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This old-fashioned roast turkey and gravy shows why covering turkey with cheesecloth while you roast it is the perfect trick to ensuring tender meat and shatteringly crisp skin. And there’s no need to stuff, truss, brine, or otherwise fuss with it.

An old-fashioned roast turkey on a white platter, with gravy in a boat beside it.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen | The Best of America's Test Kitchen | America's Test Kitchen, 2009

This old-fashioned roast turkey and gravy reminds us why there’s a lot to be said for old-fashioned. Like cheesecloth draped on a roast turkey to guarantee shatteringly crisp skin. That’s because it works. So we’re not averse to old-fashioned. Not at all.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey and Gravy

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 5 H
  • Serves 10 to 12

Special Equipment: Cheesecloth

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Ingredients

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  • For the turkey
  • 4 cups cold water
  • One (12- to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets reserved
  • 1 pound salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch-thick (6 mm) slices
  • For the gravy
  • 1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
  • Reserved turkey neck and giblets
  • 1 onion (5 oz), diced
  • 5 cups cold water
  • homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth" data-metric="474 ml homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth"> 2 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Roast the turkey
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Fold the cheesecloth into an 18-inch square, place it in a large bowl, and cover it 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, and pour any remaining water into the roasting pan. 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.
  • 4. 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°F (71°C), 30 to 45 minutes longer.
  • 5. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes. Reserve the roasting pan.
  • Make the stock for the gravy
  • 6. 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, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  • 7. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • 8. Stir in the water, stock or broth, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming and discarding any scum that rises to the surface, until the stock is reduced by half, about 3 hours.
  • 9. Strain the stock, reserving the giblets, if desired. You should have about 3 1/2 cups stock.
  • Make the gravy
  • 10. Pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a strainer and then pour them into a fat separator. Let the juices and fat separate.
  • 11. Skim the fat from the surface of the strained juices, reserving about 1/4 cup fat in a small bowl.
  • 12. Pour the defatted pan juices into the measuring cup along with enough of the stock to measure 4 cups.
  • 13. Heat the reserved fat in a saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Stir in the flour and cook until it’s honey-colored and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  • 14. Slowly whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the gravy is slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • 15. If desired, chop the giblets and add them to the gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 16. Carve the turkey and serve it with the gravy. Originally published November 12, 2009.

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