Longer ago than I wish to consider, I promised Ian I’d post my roast turkey recipe. His procedure involves brining the turkey, which I must admit, I’ve never tried. It seems like a complicated and potentially messy way to try to avoid what is the bane of all cooks—a dry turkey. (Trust me on that: in my house, with that much water, sugar, and salt involved, plus two young children who would almost certainly be “helping” at some point in the process, spillage is a given.)
I first came across the basic procedure I have modified to suit my needs several years ago, when I needed a fast way to roast a turkey. I modified it when I needed to create a gluten-free turkey gravy procedure ... and true to form, I am still tweaking the recipe, but am very pleased with it overall. It doesn’t guarantee a moist turkey—no recipe can, because if a turkey is overcooked, it will be dry—but I have never had a properly-roasted turkey come out dry using this recipe.
Before those of us who want to continue head off into the kitchen, I would like to wish a wonderful Thanksgiving to “my seven readers”, as well as others who wander in via some search. I appreciate your interest in my ramblings, and I especially value the stimulating feedback and ideas many of you share with me. Here’s to the internet! [clink!]
And now, off to the recipes ... plus a bonus for those of you with the fortitude to read to the end.
Foil-Wrapped Roast Turkey and Wheat-Free Gravy
Preheat the oven to 450° F. The following chart lists approximate roasting times for the unstuffed turkey. I have found that they tend to be on the high side, but that might be because I let the turkey come to room temperature before preparing it.* To minimize the chance of over-roasting the turkey, use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is preheated to the correct temperature; and start checking the turkey for doneness well in advance of the stated minimum completion time listed (halfway through for small turkeys; up to one hour for large ones). An instant-read thermometer, inserted into the thigh away from the bone, should read 170° F; the breast should be no higher than 165° F. If you don’t have a thermometer, other means of testing for doneness include: wiggling the drumstick; if it moves freely, the turkey should be completely cooked; or cutting or poking a small hole into the meat; if the juices run clear, with no trace of pink, the bird should be done. (Added after dinner: Today the turkey I roasted was just shy of 24 pounds, and only took 3 hours to roast ...)
Weight (lb.) Roasting Time (hours)
For the Roast Turkey:
1 turkey, rinsed inside and out, patted dry
onion(s), quartered—reserve skins for broth (all vegetable quantities to your taste—fewer for smaller birds)
carrots, cut in large chunks
celery, cut in large chunks
melted butter or olive oil
1 lemon or lime
herbs of your preference, fresh or dried
salt and pepper
Using heavy-duty aluminum foil, cut a piece large enough to cover bird—about 3 times the turkey’s length. With the shiny side up (so less heat is reflected), cover foil generously with butter or olive oil, then center turkey on it lengthwise, breast up. Generously sprinkle salt in the cavity. Brush the turkey with melted butter or olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add desired spices (parsley, sage, and thyme are good choices—if using fresh I put a sprig or two in the cavity as well). Squeeze the juice of the citrus fruit over the turkey, tossing the halves into the cavity if desired. Fold up the foil around the turkey, making sure to turn up the short sides to hold in the juices; it doesn’t need to be airtight but the bird should be covered (otherwise parts may roast faster, and the skin brown sooner, than other areas).
Toss prepared vegetables into deep roasting pan (at least 2 inches deep), then place turkey on top. Roast turkey according to chart above. After about an hour of roasting, cut 2–3 slits near the bottom of the foil to let some juices out. To brown the turkey, turn back the foil as much as possible with about 30 minutes of roasting time left (if needed, the foil can be put back on to prevent over-browning). When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and pan, and let rest, covered with foil, for about 15 minutes before carving.
For the Gluten-Free Gravy:
Turkey neck (also giblets if desired)
1/2 C. minimum each chopped onions (skins reserved), carrots, celery
4 C. water
some of the same herbs used on the turkey (about 1/4 t. if dried)
corn starch, up to 1/3 C. or so (depending upon quantity of gravy, and thickness desired)
Place all ingredients EXCEPT corn starch, plus the reserved onion skins, into a saucepan. Bring to nearly boiling; then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour. Remove from heat and let cool; strain into a clean cup or bowl. Discard neck and vegetables.
After the turkey is roasted and removed from the pan, pour out the pan drippings if you want to skim off some or all of the fat. Otherwise, leave the drippings in the roasting pan, and add all but 1/4 C. of the cooled broth. Place the roasting pan over medium heat and allow the juices to bubble for a few minutes. Stir occasionally to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan (there’s a lot of flavor there!).
While the gravy is simmering, stir corn starch into reserved 1/4 C. broth. (If you forgot to reserve any broth, you can use cool water for this.) Stir the corn starch slurry into the gravy, stirring well and cooking just until thickened to your preference.** Adjust seasonings if necessary; pour into a gravy boat, straining out the vegetable chunks if desired.
Temperature note: I know, I know: letting the turkey come to room temperature sounds dangerous to those of you who believe the government’s every word on food poisoning, but hear me out: food poisoning mostly comes from an already-contaminated product or sloppy cleanliness habits while cooking. I am meticulous about handling the bird, and all the utensils that are involved in preparing it; and I have never, to my knowledge, given anyone food poisoning from a roasted turkey (I’ve eaten from every one and have never gotten sick). Letting the turkey come to room temperature before roasting means that all the flesh is pretty close to the same temperature, inside and out, instead of possibly being frozen inside. That makes it more likely the bird will cook evenly; and of course it will cook more rapidly since the starting point is a higher temperature. (Return to recipe)
Corn starch note: The general guideline for thickening is to use 2 t. of corn starch for each cup of liquid to be thickened. You can measure all the liquids if you want, or just eyeball it. My guess is that the minimum amount of corn starch needed would be 1–2 T. for a gravy of medium thickness. (Return to the recipe)
Congratulations on slogging all the way through that! I hope it was worth your while ... but if not, here’s a very tasty variation on whipped cream that is sure to please adult pumpkin-pie lovers (maybe some kids too, but that’s left to your discretion). Add about 1 T. brown sugar and 2 T. bourbon to 1 C. of heavy cream; whip as usual and serve atop pumpkin pie, or whatever other pie you wish to try it on. Yum!