How do you roast a turkey? Easy! Follow the instructions on the bag! Seriously though, it is pretty simple. Here are a few things to consider:
First, you'll have to get a turkey. These days there are so many options - but you have to think ahead. If you're looking for a locally sourced turkey you might be out of luck waiting a few days beforehand. Most places want you to order them so they can make sure they have the stock and can prepare it for you in time. I would definitely check with your local farmers and butchers first before giving up on the Buy Fresh, Buy Local route if you feel like you're late though.
Of course, turkeys are pretty big and most of them will be frozen. We usually cook birds over 20 lbs. and turkeys that size could take about 5 days to thaw! Take into account thaw time. Oh! Save the neck and giblets for the stuffing and/or gravy!
Second, if you're going to brine the turkey make sure you have everything you need ahead of time! If you're looking for a good brine recipe, use mine! I've been brining my turkey for a few years now and love how it turns out. There are some out there that think it is totally unnecessary or takes away from the natural flavor of the turkey. You'll have to determine that for yourself and do what you like.
Third, determine the the roasting time for the bird which is dependent on the size of the turkey, whether or not you've brined the bird and if you stuff the cavity. Check out Epicurious' page on roasting times here for some pointers.
Fourth, cook the turkey breast-side down for the first two-third of the way then flip it over to brown the breast. Approximately an hour breast-side up. This will allow the breast to baste in its own juices and you'll have crispy skin all around!
Let's get started!
I always stuff my turkey with dressing, but I do it lightly. The cavity is usually stuffed with aromatics too - citrus and herbs. I also don't tie (truss) the legs together. I know it looks pretty and some people swear by it, but I've found that my turkey roasts fine without it. I want as much of the skin exposed as possible and I believe the turkey will cook more even in those spots not concealed by the trussed legs.
Of course we use the drippings for gravy. I add vegetables, a little white wine, stock and butter to the pan before I place the turkey in it. I also use a rack to keep the turkey from sitting directly in the drippings while it's roasting. After the turkey is done I save the braised vegetables from the roasting pan for the gravy too. There is a good amount of butter in the pan for basting, I love how the butter cooks into the skin. Here's what you need for the pan before you put the turkey in it:
Ingredients (Roasting Pan)
- 4 cloves of Garlic
- 2 medium Carrots
- 2 medium Yellow Onions
- 2 stalks of Celery
- Approx. 6 stalks/sprigs of Parsley
- Approx. 2 sprigs of Thyme
- Approx. 2 sprigs of Rosemary
- 2 large Bay Leaves
- 1/2 stick of Butter
- 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
- 1/2 Poultry Stock
- Optional: 1 Orange and some Parsley for cavity
- Preheat oven.
- Wash turkey (whether it it's straight from it's packaging or from the brine bag) and pat dry and set aside.
- Roughly chop the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and butter and spread them evenly within the roasting pan.
- Toss in your parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, these will be picked out of the pan after the turkey is finished. Try not to break them up too much at the start. You can add more or less of these herbs according to your preference.
- Pour in the wine and stock then place the rack on top of the vegetables and herbs.
- Salt and pepper the turkey to taste. I like to add a quartered orange and parsley to cavity and before I stuff it - do so now if you like.
Note: If you brined your turkey it will already have absorbed salt from the brining solution. Lightly salt if this is the case.
- Place turkey in middle of the oven so it will evenly cook.
- Feel free to baste the turkey every 40 minutes or so.
- When the turkey is done roasting (165°F internal thickest part of the bird) pull it from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Coming up next is gravy!
Do not pour out the drippings from the pan or remove the braised vegetables in the pan. These will be used to make a delicious turkey gravy and a lot of it too! No need to list ingredients here because we have everything we need. If you saved giblets for the gravy or stuffing make sure they're available.
Note: In our house, I'll have the neck and giblets simmering on the stove the whole time the turkey is roasting. In the simmering pot I'll add the same mix of vegetables and herbs put in the roasting pan. Brown the giblets and vegetables before you pour in the liquids to simmers. This will make a flavorful broth, reduce it by half. When it's done, strain out the giblets and neck, keep these. Pick the neck for as much meat as you can get. Add this to the gravy later.
This takes anywhere for 15 to 30 minutes to complete. You can speed it up by adding a little bit of flour or a nice, dark roux.
- After the turkey is taken out of the pan, start removing the turkey fat from the drippings. I usually tilt the pan so the grease collects in one spot, making it easier to collect. Skim using whatever technique you like: skimming spoon, baster (with the rubber bulb), or whatever fancy device you get to use once a year. If you don't remove the fat you'll end up with a really greasy plate and miss out the concentrated flavors of the turkey seasoned turkey juices left in the pan.
- After the fat has been removed from the pan, remove the herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley). You can leave them in but the rosemary might be a little overpowering if someone gets a good chunk of that.
- Transfer all the contents of the roasting pan into a medium sized stockpot. If you made a broth stove top, add that to the stockpot too if you're not freezing it.
- Bring contents to a low boil, about medium.
- Take an immersion blender (one of the handheld wands) and puree the vegetables in the stockpot. This will thicken the gravy and give it a ton of flavor.
- Let gravy sit and roll till it's as thick as you like it. Taste test and add whatever seasoning you like.