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Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy
Recipe from: Thanksgiving 101
Cookbook Heaven  at
After trying every turkey roasting method under the sun, this is the one I come back to, and the one I always teach at my cooking classes. I am giving instructions for an average-sized 18-pound turkey, but the instructions can be adjusted depending on the size of your bird.
Makes about 18 servings with about 7 cups gravy
  • One (18-pound) fresh turkey
  • About 12 cups of your favorite stuffing
  • 2 1/2 quarts Homemade Turkey Broth (page XXX), as needed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Salt
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup bourbon, port, or dry sherry, optional
  1. Position a rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat to 325 F. Reserve the turkey neck and giblets to use in gravy or stock. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat the turkey skin dry. Turn the turkey on its breast. Loosely fill the neck cavity with stuffing. Using a thin wooden or metal skewer, pin the turkey's neck skin to the back. Fold the turkey's wings akimbo behind the back or tie to the body with kitchen string. Loosely fill the large body cavity with stuffing. Place any remaining stuffing in a lightly buttered casserole, cover and refrigerate to bake as a side dish. Place the drumsticks in the hock lock or tie together with kitchen string.
  2. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Rub all over with the softened butter. Season with the salt and pepper. Tightly cover the breast area with aluminum foil. Pour 2 cups of turkey stock into the bottom of the pan.
  3. Roast the turkey, basting all over every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan (lift up the foil to reach the breast area), until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (but not touching a bone) reads 180 F degrees and the stuffing is at least 160 F, about 4 1/4 hours. (see below for estimated roasting times.) Whenever the drippings evaporate, add broth to moisten them (about 1 1/2 cups at a time). Remove the foil during the last hour to allow the skin to brown.
  4. Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter and let it stand for at least 20 minutes before carving. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Drizzle 1/2 cup of turkey broth over the stuffing in the casserole, cover, and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a heatproof glass bowl or measuring cup. Let stand 5 minutes; then skim off and reserve the clear yellow fat that rises to the top. Measure 3/4 cup fat, adding melted butter, if needed. Add enough turkey broth to the skimmed drippings to make 8 cups total.
  6. Place the roasting pan over two stove burners on low heat and add the turkey fat. Whisk in the flour, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the turkey broth and the optional bourbon. Cook, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened and no trace of raw flour flavor remains, about 5 minutes. Transfer the gravy to a warmed gravy boat. Carve the turkey and serve the gravy alongside.
  7. TURKEY BROTH: Using a heavy cleaver, chop 3 pounds turkey wings into 2-inch pieces (or ask the butcher to chop them). In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or use fat pulled from turkey tail area and render). Add the giblets reserved from the turkey. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside. In batches, add the chopped turkey wings to the pot, adding more oil if needed, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Return the giblets and all the wings to the pan. Add 1 onion, 1 carrot, and 1 celery rib with leaves, all coarsely chopped. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add 4 quarts water, or enough to cover the ingredients by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off all of the foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to low and add 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 4 parsley sprigs, 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf. Simmer uncovered 2 to 3 hours. Strain the broth and let cool; skim all the fat from the top before using. Makes about 8 cups.
Estimated Roasting Times (Oven Temperature 325 F)

Add an extra 30 minutes to the roasting time to allow for variations in roasting conditions. It's better to have a bird done ahead of time than to keep everyone waiting and hungry for the bird to finish roasting.

Unstuffed Turkey

8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4/12 hours
20 to 24 hours 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed Turkey

8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

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