A simple and delicious roast turkey with the best (and easiest) gravy you’ll ever try!
It seems like just yesterday I was cooking my first turkey. I was 17, a junior in high school and obsessed with cooking. My aunt always hosted and cooked Thanksgiving and my mom took care of Christmas. When I asked my mom if I could make Christmas dinner, she had absolutely no objections! She secretly hated doing it, though she never let that show.
Not only did she manage to get dinner on the table by noon on Christmas, but she managed to pull off a morning of opening presents and cleaning up the aftermath. I still don’t know how she pulled it off – nothing for dinner was prepped ahead of time and she was up half night wrapping presents. I had two jobs – set the table and hide clutter ?.
Now that I took over, we basically switched roles. While I cook dinner my mom now sets the table, hides any clutter, and does some last minute cleaning. She also takes on most of the cleanup after dinner. My mom is pretty amazing ?.
I’ve learned a thing or two about cooking a turkey over the last few years. I have tried a million different recipes and techniques, but my favorite is just a simply seasoned turkey. Sometimes simple is best.
I went through a brine phase for the past few years and I highly recommend it if you get your turkey at the grocery store. It makes a huge difference in flavor and moisture! However, if you’re lucky enough to get a fresh turkey from a local farm (?) you can skip the brine.
Simply cover the bird with ghee (clarified butter) and season it generously with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. You can use olive oil or butter as well, but the ghee really makes a brown and crispy skin!
The real trick to cooking a great turkey is making sure you don’t overcook it! The general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound (at 350º), so a 12 pound turkey would take around 4 hours to cook. However, I like to start mine out at 450º to really crisp up the skin and yield a nice juicy turkey. I’ve found this method to work best for me, plus it cuts the total time down by about 45 minutes! Instead of that 12 pound turkey taking 4 hours, it takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes. Not bad, right?
Speaking of turkey sizes – if you need to feed a lot of people I recommend making two smaller birds rather than one giant (20 lb. & up). The cooking time will be less and you’ll end up with a juicer and more tender turkey. If you normally make a 20 pound turkey, try doing two 10 pounders.
The one thing that is always the downfall for my holiday meals is the gravy. Everything always falls apart when it’s time to make the gravy! My solution to that is this super easy vegetable gravy. There’s no flour or butter needed and no slaving over the stove trying to whisk out lumps. I promise this gravy is just as tasty as what you’re used to it – maybe even better!
The gravy is literally just the broth and drippings left in the bottom of the roasting pan blended with the cooked vegetables. The result is the easiest and tastiest gravy ever! I’m amazed at how good it is actually. I mean, I’ve always thought gravy needed flour and butter, but it turns out that vegetables make a pretty good thickener.
When I’m getting the turkey ready, I throw in an onion, a celery stalk, a carrot, and a few porcini mushrooms. They cook in the broth and the flavorful drippings join the party during the cooking process. Then, just dump it all in a blender and you’ve got gravy!
You can easily double the gravy if you like to have a lot around, just double up on the veggies in the recipe and add more broth. My mouth is watering just thinking about this amazing gravy!
I have a container of this gravy in my freezer that I plan on bringing along to Thanksgiving dinner this year. Along with the turkey and my new favorite stuffing recipe ?. I am beyond excited about the stuffing, but you’ll have to wait for the next post to hear more about that! ?
If you’re hosting a small group and want something a little different, try my turkey roulade for a fun twist on a classic!
- 1 (12 lb.) Whole Fresh Turkey*
- ¼ Cup Ghee, or extra-light olive oil or butter
- Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Dried Herbs, for sprinkling (I used oregano and thyme)
- 1 Lemon, halved
- 1 Large Carrot, peeled and cut into large pieced
- 1 Stalk Celery, cut into large pieces
- 1 Small Onion, large dice
- 6 Dried Porcini Mushrooms
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
- 8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 4 Cups Chicken or Turkey Stock
- 2 Cups Water
- Preheat the oven to 450º.
- Place the turkey in a roasting pan with a rack insert. If you don’t have a rack for your roasting pan, you can use carrots and celery stalks to set the turkey on to keep it elevated.
- Rub the turkey with the ghee (or oil or butter) until completely covered. Season it liberally with salt, pepper, and dried herbs.
- Squeeze the lemon into the roasting pan and then place the halves into the cavity of the turkey. Scatter the carrot, celery, onion, porchini mushrooms, and herbs into the roasting pan. Pour the chicken broth and water into the roasting pan.
- Transfer the roasting pan into the preheated oven and cook the turkey for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes reduce the oven temperature down to 350º. Continue to cook the turkey for another 2 ½ hours, being sure to check on it every 30-45 minutes – you want to make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate too quickly in the bottom of the roasting pan. If you need to add more liquid, add more stock or water. You also want to make sure the turkey doesn’t get too brown, if it seems like it’s browning too quickly, just cover lightly with foil.
- After 2 ½ hours, use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey – inserted into the thickest part of the breast. If it’s between 155º and 160º remove the turkey from the oven. If it’s not to temperature, just let it cook a little longer. I like to check it early just incase, but you will probably need another 15 minutes.
- Tent the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.
- While the turkey is resting, transfer the vegetables, broth, and drippings into a high-speed blender (remove the herb stems first). Blend on high speed until very smooth. The gravy will thicken slightly as it sits.
- Serve the turkey alongside the gravy.
- *You can use whatever size you need, you'll just need to adjust the time accordingly. Add an extra 15 minutes per pound - so if you have a 15 lb. turkey you'll cook it for about 4 hours.
Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says
So I’ve never even attempted to cook a turkey before! I’m kind of scared to, and I never host Thanksgiving, so I guess that’s my excuse! 🙂 Your version looks just perfect, Keri! What a beautiful color and flavor!
Gayle @ Pumpkin ‘N Spice recently posted…Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits
Annie @ The Garlic Diaries says
This turkey and gravy looks perfect!! I love that you just blend everything together for the gravy – so simple and flavorful. I can’t wait to read about your stuffing recipe! I kept eyeing it in the pictures and hoping you would mention it :). Pinned!
Annie @ The Garlic Diaries recently posted…Fancy Schmancy Grilled Cheese
Your turkey looks perfect! Good for you for helping your mom at 17, I’m sure she appreciates it so much now that you take over 🙂 I totally agree, sometimes simple is best!