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Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey and Gravy

This is the original, old-fashioned turkey. Because we layer the turkey with salt pork, we prefer to use a natural turkey here; self-basting turkeys may become too salty. (If using a self-basting turkey, use all water in the gravy rather than a combination of water and broth.) Make sure to start the gravy as soon as the turkey goes into the oven.–The Editors at America’s Test Kitchen

LC Cheesecloth Aficionados Note

There ought to be a fan club for those who swear by cheesecloth for their roast turkeys. Are you one of these card-carrying cheesecloth acolytes? If so, let us know in the comments, being certain to tell us exactly why you’ve come to rely on it.

Special Equipment: Cheesecloth

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey and Gravy Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 4 H, 30 M
  • Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • For the turkey
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 12- to 14-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved
  • 1 pound salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • For the gravy
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Reserved turkey neck and giblets
  • 1 (about 1 cup) onion, diced
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Roast the turkey
  • 1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Fold the cheesecloth into an 18-inch square. Place the cheesecloth in a large bowl and cover with the water.
  • 2. Arrange the turkey, breast-side up, on a V-rack set inside a roasting pan and tuck the wings behind the back of the turkey. Prick the skin of the breast and legs of the turkey all over with a fork, cover the breast and legs of the turkey with the salt pork, top with the soaked cheesecloth (pouring any remaining water into the roasting pan), and cover the cheesecloth completely with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  • 3. Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the breast registers 140°F (60°C) on an instant-read thermometer, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the foil, cheesecloth, and salt pork and discard. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F (220°C). Continue to roast until the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165°(71°C), 30 to 45 minutes longer. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Make the gravy
  • 4. While the turkey is roasting, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the turkey neck and giblets and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the water, stock or broth, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 hours. Strain the stock, reserving the giblets, if desired. (You should have about 3 1/2 cups stock.)
  • 5. Carefully strain the contents of the roasting pan and pour them into a fat separator. Let the juices and fat separate, then skim the fat, reserving 1/4 cup of the fat. Pour the defatted pan juices into the measuring cup along with enough of the giblet stock to yield 4 cups.
  • 6. Heat the reserved fat in an empty saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Stir in the flour and cook until it’s honey-colored and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the giblet stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the gravy is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Chop the giblets and add them to the gravy, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.
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