Roasting a Turkey with Pan Gravy: A Novice’s View

This turkey marked a very special day because it was the first time that SensitiveHusband and I roasted together as we hosted our family for Thanksgiving. Everyone says that roasting a turkey is easy but we had a number of questions about the cooking method that we first had to research. Should the turkey have an aluminum foil tent or not? Is the slow-roast method better than beginning with high heat followed by a lower temperature? Should we purchase a fresh or frozen turkey? And then there is the age old question – to stuff or not to stuff? SensitiveHusband and I researched by asking experienced turkey roasters, consulting the Internet, and reading Cooks Illustrated. And then it was time for us to “wing it.”

I wish I could have taken a picture of us preparing the turkey, but I couldn’t since both of us were handling the 16-pound bird. I am sure we looked like a comedy team! It was a bit awkward rinsing the turkey that had just been thawed and removing the giblets. I won’t give too many details about this step in the process, although if you look hard enough you will find a bag of giblets and they should be removed before putting the turkey in the oven. Also, please note that when selecting a turkey, check the ingredients. Many companies add a brine solution that has sugar or salt in it, among other things. So check the label and make sure that the turkey you select is safe for your family to eat.

We placed our rinsed turkey on a roasting rack which was inside a beautiful roasting pan, given to us by our friends as a wedding present. We chopped a few carrots and celery stalks and placed them both inside the bird as well as in the roasting pan. Two cups of water also was placed in the bottom of the pan. Even though we did not add stuffing, we did add the carrots and celery along with some fresh herbs (parsley and theme), about two tablespoons of melted butter, and some orange and lemon wedges to add moisture and fragrance inside the hollow cavity of the turkey.

We smoothed a bit more of the melted butter (about 2 tablespoons) all over the oustide of the turkey along with salt, pepper and parsley. Then we tented the turkey with aluminum foil and baked at 350 degrees for approximately 3 1/2 hours, or until the thermometer reached the appropriate temperature. (A rule of thumb about roasting an unstuffed turkey is at 350 degrees it will take about 15-20 minutes per pound.) About one hour before we anticipated the turkey being done, we removed the aluminum foil tent so that the turkey could brown. We also basted the turkey with the pan juices at that time.

After the turkey came out of the oven, we let it rest for approximately 1/2 hour before carving so that the juices could redistribute.
And at that time we worked on the gravy. We used about one cup of the turkey dripping/water mixture from the bottom of the roasting pan, and poured it into a separate saucepan. On medium heat we scooped in a few tablespoons of flour and stirred constantly to keep the liquid from getting lumpy. We also seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. After a few minutes the liquid was not thickening very much, so we added a teaspoon of cornstarch and that helped.

It was a great first foray into the world of turkey roasting! What we learned from the experience is that there is nothing exact about roasting a turkey. Measurements are approximations, as is the cooking time. And when you ask people how they prepare the meal, you will get a variety of answers. That’s one of the reasons that roasting a turkey is so special, because the result is a little different every time and for every person. We also learned that it takes a lot longer to prepare the turkey for roasting than we had anticipated – allow an hour so you won’t feel rushed. The day of roasting a turkey is one where you can enjoy being home, smell delightful aromas, and enjoy the company of your guests.

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2 responses to “Roasting a Turkey with Pan Gravy: A Novice’s View

  1. Did you know that “stuffing” outside the bird is technically called “dressing”?!

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