Start at the source
Buying a properly raised turkey will make a big difference to the overall flavour. Order your bird from a butcher or farmers’ market about a month before your feast. Ask where the turkey is from and if it will be fresh at pickup time.
Take the time to brine
I follow a process of brining, drying and trussing. If you’re not familiar with trussing, ask your butcher to do the turkey tying for you. For brining, find a recipe that includes salt, honey, garlic and spices like cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice and peppercorns. After you brine the turkey, let it air dry, uncovered in the fridge for two days. Drying out the skin will help you get that beautiful golden-brown colour.
Bring the turkey out of the fridge an hour before you plan on roasting to let it come up to room temperature. Coat the skin with a layer of room-temperature butter before placing it in the oven. Start by cooking with the oven at 300°F, and then increase the temperature to 400°F for the last 45 minutes to brown and crisp the skin. Check the turkey every 10 minutes at this high heat to prevent over-browning.
Baste like you mean it
Remember the butter coating you put on the turkey before it went into the oven? Grab a large spoon and pour that bubbly butter back over the turkey as it roasts. Do this every half hour at low temperature, but more frequently during the last 45 minutes at the higher heat.
The gravy train
When your turkey is finished, take the empty roasting pan and drain out the liquid into a separate bowl. Let the fat settle to the top. Take a few tablespoons of the fat and place it back into the roasting pan and sprinkle in an equal amount of flour. Turn the stove up to medium heat and add the rest of the liquid back into the pan while stirring. Continue to stir at all times, using a wooden spoon to scrape off the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the mix becomes a golden colour, add chicken stock and season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook, reducing the gravy to the desired consistency.
Any way you slice it
To carve the turkey, first remove the legs and cut them into drumsticks and thighs. I usually pull the meat off the thigh bones into large chunks. Remove the breast meat from the rib cage with your knife and slice the breast thinly being careful to cut through the skin evenly.
Header image by Mira Bozhko