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Holiday Roast Turkey and Gravy

November 22, 2010

By Kath Dedon

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I can’t believe that I failed to get a picture of my Holiday Roast Turkey before I carved it! I guess it doesn’t matter too much, though, because my turkey was not the most beautiful Thanksgiving bird. My roasting method was chosen to get the tastiest turkey, even though it meant I would not have a Norman Rockwell turkey to photograph.

(image from media.photobucket.com)

Over the years, I have tried many different turkey roasting methods: high heat, frequent basting, brining, frequent turning, indirect grilling, a countertop roaster….and probably more that I’m forgetting.

This time I went back to the method that has never failed to produce a well-cooked turkey with moist, tender breast meat. It’s the way my mom usually roasted turkeys.

Basically, you put the turkey upside-down (breast-side down) on a rack and roast it until it’s done. That’s it. The turkey is self-basting because most of the fat is in the legs, thighs, and back.

The only down-side is the fact that you don’t get a beautifully browned breast, but I’d rather have delicious breast meat than a beautifully photogenic turkey.

Here it is…..After I carved it!

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Holiday Roast Turkey

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(print the recipe)

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Classic Herb Bread Stuffing is fantastic with the turkey!

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If you buy a frozen turkey, be sure to allow enough time to defrost it. Allow 1 day for every 4 pounds, 3 – 4 days for a 12 – 16 pound turkey.

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1 turkey (mine was 12 pounds), fresh or fully defrosted

Salt and pepper

1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered

3 sprigs thyme

1 stalk of celery, cut into 4 pieces

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 4 pieces

4 tablespoons butter, melted

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1. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator about an hour before roasting

2. Preheat the oven to 325˚.

3. Remove the plastic or metal clip that holds the drumsticks together.

4. Remove the giblets and turkey neck from the cavity of the turkey. (I usually discard the liver. Reserve the giblets and neck to make broth, if desired.)*

5. Rinse the turkey inside and out, and dry it well with paper towels.

6. Generously salt the cavity of the turkey.

7. Put half of the onion and the 3 sprigs of thyme inside the cavity.

8. Put a V-shaped roasting rack in a roasting pan*; put the other half of the onion, the celery, and the carrot in the bottom of the pan. Add 3 cups of water to the pan.

*For many years I used a disposable aluminum roasting pan. If that is what you’re using be SURE to use it with a sturdy baking sheet underneath. They are much too flimsy to safely handle a turkey on their own.

9. Salt and pepper the breast-side of the turkey. Brush with half of the melted butter.

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10. Put the turkey breast-side down on the rack in the roasting pan.

11. Salt and pepper the back of the turkey and brush with the rest of the melted butter.

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Upside-down, brushed with melted butter, and ready for the oven!


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12. Roast for 15 minutes per pound (about 3 hours for a 12 pound turkey)

13. After the first hour, add more water to the pan, if necessary. You want to maintain about 3 cups.

14. When the turkey is almost done, turn it over so the breast will get a bit of color. (Silicone oven mitts make this task much easier!)

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At this point you can use a bulb baster to remove some of the broth and drippings for stuffing. Add more water so there’s still about 3 cups left in the pan.

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15. Use a good thermometer to check the turkey. It’s done when the thighs, at the thickest part, are 180˚ and the breasts are between 165˚ and 170˚.

A great tip from Global Gourmet: You can test the accuracy of your digital thermometer by inserting the tip 2 inches into a pot of boiling water. At sea level, it should register 212˚.

16. When done, remove turkey from the pan and cover with heavy duty aluminum foil to rest for 30 minutes.

17. Remove and discard the vegetables from the pan. Strain the broth to use for gravy and/or stuffing.

*Using the giblets and neck for broth

Put the gizzard, heart, and neck in a 3 quart pot. Add half of a peeled yellow onion, a stalk of celery (cut in about 4 pieces), and a peeled carrot (cut in about 4 pieces). Add 3 – 4 cups of water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 – 2 hours. Strain the broth to use for gravy and/or stuffing.

Turkey Gravy

(Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe in The Way to Cook)

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Makes about 1¼ cups, serving 4. Double to serve 8. (I wish I had doubled it!)

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If you don’t have enough turkey broth, use what you have and add chicken broth to make 2 cups (or 4 cups, if you double it).

Bon Appétit found that King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour works well to make gluten-free gravy because it has no added gums (like guar gum, for example). I tried it and it worked great!


3 tablespoons turkey fat, skimmed from the top of the broth from the pan

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons flour (Substitute King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour for gluten-free gravy.)

2 cups turkey broth

1/4 teaspoon fish sauce (optional; adds umami not fishy flavor)

Salt and pepper, to taste

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1. Melt the butter in the turkey fat over medium heat.

2. When the butter is melted, add the flour to make the roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes. The roux will turn brown.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour some of the broth in the pan and whisk vigorously until it is smooth and lump-free.

4. Whisk in the rest of the broth. Whisk in the fish sauce, if using.

5. Put the pan back on the burner; reduce the heat so it is just simmering. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

6. When the gravy is done, season to taste with salt and pepper.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2010 2:37 pm

    Hi Kath,

    That’s true, taste comes first and then looks. I applaud people who can manage to roast up a juicy breast meat especially on a turkey. 🙂 I wouldn’t mind to come over your house to have the leftover, haha!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    • November 26, 2010 9:08 am

      Thanks for your comment, Emily!

      Just this morning, I was reminded of a good tip from Cook’s Illustrated. A great way to reheat leftover turkey is to put it on a steaming rack over simmering water. Cover, and check every few minutes. It reheats very quickly and is just as moist as the fresh roasted meat!

  2. November 25, 2010 5:13 am

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Your turkey sounds delicious and your gravy is a sure winner. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  3. December 5, 2010 4:13 pm

    Bellissima ricetta!
    Io il tacchino lo preparo cosi:
    http://cucinainmusica.blogspot.com/2010/07/tacchino-di-natale.html/
    è buonissimo ….. provate.
    Saluti da Milano – Italy – Giulia

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  1. Steamed and Roasted Turkey « In the kitchen with Kath

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