Tips for Thanksgiving Turkey


It would be good to make some chicken stock or turkey stock.

Buy bread for stuffing. I like to use the Pullman loaf at Sullivan Street Bakery, 47th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenue or the Tom Cat brioche rolls at Fairway, or the Pullman loaf at Citeralla made by pain d’avignon.  To save time, ask for loaf to be sliced.  Cube the bread then loosely cover for a few days.

To make stock, buy a chicken or chicken bones or a turkey. Wash by submerging and lifting in a big bowl of water. then put the chicken in stock pot filled 2/3 of the way with water.  Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, skim the scum then add cut-up vegetables: celery, carrot, onion, leek greens, parsley stems, parsnip and/or turnip, bay leaf. Simmer 6 hours, no cover. cool, strain, refrigerate.


Remove the fat from the stock.

Buy your turkey. I like the kosher turkeys the best as the koshering process is like brining and that makes the turkey juicy. Organic turkeys are good too. In nyc I like Elberly or D’artagnon. Buy or order a turkey between 10 and 12 pounds (small turkeys are more tender and have more flavor). If you are having a crowd then buy two. Figure one pound of turkey per person to insure leftovers.  Remove from bag and wipe the turkey down with a damp paper towel inside and out. Using another piece of paper towel remove the kidneys located in the cavity near the tail end (they look like liver but are not and they are bitter when cooked).  Place a few whole sage leaves in-between the skin and meat of the breast. Put the turkey breast-side up on a rack resting on a shallow roasting pan. First choice roasting pan is stainless steel or enamel, second choice is aluminum. Do not use Teflon.

I use rack make out of bamboo chopsticks in a tic tack toe pattern. I buy them at Can Man, 200 Canal Street in Chinatown.

Let the turkey air-out in the refrigerator for 2 days.  This dries the skin and produces a crispy skin when roasted.


Make a seasoning mixture of 1 teaspoon salt, one teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Rub down the turkey with extra virgin olive oil and then the seasoning mixture (just on the outside skin). Place a bunch of rosemary in the cavity along with a lemon cut in half, a few cloves of crushed garlic, green stem removed and one or two shallots, peeled and cut into quarters.

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the turkey breast side down on a rack  resting on the roasting pan and roast for 1 and 1/4  hours. Turn the bird breast side up and continue to roast for about an additional 1 and 1/4 hours or longer if needed. If the bird is not browning well, paint on a tablespoon of melted butter. No basting. Basting draws the juices out of the bird and prevents the skin from becoming crusty. During the first hour of baking check every 30 minutes to make sure the juices on the bottom of the pan are  “not” getting too dark. If they are then add 1/2 chicken or turkey stock to the pan.

A 10 to 12 pound bird will take 2½ to 3 hours. I like to test the temperature with a Taylor instant meat thermometer (buy it at Gracious homes or Zabars).  175 is the internal temperature you are looking for.  I know all the books say 165 or 170 but I find that a lower temperature produces bloody thigh meat.

Before carving let the bird rest 20 minutes on a big wooden board or china serving platter (not plastic). You can make the sauce while the bird is resting. Make the sauce by first pouring the juices from the roasting pan into a Pyrex measuring cup or anything glass or stainless steel that is tall.  Remove the fat with a spoon.  The last little bit of fat can be removed by floating torn pieces of paper towel on the top. Pour the defatted juice back into the roasting pan along with 1/ 2 cup of white wine and reduce a few minutes, no cover and over a medium heat. Add 2 cups of stock and reduce a few minutes. Then thicken by making a slurry of 2 level Tablespoons of arrowroot dissolved in 2 tablespoons of cold water. stir with one hand and pour very slowly with the other hand until the sauce thickens. you may not need all of the slurry so just add it gradually. season with  salt and pepper if necessary (if you are using a kosher bird then no salt). When thickening the sauce, pour in the slurry in one spot and stir with a wooden spoon at the same time.

Carve turkey by removing the breast from one side and then the other side.  Then slice breast.  Wings and legs can be removed whole by cutting at the joint. Any skin that is not crisp can be returned to the oven for 15 -20 minutes in an iron skillet and roasted in 375 degree oven.

If you follow these instructions, you will have moist meat and a crusty skin, i.e., raves from your guests.

Tomorrow I will talk about stuffing.

9 comments… add one
  • Joan Katsky November 23, 2010, 2:52 am

    It’s great to see you on my screen. Have a great holiday. Joan

  • Caroline Roth November 23, 2010, 3:00 am

    So much fun to read your direct, no nonsense, directions. I can just hear your voice! You know I love your instructions and your recipes. Your cook books are the most used in my collection. The Occasional Vegetarian get lots of use when our vegan grand daughter comes to visit.
    Best wishes from an old student.

  • Paula and Alan Mann November 23, 2010, 3:09 am

    Thank you Karen for the great tips – I was a little worried about the Turkey, now I’m ready to tackle it!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Carole Kost November 23, 2010, 9:03 am

    Hi Karen,
    Hello from Rome.
    I’m very pleased to see you’ve got a blog and I want to read everything you write. You really are the Master Chef!
    Best regards,

  • Adrienne Jamiel November 23, 2010, 11:49 am

    Karen…Love the blog! The videos are wonderful and the only way I can learn. As my cooking instructor, you know better than most that I have to see it before I can learn it. Great job
    Many blessings…Adrienne

  • Sharon Rush November 23, 2010, 12:10 pm

    Hey Karen,

    The blog is great. Thanks for remembering and including me.


  • Samantha November 23, 2010, 2:41 pm

    Thanks Karen! This is going to help me so much. I am brining our turkey this year, wish me luck.

  • Phyllis Bieri November 23, 2010, 4:54 pm

    I love how you confirm so many of my experiences. Like, not adding salt if the bird was kashered or brined. (One year I had a very salty turkey). Bloody thigh meat has been another problem, and now you’ve solved that. Love how you have always cited your sources, which of course are totally New York-centric. I love that you catered my wedding, that whenever I see you in Fairway it’s a celebrity sighting, and that now you continue to teach me via your amazing blog! Big hug — Phyllis

  • STU GROSSMAN November 23, 2010, 7:08 pm



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