What you will need:
- An instant read thermometer. Don’t freak out. I will walk you through how to use it. You can buy one here.
- A roasting pan.
- A roasting rack.
- Kitchen twine.
Ingredients (for 12-18 people):
For the Turkey
- A 13-16 pound kosher turkey or brined turkey (kosher organic works too!)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 scant tablespoon salt
- 1 ¾ tablespoons freshly ground pepper
To Stuff the Turkey Cavity
- fresh thyme (half a bunch)
- 1 onion, cut in quarters, skin on
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 russet potato
- 1-2 carrots or parsnips
- 2 bay leaves
For the Pan Juices...Gravy
- olive oil, about a tablespoon
- 3 large shallots, finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
- thyme, half a bunch- tied together with kitchen twine
- 2 ½ cups quality chicken broth, preferably homemade
- The turkey neck...which comes with the turkey
- Freshly ground pepper and salt if needed
To Make the Turkey
- Preheat oven to 450°F and place rack on lower third of oven.
- Remove the neck and the possible bag of gizzards that comes with your turkey. Save the neck for your pan juice gravy.
- Rinse your turkey and dry it really well.
- Use your hands to give it a light coating of olive oil. Rub in the salt and pepper.
- Place it over the roasting pan on your rack and stuff the cavity with the vegetables listed above. You might want to cut some in half to get them to fit in. If you don’t have enough room, use less. If you have more room, put in more! This isn’t rocket science. We’re just creating a flavor base for the pan juices.
- Make sure turkey is now breast side down and add a cup of water or broth to the bottom of the pan. If you see that it has evaporated during cooking, add more. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. If you don’t have any, skip it.
- Place in oven and look at the clock. Calculate approximate cooking time. Please note, cooking times vary widely as not all ovens and turkeys are the same. I prefer to underestimate the cooking time so as not to overcook the bird. Ovens vary. Don’t worry, this isn’t hard.
- For a 13 pound bird, about 1 hour 50 minutes...start checking temperature at 1 hour 30 minutes
- For 14 pound bird, about 2 hours...start checking temperature at 1 hour 40 minutes
- For a 15 pound bird, about 2 hours 10 minutes...start checking at 1 hour 50 minutes
- For a 16 pound bird, about 2 hours 20 minutes...start checking at 2 hours.
- Read note on how to use the instant read thermometer.
- After an hour of cooking, take bird out of oven and shut door. Use clean oven mitts and flip the bird over so it is breast side up. Ok, so you dirtied some oven mitts. They can get washed. Put bird back in oven.
- When you have checked turkey on both sides of the thighs and it registers 160°F, take it out of oven. Place the rack over a cookie sheet or another roasting pan so you can get and use the yummy juices in the pan you just cooked in. Loosely tent the bird with tin foil. Let rest for 30 minutes before carving.* See Note on Carving.
To Make the Pan Juices...Gravy:
Gravy is a thickening of the pan juices. I don’t do this for so many reasons, starting with it’s less healthy and ending with its one more pain in my tuchus. And it’s less pure. We want the flavor to be as fresh as possible so here you go. I recommend starting this as your turkey cooks to make your process more stress free.
- Place pan over medium high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add the shallots, celery, half a bunch of thyme, still on its branches , and the turkey neck and let cook for about 7 minutes.
- Add broth, adjust heat to low flame and let cook down for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables are really soft and the broth is condensed.
- Once turkey is done, pour out all the juices from the roasting pan into a glass tupperware and place in freezer for a few minutes. You want the fat to separate. If there is a lot of fat, use a shallow spoon to scoop it out. You can also use a bunch of paper towels to soak it up. You do want some fat to remain!! A thin layer is sufficient. Pour into saute pan.
- Now take the pan you roasted the bird in and place it over 2 burners on your stove, on medium high heat. Pour in a cup of broth and scrape out all the yummy bits on the bottom. This is good stuff! Pour it into your saute pan.
- Let your juices cook on low flame until you are ready to serve with your turkey. Remove the thyme branches and the turkey neck. You can either 1) use a wooden spoon to smash down the veggies into a mush 2) place the whole thing in a blender 3) strain out the vegetables or 4) simply serve as is. I like to pour it directly on the platter of turkey, but you can also serve on the side.
A Note on Carving:
Make sure you parade your gorgeous turkey around so everyone can see how fabulous you are. But then, go carve it in the kitchen. You need a big cutting board and a large sharp knife. The meat closest to the bone is the juiciest so we want to remove all the breast meat from one side in one fell swoop, and then cut it into pieces horizontally. Use a fork to balance and slice the breast off from the bone, lay it down and cut across into slices. Easy.
For Dark Meat- ideally you want to cut the leg and thigh away from the rest of the turkey but this isn’t always easy. So just hold the leg out and use your knife to carve off the meat into pieces.