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Home / Recipes / Why Ina Garten Says You Should Make Your Turkey Ahead of Time

Why Ina Garten Says You Should Make Your Turkey Ahead of Time

December 01, 2017

Thanksgiving, if you think about it, has a lot in common with moving: No matter how prepared you are, something whether small or bigcan always go wrong. Conventional wisdom dictates that you should embrace a Zen attitude, be as organized as possible, and roll with the punches.

But what if you could knock one thing, just one, off your moving list in advance? Say the huge wardrobe just magically disappeared one day and reappeared precisely where you want it in your new home?

This make-ahead turkey recipe has that sort of magical qualities. And better yet: It’s Ina magic.

Her many fans know Ina Garten can be a culinary fairy godmother, so they trust the power of her wand when it comes to a turkey you can carve, plate beautifully, and heat in its own fabulous homemade gravy on Thanksgiving day.

Here are some things you’ll love about this recipe:

1. Dry Brine Rules

Yes, wet brining can be delicious, too, but it’s messy and requires a good bit of space. If you don’t have a cooler or fridge sufficiently big enough to hold all that liquid in addition to the bird, dry brining can be your best buddy in the lead-up to the big day.

2. Classic French Flavors

Instead of bay leaves and oregano, consider classic French flavors: fresh thyme, lemon and butter. If you’ve ever roasted a chicken with those elements, you know just how tasty they can be together.

3. Hot, Moist Sliced Turkey for All

Ina solves a problem you may not have even realized you have, here: By the time you’ve let the bird rest, carved it, and plated it, you may well be serving turkey slices that are cold or dully warm. They may need a ton of hot gravy just to be delicious. Don’t do that. She suggests a way to carve, plate, and sauce the platter so it’s ready to take up just a skinny slice of oven. (Yes, you can already have the pies going, if the temperature is a match.) Then you serve the bird in a bath of gravy with more gravy on the side. The technique helps it stay moist and all sorts of delicious. You’re welcome.

Make-Ahead Roast Turkey Recipe

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leavesGrated zest of 1 lemon1 (12- to 14-pound/6- to 7-kg) fresh turkey1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths1 lemon, quartered8 sprigs fresh thyme4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter, meltedMake-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions and Sage

Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 3 Tbs. of salt, the minced thyme and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well and pat it all over with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the salt mixture in the cavity of the turkey and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish just large enough to hold it and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave the turkey in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.

Preheat the oven to 325F (165F). Put the turkey in a large roasting pan, discarding any juices in the dish. Place the onion, lemon and thyme sprigs in the cavity. With kitchen string, tie the legs together and the wings close to the body. Brush the turkey with the butter and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.

Roast the turkey for 2 to 2 1/4 hours, until the breast meat registers 165F (74C) (put the thermometer in sideways) on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a platter. Cut off the legs and thighs and put them back into the roasting pan, covering the breast and carcass tightly with aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dark meat registers 180F (82C). Remove the dark meat to the platter with the turkey, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Pour a 1/4-inch (6-mm) layer of the gravy into a large (12 x 16-inch/30 x 40-cm) ovenproof serving platter (make sure it's ovenproof!) Carve the turkey and arrange it artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side. Serves 8.

Preparation time: 3 days.

Recipe from Ina Garten, Make It Ahead (Clarkson Potter, 2014)

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