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"The Kitchen" co-host and cookbook author Jeff Mauro shares his easy dry-brining method for juicy, crispy-skinned Thanksgiving turkey every time—plus his go-to gravy recipe!
"I spent years wet brining turkey in giant zip-topped bags or questionably sanitary beverage coolers. Now, I dry brine, which basically means salting the bird and letting it sit for an extended period of time in the fridge. I honestly believe this replicates the magic of wet brining without needing to fully submerge it in water. The turkey is seasoned to the bone, the white and dark meat is as tender as can be and the skin has a chance to dry out to ensure golden-brown crispness every time. I've been told that a lot of the "Food Network" culinary staff make this recipe every year. That alone is the world's best endorsement." –Jeff
Gravy is adapted from Come On Over by Jeff Mauro. Copyright © 2021 by Jeff Mauro. Used with permission by William Morrow Cookbooks. All rights reserved.
For the turkey, place the bird breast-side up on a steady cutting board. Using a very sharp chef's knife, cleaver or strong poultry sheers, cut out the backbone. Turn the turkey over and remove each leg and thigh in one piece by finding the joint, popping it out and cutting where the thigh meets the breast. Remove both wings at the shoulder joint. Press on the breast to crack the breastbone and flatten the turkey, which helps it cook more evenly. You should now have 2 sets of leg/thigh, 1 whole breast and 2 wings. (Save the backbone for stock or soup.)
Place the salt, pepper, granulated garlic and herbs in a food processor. Pulse until fine and uniform. Rub the turkey with the spice mixture and, using your fingers, carefully separate the skin from the breast meat and rub some directly onto the breast meat. Place the turkey pieces skin-side up on a wire rack set on a sheet pan and refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours.
When you're ready to cook the turkey, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Arrange the carrots, celery and onions in a large roasting pan in a flat layer. Pour ½ cup of the stock over them. Place the turkey pieces skin-side up on the vegetables and brush with the melted butter.
Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F. (This will result in the most golden-brown skin.) Make sure there is always liquid at the bottom of the roasting pan, so the veggies don't burn; add more stock, as needed. Roast until the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs 165°F, 1 to 1 ½ hours more. If either the breasts or legs/thighs are ready first, remove them from the oven and keep warm until the rest of the meat is done.
Once the turkey is cooked to perfection, transfer it to a cutting board and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Reserve the turkey drippings for the gravy and prepare them as described in the gravy ingredient list.
While the turkey rests, make the gravy. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter until the foaming subsides, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and lightly simmer until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Slowly add the stock while whisking vigorously. Once all the stock is incorporated, add the ½ cup strained turkey drippings and simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. If the gravy is too thick, add more stock or drippings; if it's too thin, simmer for another 5 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary. Depending on the stock and drippings, the gravy may not need any additional salt or pepper. (If not serving immediately, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.)
Carefully remove the turkey meat and crispy skin from the bones and carve. Serve with plenty of gravy!