Deep-fried, smoked, grilled, spatchcocked, stuffed, dismantled, braised, submerged in a vat of brine…over the many years I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve prepared turkey every which way, some more successful than others. But this year I’m going old-school with a big beautiful bird roasted in my oven.
I’ve learned some key tips through my experiments: brined turkeys taste better, butter helps keep things moist, and don’t stuff your turkey or you risk food poisoning (plus I find it a bit gross.) So, with the stuffing on the side, this year I decided to treat my turkey the way I like to treat my roast chicken.
The first step is to dry brine it. What does that mean? Rub the turkey all over (inside and out, under and over the skin) with plenty of kosher salt and then let it sit and let the salt work its magic over one or two days. It works the way a wet brine does, which is to impart salty flavor into the meat.
Next step: take the chill off the turkey and dry it all over with paper towels. I don’t bother rinsing it (and there’s too much risk of cross-contamination with a giant dripping bird.) Drying it helps keep it from sticking, and helps the butter stick to it.
Then rub that bird all over with a herb-infused butter as you did with the salt: inside and out and under and over the skin. Stuff it with a few aromatics (but not so many that there is no air circulation inside the bird), pop it on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast, roast, roast away.
I like to keep some liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan to help keep things moist — plus it makes for a great gravy base when you’re ready to make it. I also like to turn the bird while cooking to make sure it’s all nice and crisp and browned.
Keep an eye on the temperature with an instant-read thermometer to make sure you don’t over or under cook this beauty.
Happy Turkey Day!
Dry-Brined Herbed Roast Turkey
Makes 12+ servings
- One 14-lb turkey, ideally organic and pasture-raised, defrosted if frozen
- About 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 cup turkey stock, chicken broth, or white wine
- One to two days before roasting:
Rub the salt all over the turkey, under and over the skin and in the cavities. Place it in a roasting pan or a baking pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- The day you plan to serve the turkey:
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. In a bowl, stir together the butter, thyme, and sage until well combined.
- Using paper towels, dry the turkey inside and out. Rub the butter mixture under and over the top of the skin. Stuff the cavity with the onion, carrot and parsley sprigs.
- Set the turkey on a roasting rack set inside of a roasting pan just big enough to hold the turkey. Add the stock or wine to the pan.
- Roast the turkey for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to 375F. Turn the bird upside down to brown the bottom. Continue to roast, basting the turkey occasionally with the pan juices, for 1 more hour. Remove the turkey from the oven and carefully turn the bird breast side up. Continue to roast until the temperature reads 165F in the thickest part of the breast away from the bone or 170F in the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone. The turkey juices should run clear.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer to a carving board, loosely tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes while you prepare the gravy from the pan juices.
- Be sure to reserve the turkey carcass and roasted vegetables for making stock.