Time Required: Thaw: 3-4 days, Prep: 1 hour, Cook: 4-5 hours

Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy

The roast turkey you picture when you think of Thanksgiving, along with the obligatory gravy.

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Notes:

Cooking a whole Thanksgiving turkey sounds daunting, but it's really not as hard as it seems.

Make sure you clean any surfaces that touch the raw turkey with hot, soapy water, and microwave any sponge you use to do so for 1 minute to disinfect it after you use it.

If you want to make just the gravy without having to roast a whole turkey, melt 4 tbsp unsalted butter into the saucepan instead of the fat from the drippings and use chicken broth, turkey broth, or turkey stock from the beginning instead of the rest of the drippings. You may need to adjust your seasonings as well; I would suggest adding more salt and pepper, as well as some rosemary, thyme, and sage to try to recreate that turkey-associated flavor profile.

Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy

Ingredients

  • 15 lb. Jennie-O or Butterball frozen turkey
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 bundle fresh rosemary
  • 1 bundle fresh thyme
  • ½ bundle fresh parsley
  • Turkey lacing kit (or a few small metal skewers and some cooking twine)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Rosemary, to taste
  • Thyme, to taste
  • Sage, to taste
  • Paprika, to taste
  • Optional: garlic salt, to taste
  • Optional: celery salt, to taste
  • ~4-6 tbsp flour (plus or minus some as needed)
  • Additional chicken broth, turkey broth, or turkey stock as needed

Steps

  1. Prepare the turkey:
    1. Thaw turkey in the fridge for 3-4 days. Check it the night before cooking and see how soft it is; if it's still hard in some places, take it out of the fridge early on the day you intend to cook it and thaw it the rest of the way in a sink or bucket full of cold water (still in the packaging, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed).
    2. Place a large roasting pan on a large baking sheet.
    3. Remove the thawed turkey from its packaging. Remove the bag of giblets and the neck from the main and back cavities, place them in a bowl, and set aside.
    4. Rinse the turkey and cavities with cool water in an empty, clean sink, making sure to thaw any pieces of ice in the cavities (use lukewarm water if needed). Place the turkey in the roasting pan.
    5. Open the bag of giblets and identify which is the heart, the liver, and the gizzard (compare with images online). Throw away the liver. Rinse the heart, the gizzard, and the neck with cool water in the sink and place them in a large saucepan.
    6. Cover the neck and giblets with water, bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to low and simmer gently for at least 2 hours (while you prepare and cook the rest of the turkey). Add water as needed to keep the neck and giblets covered and prevent burning.
  2. Stuff the turkey:
    1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
    2. Chop the apple and onion into quarters, then slice the top off the head of garlic and peel off any especially loose/papery outer layers.
    3. Turn the turkey so it is breast-side down. Pull back the fat from the small cavity and fill with a few pieces of the apple and onion and roughly ⅓ each of the fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Replace the hanging fat to close the cavity, and use skewers and twine to close completely (it's ok if it's not perfectly sealed, just keep it roughly closed).
    4. Turn the turkey over so it is breast-side up. Pull back the fatty muscle from the main cavity and stuff it with the head of garlic and the remaining apple, onion, rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Pull the fatty muscle back over the cavity and roughly close with skewers and twine.
    5. Mix the herbs and spices (salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, sage, paprika, and garlic and/or celery salt if you're using those) together in a small bowl.
    6. Rub the turkey completely with olive oil. Wash your hands, then sprinkle the herbs and spices over all reachable surfaces of the turkey.
  3. Cook the turkey:
    1. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan, then place the pan uncovered in the oven.
    2. Cook the turkey for roughly 3.5-4.5 hours, basting every 20 minutes with the juices from the bottom of the pan (making extra sure to baste the breast, since that dries out the fastest). If at any point there's not enough liquid at the bottom of the pan to baste the bird, add another cup or two of water to the bottom of the pan and then baste as usual. If the turkey starts to get too brown towards the end of its cooking time, cover it with foil for the remaining time.
    3. While the turkey cooks, continue checking on the simmering pot with the neck and giblets. After at least 2 hours of simmering, remove the heart and the gizzard from the pot, mince them very finely, and return them to the pot. From here until the turkey is done, you can either continue simmering the pot and adding water as needed, or you can remove it from the heat and just bring it back up to a boil for a few minutes every half hour or so to keep it from spoiling while you wait for the turkey to finish.
    4. Remove the turkey from the oven when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches at least 165°F. Remove all basting juice and drippings from the roasting pan into a bowl and cover the turkey completely with foil to keep warm and moist while it rests and while you make the gravy.
  4. Make the gravy:
    1. Let the basting juice and drippings settle in the bowl for at least 3-5 minutes. In the meantime, remove the neck from the pot it's been simmering in and throw it away. Strain the giblets out of that pot as well, then set aside the giblets and the strained stock.
    2. As the drippings settled, the fat will have risen to the top. Using a small ladle, scoop all of the fat into a large saucepan. It's ok if you get a little broth in the pan in the process, just make sure it's mostly fat.
    3. Add flour to the saucepan 1 tbsp at a time, whisking in completely, to form a roux. Add as much flour as you can while still keeping the roux thin enough to be able to be whisked (don't let it clump up too much). The exact amount of flour here depends on how much fat you obtained from the drippings.
    4. Whisk the roux over low heat for 1-2 minutes, until just starting to brown slightly.
    5. Begin ladling in the remainder of the turkey drippings a little at a time, whisking to combine evenly and thicken the gravy. Keep adding drippings until you reach your desired gravy consistency. If your gravy is still too thick after you've added all the drippings, begin adding the strained turkey giblet stock in the same way until you reach your desired consistency.
    6. Once the gravy reaches your desired consistency, stir in the chopped giblets.
    7. Taste the gravy and season with salt and pepper to taste.
    8. When you're happy with the gravy, turn off the heat and let it sit until you've carved the turkey and you're ready to serve. If the gravy sits for a while and starts to separate, just whisk it back together over low heat when you reheat it, adding more stock or chicken/turkey broth if needed to regain the desired consistency.
  5. Carve the turkey:
    1. Remove the legs from the turkey by slicing at the point where the thigh meets the breast, until you expose the hip joint. Cut through this joint to remove each leg.
    2. Slice at the joint in each leg to separate the drumstick from the thigh. Place the drumsticks in a large serving dish.
    3. Pull the thigh meat off the bone with a fork or knife, then remove any gristle, slice it into pieces, and set in the serving dish.
    4. Find the breastbone in the center of the turkey, then slice along one side of that bone to remove the breast from the turkey, keeping the knife as close to the bones as possible as you slice deeper into the turkey. Repeat with the other breast, then slice the breasts against the grain (the direction where each slice is shorter) and place in the serving dish.
    5. Slice off the wings at the joint and place in a serving dish.
    6. You can use the remaining turkey carcass to make soup stock (similarly to how you made stock with the neck and giblets) if you want, otherwise you can throw it out.
    7. Serve warm with gravy! Reheat covered in foil in the oven if it sits out too long before serving, or microwave it when reheating leftovers if you're lazy.
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