Alex's Roast Turkey, as seen on The Kitchen Thanksgiving Live, Special 1
Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli

Butter-Basted Turkey and Gravy

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 4 hr 15 min (includes resting time)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 12 to 14 servings





Special equipment:
1 large double-layered piece of cheesecloth
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Stuff the turkey: Place the turkey on a flat surface, season with salt and pepper on the inside and out and stuff the cavity with stuffing if using. Tie the legs closed with a strong piece of kitchen twine or string by wrapping them around and around the drumsticks and pulling them closed like you're tying a shoe.
  3. Prepare the turkey: Soak 1 large double-layered piece of cheesecloth in the butter. Brush any remaining butter on top of the bird and cover the breast meat with the cheesecloth to keep it moist for the first part of cooking, tucking it into the natural crevices of the bird to keep it in place. Arrange the garlic, carrots and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan and arrange the turkey on the roasting pan right above them. Place the pan in the center of the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Lower the oven to 350 degrees F and count about 12 minutes per pound of the turkey weight.
  5. After about 2 hours, take the turkey out, gently remove the cheesecloth from the top of the breasts, baste the turkey with any pan juices, rotate the pan halfway and return to the oven. Place the turkey neck and the chicken stock in a medium pot and simmer gently on the stove as the turkey finishes cooking. Reduce the stock by about half.
  6. How do you know when the turkey is done? The temperature of the thigh meat (where the meat is thickest and takes the longest time to cook) should register 160 to 165 degrees F when tested with a thermometer. The thigh juices should also be clear, not pink. When done, remove the bird from the oven, transfer to a flat surface and allow it to rest, breast side down, for 30 minutes. Why rest the turkey breast side down after cooking it breast side up? So the juices flow back through the meat as it sits.
  7. Make the gravy: Place the roasting pan over the burners of the stove, whisk in the sherry and mustard to the pan and warm it over low heat. Scrape the bottom to get the drippings and tasty bits off the bottom of the pan as the sherry reduces almost completely. Strain the neck out from the stock and add the stock to the roasting pan. Simmer over medium heat, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce further until the mixture starts to thicken. Puree half of the gravy (with the cooked vegetables) in a blender until smooth, and then stir back into the gravy. The vegetables are a natural thickener that is healthier and lighter than the classic cornstarch or flour! Stir in the vinegar. Taste for seasoning. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.

Cook’s Note

Turkey and Gravy Frequently Asked Questions: How much turkey per person? I count 1 pound per person. One big bird or 2 smaller ones? I always prefer 2 smaller ones, 14 to 16 pounds each. If one cooks nicely and the other doesn't, you have two chances of having juicy turkey! How long to cook it? I begin with an equation of 12 to 15 minutes per pound if the bird has stuffing in the cavity. A little less if no stuffing. Pop-up thermometer? Cute aren't they? A little insurance policy or so it would seem. Those suckers don't pop up until way past 165 degrees F so you will get the pop up along with your dry turkey. Use a meat thermometer. Test the thickest part of the thigh as it takes the longest to cook. Basting? Everyone checks on the turkey at some point in the cooking process. When you naturally check on the turkey to make sure all is good, give it a baste with the pan drippings. Tips for getting a crispy skin? Fill a large pot (one that will hold your turkey with room to spare) halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil and season it with salt. Submerge the turkey in the water for 2 minutes. Remove the turkey from the water and allow it to "rest" uncovered in the refrigerator for 12 hours (or ideally overnight) before cooking. You can also remove the turkey from its plastic wrapping and let it "dry out" in the refrigerator, uncovered, for the whole night before roasting.