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!
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.