One of the best ways to stun your dinner guests at the holidays and set the stage for a delicious meal is with a perfectly browned and and juicy oven roasted turkey. There are endless options on the best ways to prepare your bird: To brine or not to brine? Do you stuff the bird? Should you cook breast side down? What about frying? And though it can feel overwhelming to decide on a cooking method, I’ve found that in my opinion, the simpler, the better.
Although I’ve brined turkey in the past, (Here is a simple go-to recipe) I really find that it’s much more of a pain than what it’s worth. The method that I’ve found to deliver mouth-watering, juicy turkey is to coat the bird inside and out, as well as under the skin, with an shameless amount of real butter. Yes, I said it. Butter. It helps to seal in the turkey’s natural juices, while delivering a golden crispy outside. I combine softened butter with herbs, salt, and pepper, which gives the turkey a simple rich flavor. I also fill the cavity of the bird with herbs, lemon, and onion quarters to give it additional flavor from the inside. Although this recipe calls for specific herbs, feel free to use whatever combination of aromatics you like best!
I cook the turkey on high heat in the oven for about 20 minutes to brown, and then lower the temperature and roast low and slow until the bird is done and the meat thermometer registers about 175 in the thickest part of the thigh. The bird should rest after coming out of the oven for at least 1/2 hour. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the bird so that it doesn’t lose all the moisture and dry out once it’s sliced.
Another quick tip: take the bird out of the refrigerator for about an hour before cooking to allow it to come to almost room temperature. It will take the chill off the meat, allowing it to cook quicker and more evenly.
This recipe also includes step-by-step instructions for homemade gravy. Bonus: the base of the gravy can be prepared 2 days in advance! Don’t let those delicious turkey drippings go to waste! Happy holidays everyone! Enjoy
And just for fun:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 5 fresh sage sprigs
- 1 14- to 16-pound turkey
- 4 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
- Mix ½ cup butter and minced herbs (of choice) in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper. Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.
- Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity. (Optional: Add lemon or onion quarters to the turkey cavity for extra flavor) Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper.
- Place the turkey in the oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Roast 30 minutes more, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to the roasting pan. Roast 30 minutes more; baste with pan juices, then pour another 1 cup broth over and add another 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover the turkey loosely with foil. Roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer the turkey to a platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds turkey necks and/or wings
- 2 cups diced onions
- 1 cup diced peeled carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or more as needed
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- For the gravy base: melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over high heat. Add turkey necks and/or wings and sauté until deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour gravy base through strainer set over 4-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract liquid. If necessary, add enough chicken broth to gravy base to measure 4 cups. (Gravy base can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before using.)
- Once turkey is resting, strain the pan juices into a bowl; whisk in the gravy base. Melt the reserved 2 tablespoons herb butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat; add the flour and whisk constantly until the roux is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Gradually add the pan juice-gravy base mixture; increase the heat and whisk constantly until gravy thickens, boils, and is smooth. Reduce the heat to medium; boil gently until gravy is reduced to 4½ cups, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and serve with the turkey.
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