Herb-Roasted Turkey with Shallot Pan Gravy Recipe, on Epicurious.com
See link above for go-to turkey and gravy recipe. Additional notes below, based on past experience with this recipe and many tips from a Good Eats Thanksgiving special (Alton Brown is fantastic).
- You *will* cry when prepping the shallots for this recipe, there are just so many. Get people to help if possible (“many hands makes light work”), do it in a ventilated room, and wait to apply any party-ready eye makeup. Cold shallots straight from the fridge might be less pungent on the eyes.
- Don’t stuff the turkey (you can’t with this recipe anyways, but it’s worth mentioning). By the time the stuffing has reached the correct temperature (165 °F), the meat will be well over the “done” temperature and will dry out. Cook stuffing in a separate dish in the oven, pouring some pan juices over them towards the end of the cooking time.
- No need to baste the turkey, it has no measurable effect on the flavour or texture of the turkey. Basting forces you to open the oven over and over, changing the oven temp (lower oven temp = longer cooking time) and releasing valuable steam (steam = moisture = juicier meat).
- Do check the turkey every once in a while to be sure the shallots and pan drippings aren’t burning (burnt pan drippings = bad gravy). If you can get away with just peeking in through the oven window, that’s best, but you can also open the door quickly to check. There should always be a layer of liquid on the bottom of the pan. Add liquid to the pan as and when necessary (stock is best, though water works too). Cheaper turkeys are generally plumped with some water, so if you’ve got a fresher, farm-bought bird, you’ll probably wan’t to check the pan for liquid more often than, say, if you’re cooking a Butterball.
- Turkey meat is fully cooked when it has reached 165 °F (76 °C). Keep in mind that the dark meat takes longer to cook than the light meat. As per the BBC: “if the turkey is over 4kg, calculate 20 mins per kg + 90 mins. If the bird is under 4kg, calculate 20 mins per kg + 70 mins.”
- Those cooking time guidelines are useful but depend on an accurate oven. No one wants under-done turkey (and food poisoning), but dry turkey from overcooking isn’t ideal either. Instant-read probe thermometers like this one that stay in the turkey throughout the cooking time remove any doubt from the equation. If the thermometer has an alarm that indicates when the correct temperature is reached, even better. Insert the thermometer straight down in to the turkey breast, with the tip of the probe in the thickest point (key: probe should *not* touch the bone). Don’t insert it through the side or the juices will run out while cooking. Cook the turkey until the thermometer reads 168 °F (76 °C) and no higher. The breast meat will be fully cooked at this point, and the dark meat will continue to cook to as the turkey rests.
- Rest the turkey for at *least* 20 minutes (recipe says 20, but it can definitely be longer, up to 45). Do *not* cut in to it to it before then, all the juices will run out and the meat will become dry. If you’ve used a thermometer, there’s no need to check that “the juices run clear”. This resting time also frees up the oven to heat up any dishes made in advance, or roasting some veg.
- A fat separator like this one is so worth buying if you like gravy. It makes the “spooning off the fat” bit a cinch. Get one that holds at least litre of liquid.
Useful tools, videos, etc:
- Turkey defrosting calculator
- How to Carve a Turkey video by the Art of Manliness (ps, ladies are *just* as talented at carving turkey) (pps, at 3:22 he’s talking about the breast bone, not the backbone) (ppps, the cook gets dibs on the turkey oysters)
- BBC Good Food turkey tips