Chef John's Roast Turkey and Gravy


This roast turkey recipe is easy enough for a beginner. The biggest myth in American cookery is the belief that a juicy, perfectly cooked turkey is difficult for the novice cook to achieve. One of the secrets to a moist, delicious, and beautiful turkey is spreading butter under the skin. You can season the butter any way you want. The possibilities are endless.

Prep Time:
1 hrs
Cook Time:
3 hrs 50 mins
Additional Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs
1 whole roast turkey with gravy


  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

  • 1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets reserved

  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped

  • 3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped

  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped

  • ½ bunch fresh sage

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened


  • 6 cups water

  • 1 bay leaf


  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • ¼ teaspoon balsamic vinegar (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

  • salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

  2. Mix together kosher salt, black pepper, and poultry seasoning in a small bowl. Tuck turkey wings under bird and season the cavity with about 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning mixture. Reserve remaining poultry seasoning mixture.

  3. Toss together onions, celery, and carrots in a large bowl. Stuff about 1/2 cup vegetable mixture, sage, and rosemary sprigs into the turkey cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Use your fingers or a small spatula to loosen skin over turkey breast. Place about 2 tablespoons butter under skin and spread evenly. Spread remaining 6 tablespoons butter all over the outside of skin. Sprinkle turkey with remaining poultry seasoning mix.

  4. Spread remaining vegetable mixture into a large roasting pan. Place turkey on top of vegetables. Fill the pan with about 1/2 inch of water. Shape a sheet of aluminum foil over breast of turkey.

  5. Roast turkey in the preheated oven until no longer pink near the bone and the juices run clear, about 3 1/2 hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 165 degrees F (75 degrees C). Remove the foil during the last hour of cooking and baste turkey with pan juices.

  6. While turkey is roasting, make stock: Place neck and giblets in a medium saucepan with water and bay leaf. Simmer over medium heat for 2 hours. Strain stock and discard neck and giblets. There should be at least 4 cups of stock. Set stock aside.

  7. Remove turkey from the oven. Carefully pour pan juices, about 3 cups, into a shallow bowl. Skim off turkey fat from pan juices, reserving about 2 tablespoons fat. Set aside pan juices. Cover turkey with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil and allow to rest in a warm area for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

  8. While turkey is resting, make gravy: Heat 2 tablespoons reserved turkey fat and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer onion from the roasting pan into the skillet. Cook and stir until onion is browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour; cook and stir for about 5 minutes more. Whisk in 4 cups stock and reserved pan juices until smooth; skim off any foam. Stir in balsamic vinegar. Simmer, whisking constantly, until gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in sage; season with salt and black pepper.

    roast turkey surrounded by vegetables on a platter
    Cynthia Ross

Chef's Note:

For a thicker gravy, reserve twice the amount of turkey fat and double the butter and flour in the gravy ingredients.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

942 Calories
70g Fat
5g Carbs
69g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 16
Calories 942
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 70g 90%
Saturated Fat 23g 114%
Cholesterol 256mg 85%
Sodium 950mg 41%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 69g
Vitamin C 2mg 11%
Calcium 89mg 7%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 774mg 16%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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