Thanksgiving, if you think about it, has a lot in common with moving: No matter how prepared you are, something —whether small or big—can always go wrong. Conventional wisdom dictates that you should embrace a Zen attitude, be as organized as possible, and roll with the punches.
But what if you could knock one thing, just one, off your moving list in advance? Say the huge wardrobe just magically disappeared one day and reappeared precisely where you want it in your new home?
This make-ahead turkey recipe has that sort of magical qualities. And better yet: It’s Ina magic.
Her many fans know Ina Garten can be a culinary fairy godmother, so they trust the power of her wand when it comes to a turkey you can carve, plate beautifully, and heat in its own fabulous homemade gravy on Thanksgiving day.
Here are some things you’ll love about this recipe:
1. Dry Brine Rules
Yes, wet brining can be delicious, too, but it’s messy and requires a good bit of space. If you don’t have a cooler or fridge sufficiently big enough to hold all that liquid in addition to the bird, dry brining can be your best buddy in the lead-up to the big day.
2. Classic French Flavors
Instead of bay leaves and oregano, consider classic French flavors: fresh thyme, lemon and butter. If you’ve ever roasted a chicken with those elements, you know just how tasty they can be together.
3. Hot, Moist Sliced Turkey for All
Ina solves a problem you may not have even realized you have, here: By the time you’ve let the bird rest, carved it, and plated it, you may well be serving turkey slices that are cold or dully warm. They may need a ton of hot gravy just to be delicious. Don’t do that. She suggests a way to carve, plate, and sauce the platter so it’s ready to take up just a skinny slice of oven. (Yes, you can already have the pies going, if the temperature is a match.) Then you serve the bird in a bath of gravy with more gravy on the side. The technique helps it stay moist and all sorts of delicious. You’re welcome.
Make-Ahead Roast Turkey Recipe
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 (12- to 14-pound/6- to 7-kg) fresh turkey
- 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter, melted
- Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions and Sage
Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 3 Tbs. of salt, the minced thyme and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well and pat it all over with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the salt mixture in the cavity of the turkey and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish just large enough to hold it and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave the turkey in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°F). Put the turkey in a large roasting pan, discarding any juices in the dish. Place the onion, lemon and thyme sprigs in the cavity. With kitchen string, tie the legs together and the wings close to the body. Brush the turkey with the butter and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
Roast the turkey for 2 to 2 1/4 hours, until the breast meat registers 165°F (74°C) (put the thermometer in sideways) on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a platter. Cut off the legs and thighs and put them back into the roasting pan, covering the breast and carcass tightly with aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dark meat registers 180°F (82°C). Remove the dark meat to the platter with the turkey, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Pour a 1/4-inch (6-mm) layer of the gravy into a large (12 x 16-inch/30 x 40-cm) ovenproof serving platter (make sure it’s ovenproof!) Carve the turkey and arrange it artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side. Serves 8.
Preparation time: 3 days.
Recipe from Ina Garten, Make It Ahead (Clarkson Potter, 2014)
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Do you put the covered carcass back in the roasting pan with the legs and thighs
How many days should I buy my fresh turkey before thanksgiving
truly beautiful tutorial and in fact it had much more information than I could expect.
What is the temperature used for reheating the platter of turkey? 325 degrees?
Great questions in the comments and ones I also had. Spoke with my sister who has made this before and swears by it. Here’s what she does, as well as a few other notes I found elsewhere, that’s not written in the details above:
1. After the turkey is roasted (white and dark meat) cover loosely with foil and let sit for 1-2 hours BEFORE refrigerating.
2. Refrigerate whole pieces, DO NOT SLICE YET
3. Thanksgiving day: Remove from refrigerator about 30 – 45 minutes before slicing.
4. Slice ONLY what you will need for the day.
5. Follow directions in recipe above for placing on heat-safe serving dish.
5. Reheat at 325 OR any temperature between 300 – 400 degrees, which gives you flexibility if your oven is also in use for other dishes.
Hope this helps. My biggest issue is going to be enjoying the aroma of the roasting turkey today, but waiting until tomorrow to eat it!
(I actually do know my numbers… that last one should be a 6. 🙂 )
Thank you for the information!
I hope someone answers the 3 questions I see as I have the same ones. I’m surprised those details were left out of the instructions.
I’m confused. I do not see a step in this process for putting the turkey back in the fridge. Do you do that before or after you carve?
Did you find this answer? Weird it’s not stated!
If you cook Turkey a day ahead. Do you slice and store in gravy. Do you have a recommended reheat time and temp?
Kathy I have been making the day ahead turkey for the last three years. To answer your question. Yes, you roast the turkey the day before, slice it the way she shows it done, and place it on. Bed of the gravy you make from her recipe. Let me just say, it has been a big hit every time. The turkey is very moist and delicious. My adult son was so impressed with the tenderness and the moisture that he wanted me to tell him how I made it. Lol. I told him about Ina Gartens recipe in her cookbook and how I made it exactly as she stated. The whole family enjoys it every year from now on. Ina is a master in the kitchen. By the way, the gravy she gives is so tasty. I will not use any other now. Today is September 28,2020 and I just made a turkey breast with bone in it to use for my stock and then make my gravy for Thanksgiving Day this year. I will freeze the stock and have it ready to go. I hope this answers your question. Have a Blessed and Healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas. MaryAnn
Maryanne, would you post the gravy recipe her.
Would you be able to explain further (thanks for the response for those of us confused who want to try this method) once you cook all the meat and let it sit and then proceed to slice the turkey and lay over a bed of gravy on the platter, then do you cover with plastic rap and leave overnight in a refrigerator and then on Thanksgiving day finish the recipe by baking for 15-20 min as stated? So really all you are doing with the Turkey Thanksgiving Day is reheating it?
Do you rinse off the dry brine before uncovering to sit in the refrigerator to let the skin dry out?