Whether it’s your first time or your fortieth time making Thanksgiving dinner, this classic roast turkey with giblet gravy is certain to wow everyone at the table.

The stock for this classic roast turkey with giblet gravy can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated or up to 3 months ahead of time and frozen. Or you can make it Thanksgiving morning before you put the turkey in the oven.–Michael McLaughlin


We’re not going to knock roast turkey recipes that call for all sorts of shenanigans beyond the usual basting and draping in cheesecloth. But neither are we going to knock simple recipes that turn out an impressive hen without the hoopla. This is an example of how simple is as simple does.

A classic roast turkey on a platter with pieces of apple and rosemary sprigs tucked around it.

Classic Roast Turkey with Giblet Gravy

5 / 2 votes
The stock for this classic Thanksgiving turkey can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated or up to 3 months ahead of time and frozen. Or you can make it Thanksgiving morning before you put the turkey in the oven.
Servings8 to 10 servings
Calories489 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes


  • Cheesecloth


For the turkey stock

  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 turkey wing drumettes (the meatiest portion of the wing)
  • Turkey neck, heart, and gizzard (optional)
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • Stems from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine, dry sherry, or tawny Port
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the classic Thanksgiving turkey

  • One (12-pound) fresh turkey neck, heart, gizzard used to make turkey stock, liver reserved
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup tawny Port
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 yellow onion unpeeled and quartered
  • 2 large carrots peeled and coarsely chopped

For the turkey gravy

  • 7 cups turkey stock preferably prepared using tawny port
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Make the turkey stock

  • Warm the oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown the turkey parts well, turning once or twice, about 14 minutes. Stir in the vegetables and herbs. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot occasionally, about 15 minutes. If using the giblets, remove them and reserve them at this point.
  • Add the stock or broth, wine, and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook for 35 minutes. Strain the stock into a large bowl. If using right away, spoon off any visible fat or pour it into a fat separator. If not, let the stock cool for about 30 minutes, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, and then, Using a large spoon, remove and discard the solid fat from the top of the stock. (You can refrigerate the stock for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.)

Make the classic Thanksgiving turkey

  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for up to 2 hours to take off the chill. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C).
  • Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat it dry. Trim and discard any excess fat. Fold the wings underneath the back of the turkey, as if it were putting its arms behind its neck, to prevent them from overbrowning. Lightly salt and pepper the turkey inside and out. If desired, stuff and truss the turkey.
  • Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Spread 2 tablespoons of the butter over the turkey breast. If desired, dampen an 18-inch square of doubled cheesecloth (muslin) and drape it over the turkey breast, leaving the drumsticks uncovered. Place the pan in the oven and roast the turkey for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the chicken stock or broth, the remaining 6 tablespoons butter, the Port, and the peanut oil. Warm over low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  • After 30 minutes, using a bulb baster, baste the turkey through the cheesecloth with some of the broth mixture. Continue to roast, basting every 20 minutes, for 1 1/4 more hours.
  • After the turkey has been in the oven for a total of 1 3/4 hours, add the onion and carrots to the roasting pan, stirring to coat them with the drippings. Continue to roast, basting the turkey every 30 minutes with the remaining broth mixture and then with the accumulated pan juices, until the vegetables are well browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 175°F (80°C), about 1 1/4 hours longer (a total roasting time of about 3 hours). Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and cover it loosely with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.

Make the turkey gravy

  • To make the gravy, place the roasting pan with the pan juices and vegetables over 2 burners and turn the heat to medium-high. Add all but 1/4 cup of the turkey stock to the roasting pan and bring to a brisk simmer. Stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, about 5 minutes.
  • Pour the contents of the pan through a strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the vegetables with the back of a large spoon to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids. Spoon off as much of the fat from the liquid as possible or pour the liquid into a fat separator.
  • Transfer the defatted pan juices into a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and simmer briskly for 5 minutes. If using the giblets, finely chop the heart and gizzard reserved from making the turkey stock and the reserved uncooked liver. Reduce the heat to low and stir the giblets into the gravy. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup stock into the cornstarch to make a slurry. Gradually stir the slurry into the gravy. Cook until the gravy thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Carve the turkey and pass the gravy on the side.
Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving by Michael McLaughlin

Adapted From

Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 489 kcalCarbohydrates: 27 gProtein: 17 gFat: 32 gSaturated Fat: 11 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 66 mgSodium: 1312 mgPotassium: 862 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 10 gVitamin A: 8788 IUVitamin C: 27 mgCalcium: 78 mgIron: 2 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2001 Michael McLaughlin. Photo © 2001 Noel Barnhurst. All rights reserved.

Originally published Oct 03, 2001

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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