This is the easiest and most satisfying roast turkey you can make, simple enough for beginners but no less rewardingly juicy, flavorful, and golden brown than other more complicated techniques. There is no need to tie the legs or tuck the wings, and no basting necessary. But if you simply cannot imagine not basting your bird, use melted duck fat or olive oil, not the juices from the pan (their wetness can prevent the turkey’s skin from crisping).
What You Will Need
- Baking Sheet
- Aluminum Foil
- Roasting Pan with Rack
- Small Bowl
- Wooden Spoon or Metal Whisk
- Fine Sieve
- Medium Saucepan
- 1 whole 13-14 lb. whole turkey (do not truss)
- 2 3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt, or more if needed
- 1⁄4 cup (2 oz.) softened duck fat, or substitute unsalted butter
- 1 whole large lemon, halved crosswise
- 1 head garlic, top ½ inch cut off
- 2 whole large shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1⁄2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups warmed turkey stock, or more if desired
- Freshly ground black pepper
- One day before you plan to cook, remove the turkey giblets and neck and reserve. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a few layers of paper towels on top. Pat the turkey skin dry and set the bird breast side up on the prepared baking sheet. Season the outside of the skin all over with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, adding it gradually and rubbing to help it adhere. Transfer the baking sheet, leaving the turkey completely uncovered, to the refrigerator for 1 day (or up to 2 if needed).
- About 4 ½ hours before you are ready to serve, remove the bird from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for about 1 ½ hours.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350° and set a rack in the lower center. Starting at the bird’s cavity, carefully run your hands between the skin and the flesh, separating the skin from the flesh without tearing or removing it. Rub the duck fat and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt under the turkey’s skin, spreading evenly to coat the breast. Sprinkle the outside of the bird, including the legs and wings, with an additional ½ teaspoon salt.
- Transfer the turkey to a rack set in a roasting pan. Place the lemon halves, garlic, shallots, and 8-10 sprigs of thyme into the cavity of the bird. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, rotating the pan occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 140°, about 2 hours. Check to occasionally remove any accumulated juices from the crevices of the bird around the leg, using a baster to remove them and deposit them instead into the bottom of the roasting pan. (Do not baste the bird with the juices.) Raise the heat to 425° and add the reserved giblets and neck to the bottom of the roasting pan. Let cook until the turkey’s skin is deep golden-brown and a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150°. Remove the bird and tent the breast loosely with foil; let rest 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the gravy thickener: In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and the flour, mashing and stirring with a fork or your fingers until well combined and doughy looking.
- To make the gravy, pour the juices and fat from the pan into a fat separator and set aside. In the still-warm roasting pan, pour in the 2 cups turkey stock and whisk with a metal whisk or stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the juices from the fat separator to the turkey stock mixture (discard the fat). Then, using a fine sieve, strain the turkey stock mixture into a medium saucepan (discard the solids). Set the saucepan over high heat and add the prepared butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly and quickly until incorporated. Bring the gravy to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook until thickened, 2-4 minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste. Add the remaining 2 or 3 thyme sprigs (you may remove before serving), or more turkey stock to your liking if the gravy is too thick.
- Carve the bird, seasoning with a little more salt or pepper if desired. Serve with the gravy.