can process for as much as 24 hours but the turkey will have absorbed all the brine it needs in about 10 hours. The amount of brining time is not set in stone. Even a little brining is better than none. Brining for too long can ruin the flavor as well and make it too salty. If you are using a small turkey, cut down on the brining time, or reduce the amount of salt in the brine.

Once the meat is removed from the brine, you can rinse off the excess salt from the surface and pat dry. You can also air-dry poultry in the refrigerator overnight. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet and rest the poultry on top. By letting the moisture evaporate, it is easier to achieve crispy skin.

Make sure to discard used brining liquid. It has been contaminated with raw food and cannot be reused.

Stuff or not to stuff?

Don’t stuff your turkey. Stuffing acts as insulation and makes cooking the turkey that much longer, creating dry breast meat. Hot air cannot get inside the turkey and can’t cook the meat closest to the bone, which is the area that takes the longest to cook. Simply season the turkey extremely well with salt and pepper and let the hot oven air do its work.

Preparing your turkey

Season the cavity and underneath the skin. Rub butter underneath the skin and make sure to start with a short stock for added flavor. Place the turkey on a V-rack, so it’s not in contact with the juices in the pan. The steam from the juices will keep the turkey nice and moist during the slow, long cooking time. A V-rack guarantees a moist turkey and the beginnings of a delicious gravy.

Make sure you don’t put a cold turkey in the oven. It will take that much longer to cook, and longer cooking time means dry meat. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for up to one hour before roasting.

Ideal oven temperature

The ideal oven temperature is 350º degrees Fahrenheit.

To baste or not to baste?

If you over-baste, you lower the oven temperature and the temperature of the turkey, making the cooking time longer. You create a baste by slipping butter underneath the skin. Baste another 1-2 times, but don’t get carried away.

Which way is up?

If you brine your turkey, it will be juicy any way you place it. However, if you don’t brine, start with the breast side down. The gentle steam from the pan will keep the breast meat nice and moist. At half way point, turn it over so you end up with crispy skin.

When is it done?

Turkey needs to reach an internal temperature of 165º degrees Fahrenheit; higher than this will produce dry meat. Use a thermometer, and insert it into the thickest part of the thigh. Test both thighs for accurate readings. If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure you hit bone; if the juices run clear, it’s time to take the turkey out.

Why rest?

Resting any kind of meat, before carving, is essential. It allows the muscles to relax and the heat to distribute evenly. It makes it easier to carve and the meat will be nice and juicy. Rest a large turkey for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Tent with vented foil. The steam must be able to escape so the skin doesn’t get soggy.

For additional information, visit:

USDA Poultry Preparation and The National Organic Program