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How to Brine and Roast Turkey with Homemade Gravy

After countless years of cooking up the holiday bird, here’s our tried-and-true recipe for how to brine and roast turkey. Extra Bonus: homemade gravy so good you’ll want to pour it over everything!

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The secret to extra-tender, juicy turkey and gravy

How to Brine and Roast Turkey with Homemade Gravy

Somehow, Hubby and I have been responsible for the holiday turkey every Thanksgiving AND Christmas every single year since we can remember. Which means approximately 17 years, which translates to 30+ roast turkey adventures.

And that’s not counting all the turkey we roast for later-winter gobbling just because we feel like it. We really, really like a tender, juicy turkey. We even make Instant Pot Turkey Breast with Gravy anytime of the year.

Needless to say, we’ve had more than our share of failing and nailing it where roast turkey with homemade gravy is concerned. We’ve tried plenty of brine and roast turkey methods.

We eventually landed on a consistently juicy, moist, and super-flavorful roast turkey. Did we mention the slurp-worthy homemade gravy?

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Use fine table salt for the brine, along with peppercorns and brown sugar

How to make the brine for your turkey

For the brine, you’ll need lots of brown sugar, spices, lots of veggie broth, and plenty of table salt. Be sure to use fine table salt here, and not coarse kosher salt.

It seems like a lot of salt, but it’ll make your big bird ultra juicy and retain tons of great moisture. Whether you buy a fresh turkey or a frozen one that’s been treated with a solution, still brine it for at least 24 hours (up to 48 hours, if you’ve defrosted your turkey early enough – remember, it takes at least 6 days for a large turkey to fully defrost in the fridge.)

P.S. You’ll need a super tall stock pot or clean bucket with which to fully immerse turkey in brine.

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Cinnamon sticks, apples, and herbs for aromatics

All the Aromatics

Steeped aromatics like apples, onion, and cinnamon sticks will go into the turkey’s cavity, along with fresh herbs. ⇑

After trying a slew of various brining ingredients, we kept coming back to adapting Alton Brown’s advice for the brining portion.

This results in some major magnificent smells floating through the air, creating salivation. Just be forewarned.

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Kosher salt, pepper, and garlic for the dry rub

Dry Rub for Roast Turkey

Generously spread this ⇑ simple blend of garlic, pepper, and kosher salt under the skin, directly onto the flesh of turkey all throughout.

If you can get over the fact that you’re smooshing your fingers in between the skin and flesh of turkey for the sake of dry rub, you’ll be great. Trust us, it’s worth it.

You’ll do a trick of roasting on high, flipping, and roasting on lower temp. For the perfect holiday bird:

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Let finished turkey sit at room temp before carving

Homemade Gravy

And let’s not forget the amazing gravy. It’s more of an au jus than a thick gravy, so if you really want a thicker gravy, you’ll have to thicken it with flour or dissolved cornstarch. We really like the saucy aspect of au jus, so we don’t thicken ours.

Stir and cook together all the classic players: onions, garlic, carrots, celery, etc.

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Fresh carrots, celery, and onions provide great flavor for the gravy

You’ll get a mouthwatering au jus (thin sauce-like gravy) with full-on aromatics.

Drain the aromatics out and you’re left with possibly the most luscious sauce on the planet. Meanwhile, I suffered brain lapse and didn’t get a pic of the strained gravy by itself, so feel free to imagine.

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You’ll get an au jus consistency; thicken with cornstarch slurry if desired.

Always let a roast rest at room temperature for 5-10 minutes prior to slicing, whether it’s prime rib or whole turkey. This allows the juices within to redistribute and settle. If you slice into the bird too soon, you’ll lose an abundant amount of juiciness.

Finally, Slice up your glorious turkey, pour plenty of that savory au jus gravy onto the slices, and enjoy.

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Finished turkey is flavorful and oh-so-tender!

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roast turkey

How to Brine & Roast the Best Turkey (+Amazing Gravy)

5 from 21 reviews

This step by step recipe for how to brine and roast the most juicy, moist turkey will immediately make you the turkey guru! Don’t skip this amazing sauce-like gravy that tastes wonderful over turkey and potatoes! (NOTE: Give yourself a couple of days for brining)

  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: 20 1x

Ingredients

Scale

For the Brine:

  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1/2 cup tightly pack brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 TB whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • plenty of ice and water

For the Dry Rub:

  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tsp Kosher salt

For the Turkey:

  • 1 large frozen turkey (roughly 1620 lbs)
  • 1 apple, quartered
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 large leaves sage
  • 4 carrots, roughly cut
  • 4 celery stalks, roughly cut

For the Au Jus Sauce/Gravy*:

  • 4 TB olive oil
  • Giblets and neck from turkey
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed flat
  • 1 onion, roughly cut into pieces
  • 4 carrots, sliced into 1/4” coins
  • 4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4” pieces
  • 6 quarts water

Instructions

Brine the Bird:

  1. In a very large/tall stockpot (one that can submerge the entire turkey later) add all brine ingredients. Heat over high heat and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool.
  2. Gently submerge turkey into the brine. Cover the top with ice. Pour in enough cold water to completely submerge turkey in liquid. Stir the liquid to combine. Store in fridge or cool location (below 40F) Swirl/stir a couple of times during brine time (48 hours recommended, but 24 hours minimum.)

Roast the Turkey:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F with rack on lower position. Remove turkey from brine and rinse well inside & out. Dispose brine. Set turkey upright on roasting pan’s wire rack to allow it to drain for several hours and reach room temp. Dry turkey skin with paper towels. Combine dry rub ingredients in bowl.
  2. Gently spread one-third of the dry rub between skin and flesh, taking care not to rip the skin. Place half of the rosemary and sage between skin as well. Press remaining dry rub on outside of skin throughout entire bird. Secure loose skin of neck area with toothpicks to hold skin closed.
  3. Combine apple, 1 onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup water in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 5 min. Drain and place mixture into the turkey cavity. Place remaining rosemary and sage into cavity.
  4. Place sheet of foil on wire rack of a turkey roaster and poke holes to allow juice to flow through. Place turkey breast side down on the foil-lined rack. Add 1 onion, carrots, and celery to the bottom of roasting pan.
  5. Place turkey in preheated oven and roast for 1 hr at 450F. Drop heat to 300F and roast for 30 min. Take bird out and flip so its breast side up and continue roasting at 300F until breast is 160F on instant read thermometer.

For the Au Jus/Gravy:

  1. While turkey is roasting, heat olive oil in a large pot. Add giblets and neck to pot and brown, leaving brown bits. Remove from pan; throw out gizzards, reserving just the neck. Add garlic to empty pot and lightly brown. Add onions, carrots, and celery, cooking until onions become translucent. Add water and bring to a boil. Add neck back in and simmer on med heat. Continue to simmer until reduced by about half. Keep stock on low simmer until turkey is finished.
  2. When turkey is finished cooking, remove turkey with rack and let rest over a large platter.
  3. Place the turkey roasting pan with juices over two burners. Pour stock with veggies into the roasting pan and bring to a boil. Use wooden spoon/spatula to scrape up all brown bits from the roasting pan. Boil and reduce by at least 1/2 until au jus has the desired flavor strength.
  4. Strain mixture so you are left with just the au jus. Skim fat off the top and serve with sliced turkey.

Notes

* It takes about 6 days for a large frozen turkey to completely thaw in the fridge.
* If you don’t own a large enough stockpot, you can brine the turkey in a bucket.
* Allow turkey to come up to room temperature before roasting, for best results.
* The gravy is a sauce-like au jus, which is thinner than classic gravy. If you prefer a thicker gravy, add 2-3TB flour to the boiling liquid while stirring, OR use dissolved cornstarch for a gluten free option (start with 2TB cornstarch fully dissolved in 2TB water; no trace of white cornstarch should be visible upon use.) 

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 135
  • Sugar: 11.3 g
  • Sodium: 6328.7 mg
  • Fat: 4.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 18.4 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Cholesterol: 17.9 mg
  • Author: Chew Out Loud
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: roast
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Keywords: roast turkey

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52 comments

    • Amanda

    Wow, thanks for all the tips! They’re definitely going to come in handy. I can’t wait to make this turkey this week — I know it’s going to be great!

    • Karyl Henry

    Wow this looks amazing. I swear I always get all the dry pieces of turkey at the holidays, so I’m super glad to see these great brining tips. And the dry rub too, especially getting it underneat the skin

    • Heidy

    This recipe for how to brine and roast turkey has totally amped up our turkey game at the holidays!!! Our family loves the flavor of our turkey so much more since we have started to brine it! Thanks for the great tips!

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Heidy Linn Mccallum

      • chewoutloud

      So happy your family loves this!! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • HEATHER PERINE

    My job always every Thanksgiving is side dishes and desserts. I leave the Turkey to someone else, But this year because of the pandemic I’m (gulp) going to have to do the turkey too!! So thank you so much for this recipe and post – I feel more confident going forward I will end up with a juicy, perfect turkey to serve!

      • chewoutloud

      You’re going to ace this! 🙂

    • Valerie Skinner

    This post has so much helpful information on one of the scariest parts of Thanksgiving cooking. I have it bookmarked to reference this holiday!

      • chewoutloud

      LOL, so true…turkey has a daunting reputation. Hope our how-to makes it way easier this holiday! 🙂

    • Amy

    I am going to attempt my first turkey this year! I’m Australian so it’s not traditional Christmas fare for us but wanting to mix it up a bit. I have always been intimated but I like your recipe so I’m confident it’ll work out well. Fingers crossed!

      • chewoutloud

      I think you’ll love it! Happy cooking, Amy 🙂

    • Petro

    We won’t be cooking a whole turkey this year but I’m guessing this would work well for a turkey breast too. Just have to adjust the ingredients

      • chewoutloud

      Yes, for a turkey breast-only, just halve the ingredients. Enjoy!

    • Yeah Lifestyle

    Oh yum, I am saving this recipe for this year’s turkey. the rub and brine recipes does sound really good

    • Diana

    This is a perfect recipe for the holidays! Haven’t tried brine turkey yet so definitely adding this to the list.

    • Marysa

    What a thorough guide – this is great! I’m not good with making things from scratch and this is going to be very useful for Thanksgiving.

      • chewoutloud

      It works so well for us every year, and people always ask about the brine (and homemade gravy!) Happy cooking, Marysa! 🙂

    • Catherine

    Gorgeous photos! This turkey looks perfectly cooked and I love brining my bird too! It really makes a difference.

      • chewoutloud

      Yes! We think alike 🙂

    • Nate

    Brine Turkey that’s interesting! My cousin always does the cooking. I need to tell him about this!

    • Krista

    I’m so grateful for this tutorial – and how timely! I must admit that my family is not a big turkey loving family, but this really makes me want to brine up this year!

      • chewoutloud

      It makes a huge difference to the tenderness and flavor 🙂 Thanks, Krista!

    • CANDACE MOCZARSKI

    AWESOME!! I will make this thanks for sharing…… Perfect for the holidays

      • chewoutloud

      So happy you like it!

    • Rikki Ridgeway

    I’ve never had brineturkey, but this sounds amazing.

      • chewoutloud

      It’s really so flavorful 🙂

    • Chad

    Right on time!!! Roasting a turkey has always scared me but you made it so simple. Thanks a lot.

      • chewoutloud

      It’s not hard at all; there’s just that wait time that comes with brining and roasting – so worth it!

    • Lindsey Ramos

    Hi! I am trying this recipe for my first ever Turkey for Thanksgiving! I have a 14lb bird, about how long does it take to roast using your instructions?

      • chewoutloud

      Lindsey, the very best way would be to use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird… there are so many variables, including temp of bird to begin with, oven variances, and size of turkey… so once you’ve flipped the bird over, use thermometer to determine when it’s done. You want 160F at the center. Enjoy!! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

        • Lindsey Ramos

        Thank you! I am planning to use a thermometer, I was just hoping for a ballpark time frame so I knew what time to start cooking. Thanks again!

    • Donna

    This was the first time I made turkey and it wasn’t dry. The gravy was delicious too.

      • chewoutloud

      YAY, Donna!! So happy you tried it and liked it! It’s super moist and our fave

    • May

    Yum! All recipes sound scrumptious!

    • Mary Osborne

    Happy Thanksgiving!! Next year I’m going to brine- would using kosher salt instead of table salt be acceptable? Thx + wishing you +yours a most joyous holiday season!
    MaryO1230

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