The Washington Post

Simple Roast Turkey With Simplest Gravy

Simple Roast Turkey With Simplest Gravy 8.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Nov 14, 2017

This is a salted, or dry-brined, bird, roasted in just a few hours, and its accompanying gravy is guaranteed smooth and lump-free -- because it has no flour.

For a twist: Mix 2 tablespoons of minced sage, rosemary or thyme with the salt when you rub the turkey; and/or try stuffing the cavity of the turkey with a bunch of any of those herbs and a halved lemon; or add a tablespoon of ground cumin to the salt when you rub the turkey and stuff the cavity with a halved orange.

It’s helpful to have an instant-read thermometer for checking doneness.

To read the accompanying story, see: The ultimate guide to your first stress-free Thanksgiving.

Make Ahead: The bird can be salted and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days in advance. It needs to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • One 12- to 14-pound turkey (fresh/defrosted; giblets removed), patted dry with paper towels
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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Sprinkle the salt evenly over the exterior of the turkey. If you have the time, refrigerate it for up to 2 days. This will allow the salt to really season the meat more thoroughly. You can either place it in a large ziptop bag or place it on something large like a platter and let it sit in the refrigerator with its skin exposed, which will help dry the skin and leave you with extra crispy skin after roasting.

Whether or not you have the time to refrigerate the salted turkey, let it sit out at room temperature for an hour before cooking it so that it’s not so cold. This will help it cook more evenly.

While the turkey is hanging out at room temperature, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the celery ribs on the bottom of a large roasting pan and set the salted bird on top of them (an edible rack!). This will allow some hot air to circulate under the turkey, which will help it cook more evenly. Pour the water around the base of the pan (be sure not to pour it directly on the turkey). If you’re using a disposable aluminum pan, be sure to set it on a sturdy baking sheet to facilitate moving it into and out of the oven.

Roast the turkey for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your turkey, until it’s gorgeously browned, firm to the touch, the leg wiggles easily and the juice that comes out when you poke the thigh with a paring knife runs clear (not pink or red). Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the breast meat registers 170 degrees and the thigh meat (probed away from the bone) registers 180 degrees.

Let the turkey rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before transferring it to a large cutting board (it helps to lift it with a couple of clean kitchen towels that you immediately throw into the wash).

Transfer the celery to your serving platter if you would like to serve it (or just snack on it, or discard it). Pour the juices from the roasting pan through a fine-mesh strainer into deep bowl. Whisk in the sour cream to form a smooth gravy. Taste and add pepper, as needed.

To carve the turkey, start with the leg-thigh joints. Detach them by holding a drumstick with one hand and cutting through the skin all the way through the thigh joint. It helps to wiggle the thigh so you can see where the joint is. Separate the legs and thighs at the joint and transfer them both to your serving platter.

Next, remove the wings in the same manner -- by cutting through the joints -- and set them on the platter with the dark meat. Now, onto the turkey breasts: Steady the top of the bird with tongs, a fork, or your hand (a bunched up paper towel makes a nice buffer between your hand and the hot bird). Working with one breast at a time, make a horizontal incision at the base of each breast and then make a vertical cut along the breastbone so that you can remove each breast in one large piece. Once both breasts are off the bone, place them on your cutting board skin side up and slice crosswise into slices that are as thick as you’d like them.

Serve the turkey with the gravy, passed at the table.

Recipe Source

From cookbook author Julia Turshen.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

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