Make-Ahead Roast Turkey and Gravy

November 7, 2019 Updated: November 12, 2019

Why This Recipe Works: Nearly every household in America spends Thanksgiving Day waiting and waiting and waiting for the turkey to come to temperature, and then someone in the family works at breakneck speed to whip up the gravy with the drippings. Looking for a less stressful approach, we took a cue from restaurants and cooked and carved the bird into quarters the day before. While the meat cooled, we made a fortified broth with the carcass to serve as the base of our gravy. Come Thanksgiving Day all we had to do was finish off the gravy and reheat the meat. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Serves 10 to 12

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 4 (1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound) turkey leg quarters, trimmed
  • 1 (6- to 7-pound) whole bone-in turkey breast, trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Before You Begin: Check the label when you’re shopping for turkey. If there’s an ingredient list, the bird has been enhanced and will work in this recipe. If you prefer natural, unenhanced parts, we recommend brining. (Dissolve 1 cup of salt in 2 gallons of cold water. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours. Proceed with step 1 of Day 1, omitting the salt for seasoning.)

Day 1: Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Place onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme in large roasting pan. Set V-rack inside pan. Pat turkey legs and breast dry with paper towels. Arrange 2 legs and breast, skin side up, in V-rack. Brush turkey with butter and season with salt and pepper. Place remaining 2 legs in 13 by 9-inch baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Place roasting pan on middle rack and baking dish on lower rack. Roast until breast registers 160 degrees F and thighs register 175 degrees F, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Transfer 2 legs and breast to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Transfer vegetables in roasting pan and remaining 2 legs to large pot, scraping up any browned bits. Add broth, water, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil. Simmer over medium-low heat until reduced to 5 cups, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Pour through fine-mesh strainer into large container, discarding solids. Let cool for 1 hour, cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 2 days. Wrap cooled legs and breast tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Day 2: Scrape fat from top of chilled stock and reserve 5 tablespoons. Bring stock to simmer in medium saucepan. Set aside 1/4 cup stock. Heat reserved fat in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden, 3–4 minutes. Slowly whisk in remaining 4 3/4 cups stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced to 4 cups, 12–14 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees F. Transfer legs and breast to carving board. Separate legs into thighs and drumsticks and arrange on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Cut breast meat from bone into 2 single breasts. Working one at a time, remove skin from breast in 1 piece; reserve. Slice breast crosswise into 1/4-inch slices and place on 18 by 12-inch sheet of aluminum foil, keeping slices together. Pour 2 tablespoons reserved stock over each breast and top with reserved skin. Wrap tightly and place on rack with legs.

Roast until turkey is heated through and thighs and drumsticks are crisp, 20–25 minutes. Discard breast skin. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with gravy.

Recipe courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

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