This super simple one pan roast turkey is your solution to a dry turkey. I’ll teach you the tips and techniques to this delicious and moist turkey. It is simple, mess free and MAKE AHEAD friendly plus it is a ONE PAN meal. Delicious potatoes cook in the same pan as the turkey with all the luscious garlic and pan drippings making for the most delicious and crispy potatoes EVER!
Turkeys are always a Thanksgiving must! The king of Thanksgiving has stumped my clients and frankly has even stumped me. It has always amazed me that such a simple bird can yield such unpredictable results. Overcooked, undercooked, dry, I have seen it all with my clients. In order to avoid these unpredictable results you need to make sure that you have a solid technique that is consistent.
After working in professional catering kitchens for years and making LITERALLY hundreds of turkeys, I learned all different types of techniques but brining came out as the ultimate winner.
In a nut shell: The process of brining makes meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis. You can use pretty much any flavorings I kept the flavors simple with lots of citrus and herbs just to enhance the flavors of the turkey meat. And while wet brining is the most popular of brining methods, it is not the only one. I learned that dry brining was an extremely effective and significantly easier way to brine rather than wet brining which requires a great deal more set-up.
This year…I made my life REALLY easy! I roasted potatoes in ONE PAN with my turkey!!!! Can you imagine? Potatoes…with roasted garlic, citrus, herbs and turkey fat! Seriously guys…as Barney would say…it was LEGEND……ARY!!!! And can you say easy???
There are a few important techniques and tips that I have compiled for you guys to have a successful and deliciously juicy turkey this year! I have also compiled a few simple tips so that you can make your turkey two days ahead of time and never worry about cooking it while your guests are arriving and worrying about the results!
Want to know what else goes with perfect turkey? Perfect cranberry sauce! Mine is a simple 4 ingredient sauce that tastes like it came out of a French kitchen!
Buy a fresh bird.
This is crucial. Frozen birds have added sodium nitrate to it (yuck) that help it freeze and this will make your turkey saltier without adding in any flavor. These called augmented birds and they are NOT recommended. Go with fresh and skip the thawing time. I have done this before not knowing that these were “augmented” birds and could not understand why they came out so super salty!
Bottom Line: Use the fresh bird trust me on this one.
Roasting pan + Roasting rack:
Here is the truth. The God honest truth. Your bird will not taste very different if you cook it in a $100 pan with a $50 roasting rack. I have tested this MANY…MANY…times. This year…I decided to go the lazy route and roast my turkey in a large foil pan. Because we are not gravy people (gasp) I did not care about deglazing for a gravy. I also was too lazy to wash the roasting rack. So… I DID NOT USE IT. (gasp again). And? Aside from the underside being soggy instead of crispy, it was still gorgeously brown and superbly delicious. Considering I only use the underside for soups and such… a little sogginess won’t hurt it.
Bottom line: If you want to save on dishes…use a foil pan.
Dry Brine VS Wet Brine:
For years, I wet brined my bird using Alton Brown’s method. It was always perfect. Slightly cumbersome though. So this year I took a hint from my friend Ilan who is a BBQ genius and decided to dry brine, essentially curing it. It was SO much easier. And was just as delicious and moist.
Bottom line: Both methods are great, but dry brining is WAY easier and will be my preferred method going forward.
Which Salt to Use:
You are most definitely going to want to use a coarse salt. Kosher, sea, Greek, Himalayan, it doesn’t matter as long as you use a good quality coarse salt. Whatever you do, DO NOT use iodized table salt. It is going to make your turkey extremely over salted.
Bottom line: Use coarse salt. Always.
5. How Long to Brine:
So…I have a confession to make. I put my turkey to brine on November 6th. I put the seasoned brine all over it, stuck it in a foil pan and placed it in the fridge hoping to make it 2 days later. Well I had a massive brain fart and while suffering through a cold, numerous business dinners and packing for a vacation and forgot about my turkey and went on my lovely getaway to San Diego. On the plane as I was staring out the window and saying good bye to Chicago..I realized I was also saying good bye to my turkey because I LEFT MY TURKEY IN THE FRIDGE! I panicked, sent Ilan a text in hopes of some sort of safety net. “I guess it will be a great experiment” he said. Damn. So 5 days later, when my plane landed, the first thing I did upon entering the house was check on the bird. It did NOT look promising. It looked malnourished and dry and everything bad. But I still went ahead and proceeded with the cooking. And 30 minutes into cooking…it started to look PERFECT. When it was done roasting…it was beyond perfect. Moral of the story: I do NOT condone curing your turkey for 1o days. If are a forgetful, crazed chicken like me…it should be fine if it does happen
Bottom Line: Brine it for 2-3 days. But if you happen to have a blond moment like I did… you will be fine if it does go longer.
I have never trussed a turkey. I never saw the benefit of it. Instead, I just tie the legs together with twine right before roasting it. BEFORE roasting but after brining/curing. You need to season it the insides of the bird as well as the outside. You can also use the actual fat of the turkey between the legs to “tie” it. Check out my tutorial in my Thomas Kellar Roast Chicken recipe.
Bottom line: Just tie the legs together and call it a day!
You can flavor the turkey with whichever herbs and ingredients you like. I personally love citrus and rosemary together with any sort of poultry. However, sage would be great in here, as would loads of garlic and pretty much all the flavorings you like.
Bottom line: It’s YOUR turkey! Be creative and use whatever you like!!!!
8. Cooking Time:
The only consistent amount of time is the first 30 minutes of the cooking process. During this process, you will be roasting the bird at a VERY high temperature of 500-degrees. This is to crisp up that gorgeous skin. Once the 30 minutes has passed, the temperature will be turned down to 350-degrees and the breast will be covered with a foil triangle. We do this because the otherwise the breast meat will burn because it sits to much higher on the bird and WILL be exposed to a great deal more heat. After that it truly depends on the weight of the bird. This is why a probe thermometer is so important. The alarm will go off when the turkey has reached the ideal temperature of 161-degrees in the thigh and 151-degrees in the breast. Without a temperature it is extremely difficult to gauge and you will be more likely to over cook the bird.
The best part of my turkey is that it can be ENTIRELY pre made. With my turkey you will never have to wait nervously for the turkey to be done as your guests arrive. The turkey obviously (refer to #5) can be dry or wet brined ahead of time. However, did you know you can also roast it ahead of time?! Yes!!! You can! I brine my turkeys (well with the exception of this year) On Sunday and cook it off on Wednesday. I remove it 10 degrees before it is completely cooked through (dark meat at 151 degrees) I let it rest and then I carve it. I keep each of the breasts whole, meaning unsliced. I put everything into a foil pan cover place about a cup of chicken stock into the pan, wrap in foil and place into the fridge. About 45 minutes prior to serving my turkey, I put the turkey into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. The last 10 minutes I remove the foil to allow the skin to roast up. And then, I let it rest, carve it and Voila amazing perfect turkey that is completely stress free!
Bottom line: Do it ahead of time. This way you will never worry if it’s cooked last minute or not! It’s done and you and your guests get to enjoy everything together.
Carving requires 3 things. A sharp knife. A large cutting board. And technique. It is ridiculously easy to carve any bird. There are many instructions out there, I happen to use this neat little video that Alton Brown has.
Bottom line: Bust out your iPhone, place it in front of you and practice WITH a sharp knife and watch this awesome classic video by Alton Brown.
That’s it. That’s your turkey!!! Follow my tips and techniques and I promise this will be the best bird you have laid your eyes or mouths on!
Happy Gobble Day friends!
Of course this glorious turkey is the star of my show in my 2016 Thanksgiving & Christmas Dinner Plan Extravaganza! Make sure you check out all the other yums that go along with it!
- !Dry Brine
- 5 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp dry thyme
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ¼ cup lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- Chicken or Turkey Broth (as needed)
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 4 pounds of Yukon Gold Potatoes cut into bite size pieces
- Combine all the ingredients of the brine and combine well.
- Slather all over the turkey, including lifting up the skin to make sure that you can separate the skin from the breast to nestle that brine in there for maximum flavor.
- Place into the fridge in a large foil pan for 24-72 hours. Make sure to rotate the turkey every 24 hours so that it brines evenly. Since it is so cold now, I use my garage when I have a giant turkey that will not fit into my fridge.
- !Roasting Day
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
- On roasting day, remove the turkey out of the brine and rinse it inside and out with water.
- Tuck the wings underneath the bird and place in roasting pan (or foil pan) on top of a sheet pan or roasting pan. (I do this in the event that there is spillage. No one wants to clean ovens on Thanksgiving Day)
- Before placing it in the oven, take a piece of foil and measure it on the bird into a little triangle. You want it to just cover the breast. Place the triangle to the side, it will be used a bit later on.
- Place the turkey onto the lowest rack in the oven and let it roast for 30 minutes and 500 degrees. NO PEEKING! Because it is roasting on such a high temperature, all the juices that fall into your roasting pan may evaporate off and start to burn. During this time you want to add in your chicken stock just a bit at a time, so that your bits don't burn. This can be done throughout the entire cooking process to prevent the bits from burning and leaving perfect pan juices for the potatoes.
- After the first half hour, take out the turkey and cover the breast with your pre-measured foil.
- Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
- Set your probe thermometer alarm to 151 degrees F and walk away. (A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2½ hours of roasting.)
- Once it's done, remove it from the pan and place it on a large cutting board and let it rest for about 15-20 minutes, covered with foil.
- At this point, while the turkey is roasting, increase the heat to 450-degrees and add the potatoes and garlic cloves to the pan. Roast until oven brown and fork tender, about 30-35 minutes.
- Carve and serve!