Classic Roast Turkey
8 to 12 servings
3 to 4 hours
I've tried "traditional" Thanksgiving roast turkeys countless ways. Not only does this one really work, but it's simple enough for novice home cooks to nail on the first try.
1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1 cup roughly chopped carrot
1 ⁄ 2 cup roughly chopped celery
Stems from 1 bunch fresh parsley, tied together with kitchen string, optional
1. Heat the oven to 500°F. Rinse the turkey under cool running water and remove the giblets from the cavity. Trim off the excess fat and wing tips if you like. Pat the bird dry with a paper towel, smear the butter all over the skin, and sprinkle it well with salt and pepper.
2. Put the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan with the breast facing up. Pour 1 ⁄ 2 cup water into the bottom of the pan and add the onion, carrot, celery, and parsley, along with the turkey neck, whatever giblets you want (or not), and the wing tips if you removed them. Put the turkey in the oven, legs first if possible.
3. Roast until the top of the turkey begins to brown, 20 to 30 minutes, then lower the oven heat to 325°F. Continue to roast, checking and brushing the bird with the pan juices every 30 minutes or so. If the bottom of the pan gets dry, add about 1 ⁄ 2 cup water; there should be a little liquid in the bottom of the pan at all times.
4. The turkey is done when a quick-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of one of the thighs measures 155–165°F; figure 2 1 ⁄ 2 to 3 1 ⁄ 2 hours. If the top looks like it’s getting too brown too quickly, press a piece of aluminum foil directly onto it. If the top looks like it’s not browned enough, turn the heat back up to 425°F for the last 20 to 30 minutes of roasting.
5. When the turkey is ready, tip the juices out of the cavity into the pan, transfer the bird to a cutting board, cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. If you’re serving the turkey with pan juices, strain them from the pan into a glass measuring cup. When the fat rises to the top, skim it off and warm the juices before serving (you can add them to several cups of chicken or turkey stock if you want more). If not, hang on to the roasting pan and all its contents; you’re going to need it to make gravy.
Whatever drips down from the turkey into the bottom of the roasting pan provides the backbone for incredible gravy. To add volume, you’ll need stock. (This is one of those times when water just doesn’t cut it.) Thicken it a bit and away you go.
1. Prepare the Pan and Giblets
After you remove the turkey from the roasting pan, take out the giblets and chop them up; put them back in the pan along with the neck. Spoon some of the fat off the top of the pan liquids, leaving as many of the solids and as much of the dark liquid behind as possible. Put the roasting pan over 2 burners and turn the heat to high.
2. Deglaze the Pan
When the solids in the pan start to sizzle, add 6 cups turkey or chicken stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get up any browned bits. Reduce the heat so the stock bubbles and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk 1/3 cup corn starch with 1 ⁄ 4 cup water in a small bowl until smooth.
3. Finish the Gravy
Strain the stock through a mesh sieve into a large pot and discard the solids. Bring to a boil and add the cornstarch slurry to the bubbling gravy, stirring constantly. It should thicken almost immediately. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve hot.