Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

After trying every turkey roasting method under the sun, this is the one I come back to, and the one I always teach at my cooking classes and use in my magazine articles. Its main feature is the trick of protecting the breast with aluminum foil to keep it nice and juicy. This method is especially useful with organic or heritage turkeys, which can be leaner than mass-produced birds. Instructions here are for an average-sized 18-pound turkey, but the instructions can expand or reduce depending on the size of your bird.

About18 servings, with about 7 cups gravy

Cooking Methodroasting


Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Five Ingredients or LessYes


Taste and Texturesavory


  • One 18-pound fresh turkey
  • About 12 cups of your favorite stuffing
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2½ quarts Homemade Turkey Stock 101, as needed
  • Melted unsalted butter, if needed
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup bourbon, port, or dry sherry, optional


  1. Position a rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

  2. Reserve the turkey neck and giblets to use in gravy or stock. Pull out the pad of yellow fat on either side of the tail and reserve. (These are sometimes already removed by the processor, so don’t worry if they aren’t present.) If you wish, rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat the turkey skin dry. Turn the turkey on its breast. Loosely fill the neck cavity with stuffing. Using a thin wooden or metal skewer, pin the turkey’s neck skin to the back. Fold the turkey’s wings akimbo behind the back (the tips will rest behind the turkey’s “shoulders”) or tie them to the body with kitchen string. Loosely fill the large body cavity with stuffing. Loosely cover the exposed stuffing with a piece of aluminum foil. Place any remaining stuffing in a lightly buttered casserole, cover, and refrigerate to bake as a side dish. Place the drumsticks in the hock lock or tie together with kitchen string.

  3. Rub the turkey all over with the softened butter. Season with the salt and pepper. Tightly cover the breast area with aluminum foil. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Place the reserved fat in the pan—it will melt during roasting and add to the drippings. Pour 2 cups of the turkey stock into the bottom of the pan.

  4. Roast the turkey, basting all over every 45 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan (lift up the foil to reach the breast area), until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (but not touching a bone) reads 180°F and the stuffing is at least 160°F, about 4¼ hours. Whenever the drippings evaporate, add broth to moisten them, about 1½ cups at a time. Remove the foil during the last hour to allow the skin to brown.

  5. Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter and let it stand for at least 20 minutes before carving. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Drizzle ½ cup turkey stock over the stuffing in the casserole, cover, and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a heatproof glass bowl, measuring cup, or fat separator. Let stand for 5 minutes; then skim off and reserve the clear yellow fat that rises to the top (for a separator, pour off the drippings and reserve both drippings and fat). Measure ¾ cup fat, adding melted butter, if needed. Add enough turkey broth to the skimmed drippings to make 8 cups total.

  7. Place the roasting pan over two stove burners on low heat and add the turkey fat. Whisk in the flour, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the turkey stock and the optional bourbon. Cook, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened and no trace of raw flour flavor remains, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the gravy to a warmed gravy boat, straining the gravy, if desired, through a wire sieve. Carve the turkey and serve the gravy alongside.


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Hmmmm Seems simple enough. I say go with it but add 2 important things. 1. Brine that bird for a day!! Submerge the turkey in water and add 2 generous handfuls of salt. Refrigerate overnight. That's your best assurance for moist breast meat, because the bird will absorb the salted water. 2. More spice please!! With all birds, I wiggle my fingers between the skin and flesh and put all kinds of spices there where they will get absorbed into the flesh. For turkey, use any of the following mixed with a bit of olive oil to make a paste: juniper berries, basil, tarragon, cumin, parsley,ginger, garlic, chili pepper, rosemary, lemon or lime zest, pink, green, white or black pepper. Come on people, use your imagination!! And happy turkey day!!


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