Thanksgiving turkey

About this dish

  • Serves: 8+
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Method: oven & stove


  • large turkey (we get 20-22 lbs, but it works with 12-15 lb ones too)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated 1 cup or so
  • Salt (kosher is preferable, but table salt works too)
  • Black pepper (fresh ground if possible
  • Olive oil
  • Margarine – one stick (1/4 lb)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • salt/pepper
  • 6-8 tablespoons butter
  • 6-8 tablespoons white flour
  • stuffing (see giant meatball recipe)


  • Heavy roasting pan (preferably) ortin foil turkey roasting pan ANDna large cookie sheet (to put underneath)
  • large saucepan (for gravy)
  • medium nonstick frying pan
  • large baking dish (for stuffing)

Turkey instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F

Prep turkey

  • Remove bag of giblets and neck
  • Clean turkey (if you wash it, use a low stream of water to avoid splashing), checking skin for feathers or quill stubs (the base of the feather; they feel like plastic stubs stuck in the skin – they can be removed by scraping the skin with a knife, perpendicular to the skin)
  • Pat dry
  • Cut off the “butt” and the wing tips; they’re useful for the gravy

Season turkey

  • Throughout the turkey, for every part of meat:
    • LIFT the skin up (slide your hand under)
    • put some cheese, oil, salt, and pepper on your fingers and rub directly on the meat, under the skin
    • a large breast takes 2 tablespoons cheese, 1 tablespoon oil, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • use this approximate ratio everywhere (less for smaller parts of meat)
    • do this for every piece of meat on the bird
    • you may need to cut slits on the skin to get to some, e.g., for drumsticks, thighs, etc.
  • when done, rub skin with some olive oil and “dust” it with salt, pepper, and cheese
  • drizzle some oil in the bottom of the roasting pan and place the turkey in
  • cut the margarine into slides and “stick” them together to make a sort of long slab
    • lay the slab on the top of the turkey (see top photo)

Cook the turkey

  • place the roasting pan/turkey in the oven and drop the temp to 325 F
    • cook according to weight
    • gives estimates on how long this may take, but it varies by oven 
  • check the turkey every 30 minutes but DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR
    • if the top or drumstick ends start to get brown, put a tinfoil ‘hat” on top 
    • (a piece of tinfoil that you shape like a shallow bowl, so it won’t slide off)
  • after the meat starts getting browned, check the temp at the breast and thigh as noted on
    • OPEN THE OVEN TO CHECK TEMPS at most once every 20-30 minutes
    • it’s done if the thigh reads 175 or breast reads 165 
    • (the heat will continue to cook when you take it out – these are 5 degrees below desired)
  • when temp is reached, take the turkey out and let sit to start to cool
    • NOTE that it takes 30-45 minutes to cool enough to start carving

For the stuffing

Make a batch of meatball (see the giant meatball recipe)

  • get a 2-3 quart baking dish 
  • coat the bottom with a little olive oil
  • place the entire batch into the pan (do not press down – leave the air pockets)
  • drizzle the top with a little extra olive oil and sprinkle with grated cheese
  • bake in 325 oven until center reads 175F

For the gravy

while the turkey is cooking start the gravy

make turkey broth

  • salt and pepper the turkey neck and trimmed bits (no cheese or oil)
  • about 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper 
  • using a large saucepan (tall sides), heat the pan on medium-high heat
  • when the pan is hot, add olive oil and let it get hot 
  • add the turkey neck and trimmed turkey bits (from above)
  • let them stay in the pan (do not turn or move) until browned, then flip and brown on all sides
  • take out the turkey bitt
  • in the hot pan, cook the carrots, onion, and celery until starting to brown
  • add a little salt and pepper, and a little more oil if needed
  • when slightly brown, put the turkey bits back in
  • add cold water (at least 1 quart or at least an inch over the turkey/vegetables)
  • cook covered on low while the turkey cooks (it should bubble slightly)
  • stir occasionally and add water if it drops low enough to expose the cooking bits or gets thick

make the roux (to thicken the gravy)

  • add 5-6 tablespoons of butter to a cold non-stick pan
  • melt over low heat
  • when completely melted, add the same amount of (volume) of (white) flour
  • turn the heat up to med-low or medium
  • stir constantly, scraping the bottom
  • cook it at a low bubble until it turns tan
  • darker tan is better, but never black (no need to go darker than coffee with cream color)
  • let cool

when the turkey is cooling, remove it from the pan

  • pour a cup of boiling hot water into the roasting pan and dissolve all the dark bits
  • pour the result into your broth
  • run the broth through a strainer, then put it into a measuring cup (large)
  • let it sit, then skim off ALL the fat/oil you can
  • put the skimmed broth back into the saucepan
  • bring to a low simmer (bubbles0
  • add roux 1-2 tablespoons at a time
  • each time, stir vigorously with a whisk to dissolve the roux
  • let it come to a bubble
  • test thickness – keep adding more until desired thickness
  • when thickened, taste and adjust with ground pepper and salt as needed