- Lauren Groveman - https://www.laurengroveman.com -

Perfect Roast Turkey
yields serves 8 to 14

Below is a recipe for roasting a gorgeous whole turkey. You use the same seasoning mixture for Perfect Roast Chicken, capons, Cornish hens, or even a bone-in turkey breast (great for school lunches!). When roasting a whole turkey, I like to sear it first, breast up, at a very high temperature. Then, I turn the bird over and roast it breast-side down for most of the time. I turn it over, breast up, for the last 30 minutes of roasting. I recommend having a helper to hold down the roasting pan while you turn the bird. Make sure to baste the turkey throughout the roasting process, more frequently toward the end.

As far as the ingredient amounts go, the larger the bird, the more of the garlic butter and gravy ingredients you’ll need. I’m also giving you the instructions to make the gravy right after the turkey leaves the oven, while it rests. And, when not making gravy (if roasting a turkey breast to use exclusively for sandwiches and salads), there’s no need to place the cut up vegetables underneath the meat as it roasts.

For the turkey

  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • About 6 whole black peppercorns
  • Vegetable spray or oil, for roasting rack
  • 1 turkey (12 to 22 pounds)
  • Poultry Seasoning Mix, as needed
  • Flavorless vegetable oil, for rubbing turkey
  • 1 1/2 to 3 sticks butter
  • 5 to 8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press

For the gravy

  • 2 to 4 cups hot Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 to 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 to 4 medium-sized fresh button mushrooms (optional), wiped clean and finely minced or coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (use 3 tablespoons flour with 2 tablespoons butter, 2 cups stock and ½ cup wine OR 6 tablespoons flour with 4 tablespoons butter, 4 cups stock and 1 cup wine)


To set up to roast a whole turkey

Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the carrot, onion, celery and peppercorns into the bottom of a large non-reactive roasting pan. Spray a V-shaped roasting rack with vegetable spray or brush with oil and place it over the vegetables. (The rack will raise the turkey as it roasts, giving it full heat exposure, which is one of the secrets to successful roasting).

To clean and season the turkey

Remove neck, liver and gizzards from turkey, reserving all but the liver for the stock.Thoroughly rinse and dry turkey, trimming away any excess fat from the cavity opening. Sprinkle the inside of the cavity with onion powder and freshly ground black pepper. Then sprinkle the Poultry Seasoning Mix, very generously, on both sides of the turkey. Use your hands to scoop up a liberal amount of oil and rub it onto the bird evenly distributing the seasoning. When done, the turkey should look deeply colored and glistening.

To season without pre-assembled Poultry Seasoning Mix

Take out a jar of onion powder, garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and sweet paprika, along with a pepper mill and a bottle of vegetable oil. Place a sheet of plastic wrap around the center of each bottle, including the oil, which will help keep the jars clean as you season the turkey. Grind a generous amount of black pepper into a small bowl. Starting with the onion powder, sprinkle each listed seasoning liberally all over the turkey, being the least generous with the Lawry’s. Lubricate the turkey, as directed, reapplying more seasoning and oil, until satisfied with the turkey’s appearance, and follow the remaining instructions.

To stuff the turkey

If planning to stuff the turkey, prepare the stuffing as directed in your recipe and, just before roasting, spoon it loosely into the cavity. (Use a generous ½ cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Don't overfill since stuffing will expand as turkey roasts.) If not using stuffing, peel and quarter onion, clean and halve celery and place in cavity with parsley.

To truss turkey

Thread a 12- to 14-inch piece of kitchen-twine through a trussing needle and tie a knot at the bottom end of the string. Starting at the top of the cavity (in front of the breast bone), sew through both side flaps of fleshy skin until you reach the bottom of the cavity. Pull to secure closed and use the remaining string to wind around the knobby ends of the drumsticks (while pulling) to bring them together. Tie in a knot to secure the legs in place and clip off loose ends of strings. The bony tips of the wings should be bent downward to sit underneath the turkey. Place turkey (breast side up), on the prepared roasting rack.

To prepare garlic butter

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When bubbling, reduce heat to low, add garlic and sauté about 3 minutes, until garlic is soft and fragrant, and let cool until just warm. Pour garlic butter into a blender and whirl until smooth. Spoon half the melted garlic butter over seasoned turkey. (I blend the garlic into the butter to help prevent it from scorching, since a large bird like a turkey requires a longer time in the oven.)

To roast the turkey

Roast turkey in the preheated 450°F oven for 20 minutes. Then remove roasting pan from oven and carefully turn turkey breast side down (use the knobs of the drumsticks to move the bird.) Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and roast 1 1/2 to 3 ½ hours longer (depending on the size of the bird), basting occasionally, using a bulb-baster. Turn the bird over once more (breast side up) and pour on the remaining garlic butter. Roast another 30 minutes or so, basting frequently with pan juices using a bulb-baster. As the skin becomes crisp and golden, check turkey frequently for signs of doneness, remembering that an unstuffed turkey roasts quicker than a stuffed one. When fully cooked, remove turkey from oven and let it rest on the roasting rack (loosely tented with aluminum foil) over a platter or carving surface for 10 to 20 minutes so the juices settle.

To prepare neck and gizzard

While turkey is roasting, simmer neck and gizzard (never the liver which makes the stock bitter) in 2 cups of the chicken stock until tender, about 30 minutes for the neck and 1 hour for the tougher gizzard. Pull meat off neck and shred or chop it; chop the gizzard as well. Set aside stock, chopped neck and gizzard for the gravy.

To deglaze roasting pan

While roasted turkey rests, pour off all but 2 to 4 tablespoons of drippings (depending on the amount of butter, flour, stock and wine you’re using) from the roasting pan. (Keep all those browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan along with the vegetables.) Set the roasting pan over medium-high heat. Pour in the wine and, using a gravy whisk or a wooden spatula, move the ingredients around the bottom of the pan to combine the caramelized browned bits of vegetables, drippings and wine. Simmer until liquid is reduced by 1/2, occasionally pressing on the vegetables to extract any remaining flavor. Pour the reserved hot chicken stock over the reduced wine and vegetables, still stirring and mashing down on the vegetables with a wooden spatula. Stir this mixture and simmer over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes.

To make the gravy

Melt butter in a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When bubbling, add minced shallot and chopped mushrooms, if using. Sauté until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes, then sprinkle on the flour, stirring to combine. Cook mixture over medium heat another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Place a fine-meshed sieve over the saucepan and carefully pour the simmering stock mixture from the roasting pan into the sieve. Press hard on the solids as you force the enriched stock through and into the pot; discard the solids. Stir to combine stock with contents of saucepan; then stir in reserved chopped neck meat and gizzards, and simmer over low heat until hot and well combined. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep the gravy warm over low heat until the turkey is carved and ready to serve.

Carving instructions

Almost the same as for chicken, there’s just more breast meat to slice and the limbs are larger than a single person can handle. Take off the crisp skin that covers the breast and place it to the side, while you carve the meat. Then, slice the skin into strips and lay them decoratively over the sliced meat. And instead of placing the legs and thighs from very large birds on a platter, dislodge the meat off the bones and place them on the platter as you would the sliced breast meat. Wings should be disjointed (split into two pieces) and placed on the platter.

Timing is Everything

If impeccably fresh, the turkey can be seasoned (not stuffed) two days ahead and kept refrigerated, well covered with oiled plastic wrap. Always stuff poultry minutes before you plan to cook. If not using stuffing, however, the scallions can be inserted ahead, when you apply your seasoning.

All of the vegetables to roast underneath the bird can be assembled the day before and kept together in the refrigerator, well covered.

The stock, for the gravy, can (and should) be made days, weeks or months ahead and kept in the freezer in sealed plastic containers.

If you don’t have a reserve of chicken stock ready-to-go or tucked away in the freezer, “doctor” canned chicken broth by simmering some sliced aromatic vegetables such as carrots, celery, onion and parsley in the broth for 1 to 2 hours. Strain, discard the solids and use as directed in the recipe. Doing this will substantially perk up both the flavor and color of canned broth.

The gravy base can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator, well covered.

The garlic butter can be assembled a few hours ahead and kept at a comfortable room temperature. Reheat just before using.