The perfect Roast Turkey is dry brined for maximum flavor and moisture, then basted in both butter and olive oil. Plus an easy recipe for delicious gravy!
My idea of perfectly roasted turkey involves juicy meat, butter-crisp skin, and plenty of flavor.
However, I’m not willing to submerge my turkey in liquid for days in my refrigerator, nor am I ready to get out the vat for deep-frying a turkey (traditions and what not, you know how it is).
Luckily, dry-brining gets the job done quickly, efficiently, and deliciously.
How to Dry Brine a Turkey
When you dry-brine a turkey, you are basically just salting it really well. The salt pulls liquid out of the meat and creates a brine of salt and turkey juice right there, on the spot. This tenderizes the meat and the liquid goes back in to the meat.
By adding a little baking powder to the salt for your dry brine, a tip I learned from Kenji at Serious Eats, your skin will be a little crispier and a little browner.
Do you prefer to wet-brine your turkey? Instructions are in the recipe notes.
How to Roast a Turkey
Once your turkey is brined, rub it with butter under the skin, sliding some sage leaves in too as you go.
Bake the bird at 325 degrees, periodically basting it with a combination of butter and olive oil. I put some water in the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching and to make sure all the brown bits are preserved for the gravy.
Speaking of gravy, this is a classic recipe using pan drippings, flour, vermouth, and stock (substitute more stock for the vermouth if you want).
Roast Turkey Nutrition Information and Yield
For the nutrition information, I’m assuming about 40% of the turkey’s total weight will be edible meat (once you discard the bones, etc.).
For a 14-pound turkey, this comes out to approximately 5.6 pounds of edible meat. I’m rounding up to 6 pounds (to keep the math easy) and assuming 8 ounces of meat per person to get 12 servings. The calorie count also includes 1/4 gravy per person.
Perfect Roast Turkey Recipe
For the turkey:
- 1 (14 pound) fresh turkey neck, heart, and gizzards removed and discarded
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 4 tablespoons butter softened, plus 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 bunch fresh sage
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the gravy:
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
- 1 1/2 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To brine the turkey:
- Under running cold water, rinse the turkey well inside and out. Remove any excess fat or pin feathers. Pat dry using paper towels.
- In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt and baking powder. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the bird, from about 6 to 8-inches away. Coat well, stopping before a crust forms. (All of the salt mixture may not be needed.) Transfer the turkey to a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, about 12 to 24 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature 2 hours prior to roasting.
To roast the turkey:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place the rack in the lower third of the oven. In a small bowl mix the melted butter and the olive oil for basting; set aside.
- Drain turkey. Using paper towels, dry both inside and out. Using your fingers, gently slide between the skin and the breast of the turkey to loosen the skin. Spread half of the softened butter between the breast and the skin.
- Arrange twelve sage leaves evenly between the skin and the breast. Place the remaining sage in the cavity. Season with black pepper, including the cavity.
- Truss the turkey, place the bird on it's back and rub the remaining 2 tablespoons softened butter all over. Place in a roasting pan breast-side up. Pour 1 inch water into the bottom of the roasting pan. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roast the turkey for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, basting every hour with the butter and oil mixture. Add additional water to the pan as needed.
- Begin testing for doneness after 2 1/2 hours. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should reach 165 degrees, and the juices should run clear. Transfer the turkey to the carving board and loosely cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
To make the gravy:
- Pour drippings from roasting pan into a large measuring cup. Allow the fat to rise to the surface and carefully pour or spoon off the fat, reserving 1/4 cup. Pour the reserved fat back into the roasting pan, and place the pan on the stove top over two burners, and place on medium heat.
- Stir in flour and cook while stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the vermouth to the pan and scrape any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- To the drippings, add enough stock to make 2 cups and add to the roasting pan. Cook until the gravy thickens, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To dry brine the turkey longer:
- Loosely cover the bird after sprinkling salt mixture. Refrigerate up to 3 days.
- To wet brine the turkey:
- In a pot large enough to hold the turkey and fit in the refrigerator, add cold water to fill pot 1/3 full.
- Add 3 cups kosher salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 chopped yellow onion, 1 bunch fresh thyme, and 1 tablespoon fresh cracked peppercorns.
- Place the turkey into the pot, breast-side down. Add additional cold water to completely cover the turkey and fill the pot as much as possible.
- Cover with the lid and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 hours prior to roasting. Discard the brine, and under cold water, rinse the turkey inside and out.
- Place back into the stock pot and cover with cold water. Allow to sit at room temperature. Proceed with steps to roast the turkey.