There are a million and a half roast turkey recipes out there all claiming to be the perfect one. Some tell you to cook it low and slow, some ask you to brine it, others have you rub it with prodigious amounts of butter—others even have you wrap the bird in muslin and baste it diligently while it cooks.
Many of these recipes do produce a delicious, moist bird with crisp skin, but not all of them are particularly easy. We know you’ll probably be juggling a lot of duties (not to mention side dishes) on the big day, so we wanted to give you one of our favorite roast turkey recipes, which also has the benefit of being one of the easiest. And if you pick up one of our antibiotic-free, humanely raised birds, you can be even more sure that your Thanksgiving dinner will be one for the books.
Dry-rubbing the bird with salt and letting it sit in the fridge overnight will season it evenly and draw out extra moisture. It’s easier and less messy than brining and still produces great results. And by tenting the turkey with foil during the first part of the cooking, you ensure that the bird steams to moist perfection before crisping up.
Count on at least 20 minutes of total cooking time per pound, and try to let the bird rest for at least an hour under foil before you carve it.
1 fresh, unbrined 12-14 lb turkey, with neck and giblets for gravy
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ lb carrots, washed and scrubbed and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped into large chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
6 large sprigs fresh thyme
4 large sprigs sage
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4-8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
1 cup dry white wine
At least 24 hours before you plan to roast your turkey, rinse it with cold water and pat dry. Rub thoroughly inside and out with salt. Use approximately ½ tsp per pound, so 6-7 tsp for a 12 lb bird. If you want to make carving the bird easier, remove the wishbone by cutting a narrow slash along both sides of the wishbone with a small knife, and then use your thumb and forefinger to gently tug it out.
Leave the turkey to air-dry on a pan in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan on roasting, letting it come up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Fold the wings behind the bird’s back. Rub the softened butter over the breast of the turkey and under the skin.
Put the vegetables, half of the herbs, giblets, and neck in the bottom of a deep roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and cover with a ½ inch of stock.
Put the other half of the herbs in the cavity. Place the turkey on a roasting rack and then place in the pan on top of the vegetables.
Carefully tent the pan with two long sheets of aluminum foil, making sure that the foil doesn’t touch the turkey, and that it’s crimped tight onto the edges of the pan.
Cook undisturbed for 2 hours for a 12-14 lb turkey. Add 20 minutes more per pound for turkeys larger than 14 lb.
Take the pan out of the oven. Remove the foil tent and keep aside. Baste the breast of the turkey with the pan juices—add up to a cup of stock if it looks like it’s low.
Place back in the oven, uncovered. Check the bird every half hour, remembering to baste it each time. To check for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh—it should read 165°F when the turkey is done.
Once the turkey is done, carefully remove to a carving board and tent with foil. Let it rest for at least an hour before carving.
Meanwhile, heat the roasting pan on a burner over high heat until the remaining stock starts to boil. To deglaze the pan, add the wine and scrape up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it continue to cook for a minute or two over high heat.
Strain the stock from the roasting pan into a deep saucepan and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove any fat from the surface using a ladle and then measure the remaining stock. Add enough fresh stock to make as much gravy as desired, as much as 8 cups of gravy in total.
Set on high heat until the stock has reduced by half, to form a thin but flavorful jus. Add the cornstarch mixture slowly, whisking as you do. Bring it back to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Remember to only adjust the salt at the end!