Lindsay Ann Bakes: How To Cook A Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey With Gravy: 10 Easy Steps

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How To Cook A Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey With Gravy: 10 Easy Steps

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How To Cook The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

  • 1. Pick your turkey: I usually firgure about 2lbs per person becuase this will ensure everyone is well fed and there are still leftovers. 
  • 2. Thaw (Saturday or Sunday): Thaw your frozen turkey in the fridge before brining and roasting, about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. So this means, plan to have your turkey fully thawed by Wednesday, if you are planning to brine. (For a 20lb turkey, I buy it frozen on Saturday evening and stick it in the fridge, so it is ready to brine Wednesday morning.)
  • 3. Brine (Tuesday/Wednesday): Brine your turkey for the most juicy and flavorful bird ever! Click here to learn how to brine your turkey. A brining solution is typically made of water, salt, sugar with spices and aromatics for flavor. I like to make the brine on Tuesday to allow it to cool in the fridge and then brine the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, so it can soak overnight. Brining is usually done for 1 hour per pound but as long as you get it in the brining solution and in the fridge to brine overnight, that will do the trick.
  • 4. Prep (Thursday Morning): 
    • Position oven rack to the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. 
    • Take the turkey out of the fridge, rinse well so it is not too salty from the brine, and pat completely dry, so it is not cold out of the fridge when you put it in the oven so it cooks more evenly. 
    • Place it breast-side up on the roasting rack in a pan, or my favorite way- on top of a layer of sliced onions, carrots and celery on the bottom of a roasting pan, this ensure it is not directly laying in the bottom of the pan, so the hot air can move around, and it flavors the drippings for the gravy!
    • Salt the cavity and stuff it with aromatics like an onion, garlic, orange peel, celery, carrot, rosemary sprigs, etc., NOT stuffing. (Make the stuffing separate)
    • Tuck the wings underneath the bird and brush the skin of turkey all over with vegetable oil or melted butter and scoop some of the herbs and spices from brine solution and spread onto the skin of the turkey for extra flavor. I like to stick a few pads of butter under the skin and under the wings too. Season the top with salt and pepper. 
  • 5. Cook:
    • Start high and cook for 30 minutes at 450°F for a perfectly juicy and golden bird
    • Turn down the oven heat to 325°F for the rest of the cook time. The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 13-15 minutes per pound, so my 20lb bird usually takes 4 1/2-5 hours, plus a half hour of rest time
    • When the turkey is about half way done cooking, or when it looks like it is getting dark on top, loosely cover the top surface of the bird with foil to prevent further browning or over cooking.
  • 6. To Baste or not to Baste?: If you have a smaller bird, you can remove the turkey from the oven every 45 minutes, close the oven door so you don't let the heat out, and baste the turkey with the liquid from the bottom of the pan, and then return it to the oven. If your bird if larger, skip the basting, as this becomes too much of a hassle, and basting with the oven door open, lets too much heat escape, so keeping it moist with the brining process and rubbing the skin with butter will be just fine. 
  • 7. Check for doneness: About an hour before you expect it to be done, use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. It should read 165°F inserted in the thickest part of the turkey around the thigh, when it has finished cooking. The turkey will continue to cook as it rests, so make sure to not let it cook past 165°F while still in the oven. 
  • 8. Rest: To lock in the juices, rest the turkey on a cutting board by tenting it loosely with foil, and letting it sit for at least 30 minutes before carving. 
  • 9. Make the gravy: Pour your turkey drippings into a measuring cup and let the fat separate and rise to the top. Add about 1/2 cup of the drippings with the fat from the top to a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat, until liquid thickens about, 5-10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour and whisk until smooth and thick. Gradually whisk in 1 can (2 cups) of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook about 5 minutes, whisking until thickened and you have reached your desired consistency, adding more water for a thinner gravy. If desired, strain gravy through a fine-mesh sieve. 
  • 10. Carve turkey on a cutting board with a baking pan underneath to catch the drippings, serve with gravy, and enjoy (Don't forget to refrigerate the leftovers)!
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