For 13 years, this site has not had a turkey recipe for a few, perhaps not terribly convincing, reasons. I don’t usually host; it’s usually a family member with, I’m sure just coincidentally, more than a 2-bedroom apartment of space. Second, I mean, this is the internet, right? And there are, as of this morning, 200,000 search results for “roast turkey.” Probably there’s a gem or two in there for you and you’ve got this covered? Finally, the truth: turkey has never been my favorite bird. I mean, when it’s done well, I do enjoy my yearly two slices (dark, please), but I’ve rarely been summoned with the motivation to finetune a recipe in the off-season.
But then a couple things changed. A few years ago I started hosting Friendsgivings (see here and here) and now, a few turkeys later, I — inevitably — have a lot of opinions about turkey. For example, when you’re making a turkey the size you need for the 18 to 25 people most Thanksgivings may entail, you’re going to want to find a way to treat the bird in a way that it won’t dry out in all of the hours it will take to safely cook through. I’ve wet-brined (a nightmare with delicious results, but still a nightmare) and dry-brined, and the latter was the clear winner.
My second opinion is that if you’re putting anything besides a lot of quartered onions under your turkey, you’re missing out on one of the best things we have ever eaten. I tried it after rejecting the usual medley (potatoes, carrots, or other vegetable) because they were represented more generously in other side dishes at the table. I never looked back. Over a few hours in the oven collecting buttery, salty drippings, they become otherworldly: both deeply caramelized to the point of jammy sweetness, but charred and salty too. There’s enough to go around. Since they will taste too good to share, however, I might take this time to remind myself of the key Thanksgiving themes: generosity, gratitude, hospitality, and probably not standing in the kitchen eating onions off a knifepoint? Okay, fiiine.
My third opinion is, in fact, my view on All Things Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving recipes should be rivetingly simple, the kind of short ingredient list, high reward stuff that has no mise-en-place, because all of my dishes are otherwise engaged when I’m having 21 people over. If I can make a stunning, perfectly cooked, delightfully-seasoned, crisp-skinned turkey with merely 6 ingredients and 2 steps, I’m simply not going to make the one with 15. Not today, St. Martha.
This turkey follows the rules. I took a risk the first year and kept it really basic, seasoning with only salt, and pepper, and basting with butter after brining and seasoned, juicy, and delicious. However, now I’m hedging, just slightly, on this, because I accidentally did what I thought I never would: tested a turkey recipe when the month didn’t require it.
Earlier this year, I made a slow-roasted whole chicken and ended up brushing the well-salted skin with a mixture of butter, maple syrup, and gochujang chili paste and it was astoundingly good but I had this nagging feeling it this chicken wished it was a turkey. Hear me out: turkeys are slow-roasted birds; turkeys are wonderful with a salty-spicy-sweet finish. And unlike many other hunches in my life (no we’re not going to talk about the wide-leg mom jeans today), this one was actually on-point, and we get to reap the burnished, delicious rewards.
Six months ago: Raspberry Crumble Tart Bars
One year ago: Drop Cornbread Biscuits
Two years ago: Endive Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Walnuts
Three years ago: Cheesecake-Marbled Pumpkin Slab Pie
Four years ago: Apple Cider Sangria and Date, Feta, and Cabbage Salad
Five years ago: Pickled Cabbage Salad and Pretzel Parker House Rolls
Six years ago: Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns and Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onion
Seven years ago: Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Eight years ago: Gingersnaps
Nine years ago: Upside-Down Cranberry Cake and Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese
Ten years ago: Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin and Sweet Potato and Buttermilk Pie
Eleven years ago: Pepita Brittle and Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
Twelve years ago: Roasted Stuffed Onions and Simplest Apple Tart
Thirteen years ago: Chocolate Stout Cake
Dry-Brined Turkey with Roasted Onions
- 1 12- to 16-pound fresh turkey
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon of a chile paste — gochujang, harissa, or chipotle — plus more to taste
- 8 to 10 medium onions, half red, half yellow, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower, safflower, or another high-heat friendly oil
1 to 2 hours before roasting: Remove plastic and discard any juices that have collected around the bird. Allow to come to room temperature, which will take 1 to 2 hours. No need to rinse any salt off the bird; it’s all as it should be.
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours before serving: Heat oven to 450°F with a rack on the lowest level of the oven. If you plan to stuff the turkey with anything, do so now. Truss the legs (tying them together) with kitchen twine or, uh, any other string you have around.
Toss the onions with a splash of oil (don’t worry about seasoning, they’ll collect it from the pan) and arrange around the turkey. Combine 1 tablespoon of the melted butter with the maple syrup and chili paste in a small bowl, whisking until smooth. Brush this — or use your hands to coat — all over the turkey, leaving none behind. Here you’re supposed to tuck the wings under the bird to prevent the tips from burning, something I have never successfully done, if we’re being honest. Have a big piece of foil nearby for when you will want to cover the turkey.
Roast turkey for 25 to 30 minutes, then — this is very important — reduce the oven heat to 350° and continue roasting the bird until a thermometer in thickest part of the breast reads 150 to 155.
Beginning when you reduce the heat, periodically baste the turkey with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter, and then, when you’re out of butter, with the juices from the pan.
This turkey is going to brown fairly quick and quite dark. Don’t fret, it will not taste burnt, but go ahead and put the foil on when it gets as dark as you can stand it. Rotate the pan in the oven a couple times, and turn onions in pan over once, for even cooking. Remove the foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of roasting, so the skin crisps up again.
A 14 to 16 pound bird takes a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. A 19.5 pound bird once took over 3 hours. Keep in mind that if you’re opening and closing the oven door a bunch of times to move other dishes around, it will take longer to cook (up to 30 minutes).
Rest, carve, and serve: Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes before carving, which you should estimate 20 or so minutes to do, depending on your comfort level. This will allow the juices to be locked in and the turkey to carry over to an internal temperature of 165°F. Use the rest time to rewarm any sides that need it and to make gravy (see below).
I am not going to write out carving instructions because I personally cannot do it without watching a video. I pop this or this or this up on my phone (I recommend previewing them earlier and picking the one that works for you), hit the pause button a lot, and do my best. When you slice the turkey, make sure your knife is really, really sharp to get those clean cuts. Do you know what else really clean cuts do? Make people think you knew what you were doing. (I absolutely do not.)
Your turkey is going to spill a lot of juices while you carve it. [Updated with a life-changing tip from Cindy in the comments.] Place your cutting board inside a rimmed sheet pan to collect the juices as you carve. Pour some over the sliced turkey (save any left for gravy), plus a final sprinkle of salt and pepper, before serving to keep it warm and seasoned. Arrange onions all around and serve with glee. You totally rocked this; I knew you would.
Now, let’s talk about gravy. This is my core gravy recipe:
Very Simple Gravy
8 cups turkey or chicken stock (I either use homemade chicken or Better Than Bouillon’s turkey base)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dry marsala or cider vinegar
Melt butter in an empty pot or your emptied roasting pan and stir in flour. Cook this mixture over moderate heat, whisking, 3 minutes. Add marsala or vinegar, cooking for another minute. Add stock a little at a time, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
However, there are three ways to approach this. The first, above, straight gravy and it’s ideal for people who do not want to stress about it, don’t want to wait until the more frenetic time when the turkey is out and needs to be curved, and even want to make it earlier in the day and rewarm it.
The second is more traditional. You use the same formula but you first pour off drippings that have collected under your turkey. Put them in a glass (or a beaker like this) to allow them to separate. Swap whatever fat accumulates on top with the same amount of butter in the recipe, and drippings with the equivalent amount of broth, and proceed as written.
The third is a little riskier, but you only live once, right? Place your roasting pan across two stove burners, and bring the liquid (which is a mixture of fat and juices) to a boil. Deglaze the pan, loosening any stuck bits, with a glug of dry marsala or a wine of your choice. Boil all of the juices off until only the fat remains. Eyeball it — you might have just 2 to 3 tablespoons, or you might have more. Add enough butter to get you to 8 tablespoons. Add the flour, and then, since you’ve concentrated flavors so intensely here, you can replace half of the stock with water, to essentially rehydrate them. Season as needed and cook as you would the core recipe.
454 comments on dry-brined turkey with roasted onions
The “Wide Leg Mom Jeans Hunch”…
Thank you for the laugh! And the recipe.
First time commenter, long time follower.
This looks delish! I’ve sworn by Ina’s truffle Butter turkey for years, but time to switch it up.
My question is about the temp….I typically roast on the roast convection setting, should I adjust the temperature listed to accommodate for the convection? I always have this question when following any recipe.
I’m sorry — I’ve never had a convection oven so I cannot confidently suggest adjustments.
So I’m taking a big risk, and only dry brining for 16ish hours (Planning on cooking tomorrow). Is that going to ruin the recipe?
No, but I find the longer, the better. It will be better after 16 hours than not doing it at all, for sure.
Shouldn’t make much difference if you brine past the point of equilibration. In dry brining you use the water in the bird to make the saline solution. You douse the surface with salt which osmotically pulls water out, mixes with the salt, crates a saline solution that is hyper-tonic which then re-enters the bird. The point is salt denaturation of protein to make it hold water better.
So if the salt has fully moved into the flesh and come to homeostasis brining past that point won’t do much. Perhaps a bit more protein denaturation but little else.
Wet brining gets a bad rep because you drive water into the bird and pull some of the birds juices out. It’s moist but a bit bland.
There are other ways to keep the bird moist that do not entail adding salt. If you’re sensitive to salt’s taste or have heath issues that are aggravated by salt intake don’t brine. Despite what anyone says it makes the flesh salty.
This is good to keep in mind, but I just used this recipe in my convection oven and the bird came out perfectly juicy! One of my best turkeys ever.
That being said I obsessively checked the internal temp and monitored the oven temperature closely. Results may vary…
Oops, this was meant for the comment thread below about convection ovens… Turkey brain? I think so.
We went to fund raiser for FFA in Sonoma County where heritage birds were prepared by Chris Cosentino.The birds were dry brined with minimal salt,but he rubbed Duck Fat all over and under the skin.Best turkey we ever had,this is our go to method and have never looked back.
Convection ovens cook about 30% faster than regular ovens, so you can either reduce the temp and cook for the same time, OR leave the temp the same and cook for less time. I have seen various charts on the internet that will assist with these types of conversions, such as the one here: https://home.howstuffworks.com/calculating-convection-oven-cooking-times1.htm.
Unfortunately if moisture is your bag convection ovens are your enemy. They do cook faster but not by magic. They circulate the ovens hot air with fans which eliminates cools spots and uneven heat. Just like your clothes dryer does. That moving air has a greater drying effect than non-moving hot air. So if you’ve just laced your turkey with salt to keep it moist and then put it in a convection oven you may just make a wash of the whole thing. You’re pitting shorter cooking time against a more dehydrating method of cooking. No guarantee which one wins.
EXACTLY Richard! Both SE Daniel Gritzer & Stella Parks recommended to me to TURN OFF the convection for roasting.
@ Becks & @ April
I did a Turkey Breast last year–the down side is the smaller meat size and less cooking time didn’t produce the same luscious onions Deb describes. I even cooked them longer on their own but not the same.
WAH! I know this is a turkey recipe but where is the said roasted chicken recipe you mention in this post?
I need to try roasting chicken please!
I’ll work on it! I truly like these flavors better with turkey, however.
So very much looking forward to it!
Does the paste make the turkey spicy?
The best turkey recipe ever!! Those onions were amazing. Made it for our early Thanksgiving yesterday, and everyone raved about the bird!
I’ve dry brined for years. Herbs, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, grated citrus. Bake with lots of butter rubbed on. Upside down for the first 25 minutes then flip the turkey I’ve for the rest. Nice moist breast!
Hi, which gochujang chili paste do you use and where do you get it from? Not familiar with it.
With a smaller celebration this year, I’m also hoping for the chicken version of the recipe. No reason to tackle a turkey for just 2.5 people!
Can you use this basic recipe – with obvious time adjustments – for just a turkey breast?
Yes, absolutely. It probably needs less time at the high temperature; I’d limit it to 15 to 20.
Can I use this with a smoked turkey?
I was looking for a photo of the placement of the onions in relation to the turkey.
Do you use a roasting pan with the rack for the turkey? Or do the onions serve as the bed, so no rack? If yes to the rack, do the onions go below the rack?
Thanks so much!
If you have a rack, they can go below. If you don’t, around is fine.
I only had access to a frozen butterball turkey. I put it in the fridge on Saturday to start to defrost (it’s 17lbs 🤦🏼♀️) but it says it has been brined… if I do the salt brine on there will it make it too salty?
I suspect yes; I wouldn’t add the extra brine.
I’ve brined frozen turkeys many times and don’t feel they’re too salty. Give it a good rinse before you set up the brine though and know you probably won’t need to add salt to any gravy you may make!
I was going to ask a similar question. I have a turkey crown (I’m in the UK) and was wondering about the timing.
I don’t know the timing because I’ve never made one but the method will work.
I made this recipe for our family Christmas lunch – it was really delicious, moist, tasty, carved well etc. BUT after the initial 25 minutes at 230C (=450F) the skin on the topsides of the turkeys body and legs was burnt black! I covered the bird with foil, turned temp down to 150C (300F) and continued. Luckily the burnt skin flaked off easily and the flesh was fine. Why would you use such a high temp with a high-sugar glaze? Sue, NZ
This happened to me too. Next time I would keep it covered at the beginning so keep the skin from burning.
Will cooking just a turkey breast carmelize the onions in the lesser time it takes to cook (than a big bird)?
Sarah, I tried it w a breast; because it took MUCH less time, the onions didn’t caramelize and there wasn’t time to cook them more. I divided them (had a LOT; another reason for lack of caramelization) pureed & froze some in cubes for other dishes. The rest I used for butternut squash and onion tart.
It’s too late for Canadian Thanksgiving, but I’ve made a note in my calendar to review this post in October 2020. This is one of the sanest-looking turkey recipes I’ve ever seen. Your “single, not big, not great oven” comment reassures me.
I’m a bit of a stuffing in the bird loyalists. Will stuffing cooking in this type of preparation taste weird?
I haven’t tested it so I’m not sure but I don’t know why it would taste any different
My Canadian Thanksgiving Turkey this year was both overdone and raw. I suffered for days with my deep hatred for turkey. Smitten Kitchen is where I go when I want something that’ll actually work, be delicious and be simple. All my SK sides were a hit. The aforementioned poison-bomb turkey, was not. I needed you, Deb.
Sarahundersonstructionblog :) When you have a turkey like that, you can carve it into pieces – separate done from undone. The undone go into a covered pan with broth, juices, etc, and back into the oven at at least 325-400 degrees + to steam -bake, which is faster than other methods without turning the turkey to dust. Check in about 15-20 minutes and use the meat thermometer. For the overdone, I do the same thing, covered dish with water/broth – not too much- and allow to heat up and steam a bit. It may not be the same as it would have been but it’ll be edible. Or…save for soup :) Where it _will_ be moist.
I made this last week for Thanksgiving and WOW. Delicious Turkey and onion heaven. What a crowd pleaser. Saved the onions and added them to eggs, farro, literally anything and everything. Can’t wait to make this again…and I’m doubling the onions. Thank you!
Looks delicious! If one does not wish to use butter (to keep the meal completely non-dairy), what would you recommend for the bird instead? Chicken fat, margarine, olive oil, neutral oil? Thank you!
I’m interested in this too!
Did you test it with the butter/chile paste under the skin? The only time I can taste the seasoning is when it’s under the skin. I’ve done it both ways – on top and under. I will still try this method! Thanks for the great recipes.
I love the idea of the maple chili paste rub. I use half chicken fat and half margarine (Earth Balance sticks are my preference] instead of butter for my turkey gravy. Not stuffing your turkey? Why bother making one if you don’t stuff it. Challah made with added stuffing spices and onions makes an incredible stuffing base.
Chicken fat or a neutral oil
This was amazing. It is the first time I’ve ever made turkey and been truly happy with the results. The onions are amazing. And I poured a little of the pan drippings in when making the gravy and ended up with the most amazing caramelized onion hint to the gravy. Thank you for this recipe!
We used parve margarine. Earth Balkany, Nuco and Fleischmans all make non dairy sticks
Hi, I feel like a dunce but I have to ask: are you arranging the onions on the rack with your turkey or in the pan? It seems like the quarters would fall through the rack, but would they make an impact on the turkey if just sitting under it in the pan?
Under the rack if using a rack, around the bird if no rack.
I think this has already been asked… but i am “studying up” for my turkey roasting exam on thursday, and reading the recipe I’ve printed out over and over… at one point the turkey is on a rack in the roasting pan, but there is not a point that the rack is removed. Yet in the comments it sounds like the turkey sits directly on top of the onions. By reading the recipe, I would have left the turkey on the rack, removed the liquid after salting, and scattered the onions around the turkey, still on the rack in the pan. Sorry if I’m being dumb. Seasoned cook, just only 2nd time making the thanksgiving turkey, haha. :) I’m super excited to try this based on all the comments tho! Yay!
Nvm. I see the answer several times! Just had to read a little longer!
How did you get your slices to look so great?
Sharp knife and very careful cutting, i.e. the skin needs to be cut before the meat itself, which happens naturally with a sharp knife but a duller one will drag it out of place as it cuts. I try to hold the skin on tightly as I cut and have no problem patting it back if it falls off.
Trying to save myself a trip to the store: Can I substitute sambal oelek for the gochujang?
This looks fab. How much detectible heat does the chili paste impart, would you say? I’m a big spice fan but my mother-in-law is sensitive and we’re hosting, so am curious if even this small amount will be too much for her.
My 97 year old mother who can’t eat anything spicy loved it! It just adds a nice taste to the pan drippings and onions.
4 am on thanksgiving and I’m realizing that I didn’t know I needed to half the amount of salt if using Morton’s. I am now panicking. Any way to resolve a potentially too salty turkey?
Will the dry brine work with a kosher turkey or will it be too salty?
I am not positive on this one; I’ve read in the past that you should not, that it’s not needed, but have never tested it out myself.
Based on this an article in Tablet where Joan Nathan discusses dry brining her brine, I think it would work. I was surprised when I read this- I always thought I shouldn’t brine a kosher turkey, too!
Good catch; thank you!
How do I adjust this with a frozen turkey breast (about 8-9 lbs)? Do I have it defrosted the day before thanksgiving to dry brine it for a full day?
I have an odd urge to put apples inside my turkey… do you think that would be a good idea?
Of course. Anything you like!
I’m making a tiny thanksgiving for two and therefore only roasting a turkey breast- do you think this recipe/method would work on a breast (with adjusted cooking time of course)?
I bought a turkey that says it is already pre-brined, should I still do the dry brine or skip that step?
I have put apples and onions inside turkeys. (More than once, even.) It worked with granny smith, but was disappointing with sweet apples. I didn’t roast the onions under the bird like this, but I’m hoping to do so soon.
I have always used granny smith apples and sweet onion under the turkey with a little apple cider. Always delicious and makes for a nice gravy too. I think putting them inside the turkey would be delicious too.
Would this be ok to spatchcock?
Hi Deb! What a beautiful recipe and thank you so much! Can you recommend adjusted cooking times for this recipe with a spatchcocked turkey versus a non-spatchocked one? I know it will depend on size but a rough idea would be great? Thank you!
I haven’t made one so the only time reference I could give is by Googling — you’ll have as much luck as me! But I do think the method will work with a spatchcocked bird just fine.
This looks amazing! Do you think this method of prep & cooking would work with a stuffed bird? Our fav stuffing is bread-based with leeks & dried fruit.
Yes, it would. In general, stuffed birds need to be cooked longer to ensure the stuffing is safe to eat and there’s a risk of overcooking the turkey to do so. This is why I keep my stuffing on the side. But if it’s working for you, this way will too.
I love the idea of onions. Last year I put a couple of bags of pearl onions in the bottom of the roasting pan the last 45 minutes or so with the turkey up on a roasting rack. I was going to put in an extra bag or two this year as they were the best thing on the table and made delicious leftovers. (Same trick works well with chicken.)
I have to disagree on not stuffing the bird. In my world, a turkey is just an expensive, single use container for cooking stuffing. That is why I invite guests who like turkey.
Lol, I agree!
Ok I have to share my gravy tip, which I learned from my mom. I use a make ahead gravy recipe the day before, but then also deglaze the pan and add the juices to the gravy. It’s the best of both worlds!
I like the way you think, Frances!
Yum! I like to spatchcock the bird. Don’t think the onions would cook enough though. Maybe I’ll try the chili/maple though!
Why don’t you need to rinse the salt off after the brine? Everything else I’ve read about dry brine says “rinse before cooking”.
I’ve never rinsed nor read that you should. I find it to be the perfect amount of seasoning for a roast turkey — promise.
I’m trying this recipe with a spatchcocked turkey and just figure I’ll keep the onions cooking when I take the turkey out to rest and carve. Hoping that does it! But even more so, I hope I can get the cooking time right. 🤞🏼
Can you please provide a link or photo of the specific gochuchang chili sauce? There are many different kinds on Amazon. Thank you!
I have two different brands but the Mother In-Law one is probably the easiest to find.
Did you roast turkey on a bed of the onions or was the turkey in the rack that you show with the pan you used?
Turkey was on a rack but you can skip the rack and have a similar effect.
I’m having a hard time visualizing this… Are the onions are under the turkey in the rack or are the onions in the pan while the turkey is on the rack?
Help, this is the question I came here to ask! I hope this gets answered before next week :)
This has been answered a couple of time; the onion are under the turkey, either under the rack or the turkey can rest on them without a rack.
The onions are directly in the pan.
I would also love to spatchcock my turkey or cook in parts and am curious if you could achieve the same thing with onions!
Yes, just different cooking times. The onions might need a little longer; check them when the turkey is done.
You almost make me wish I was hosting and cooking a turkey. My least favorite thing to cook (it’s so intimidating) but love to have this recipe for the future!
I’m a vegetarian, and I still read this recipe. You might have me reconsider my vegetarianism.
Me too Anya! I just allow myself to cook some (ethically raised as possible) meat for special occasions for friends and family- which I don’t eat, but enjoy watching others enjoy. I’m an all or nothing person- I don’t think annual meat works for my brain, but from an environmental standpoint I think occasional meat on special occasions is sustainable! Also this recipe sounds yum.
I have a 21lb bird. Would you increase the paste ingredients? Double or 1.5?
You could 1.5x to be safe. You won’t be able to fit more onions than you have space in your pan, of course.
Does it come out spicy with the chile? My Jewish relatives are spice adverse….!
Not even a tiny bit. It’s more like a more flavorful black pepper replacement. You’d want to go to 2T for it to even suggest heat in the final turkey.
Does Morton’s kosher salt come in different grinds (fine, medium & coarse)? I can only find the coarse salt, which I use very sparingly. What grind are you using for your recipes?
Please stop saying dry brine. There is no such thing. A brine is aqueous by definition.
@ATL – I think you’ve got the wrong commenter. I was asking about Morton’s kosher salt grinds.
@ATL the salt effectively becomes a liquid brine: it draws out moisture from the meat and is dissolved in it, then is reabsorbed by the meat thereby seasoning it. This method takes time for that process to happen: 24 hours is often recommened, but it makes a flavorful meat and does not add flavorless water to make it soggy . It also allows for better crisping of the skin.
I’m not familiar with different grinds. I use Diamond salt. For Morton, it’s safest to use half.
I’d like to try to make it dairy free. I noticed you replied to a previous comment about using a Chicken fat or neutral oil. I have no idea where to get chicken fat. What neutral oil would be your suggestion?
I often find chicken fat at my local grocery store, sometimes in a can, sometimes in the fridge. Ask your local store; it might just be easier to find in some places. My go-to neutral oils are sunflower and safflower.
Started using Sunflower oil when I read one of pbs show Sara Moulton’s post on Instagram. I’ve been a fan of hers forever & for those who don’t know her she assisted Julia Child as a young chef when she first started out. I trust her – the canola good/bad thing I never get. I make homemade tortillas using this oil & delicious easier. Another amazing recipe Deb I’m making a very simple turkey breast was sick earlier in week but will use the maple syrup butter mixture with oranges herb stuffing my go to. Have a wonderful thanksgiving- give your Mom & yourself a hug thinking of your Dad. Some people just stay with you.
I’ve always roasted my turkey atop onions, which I then blend into the gravy with an immersion blender. So good you could eat it as a dish unto itself. Thank you for this clear and refreshingly easy turkey tutorial!
Looks fabulous. Onions 💕
Re the gravy – I save turkey fat from pre-gaming the stock and use that instead of butter.
There is nothing but love and joy in my heart when reading your recipes Deb. You’re the best. 👏💕🍗
Will the pan drippings from the brined turkey be too salty to use in the gravy? I’ve read warnings to be cautious with them, enough so to make my gravy ahead by browning and simmering turkey wings and a leg the day before to get some great broth.
No, but you might find you don’t need to add salt, although I still add a little.
Put your cutting board inside a 1/4 or 1/2 sheet pan and you won’t have to worry about the drippings getting everywhere :)
Hold up, I just had to pick my jaw off the floor. This is the stupidest, simplest, and greatest tip I’ve read to date. Thank you!
You’re welcome lol!
Wow, I can’t believe I never thought of this. After two consecutive bloody massacres of Thanksgiving preps! Thank you!!!
Wow, thank you! This is fantastic.
Finally! I have been searching so long for a turkey that shines as if it was lacqured, but doesn’t involve complicated steps or ingredients. Also, I smiled when I saw the “and roasted onions” part of the title, given your known preference for steakhouse and thanksgiving side dishes. Cannot wait to put the jammy onions on my slices of cornbread!
Deb you are our Thanksgiving Wizard! Thank for all you do!
I’ve heard some roasting pans can be used stove-top and some can’t. I guess the direct heat from a burner could be too hot. But how do I know if it’s safe for my pan? It’s just stainless steel, how bad could it be?
it’s safe, if it’s stainless. Depending on how thick it is, you may want to start with a lower heat.
Stainless steel should be fine. The thicker, the better.
Deb, how spicy does rub make the skin? Little kids at our table who aren’t heat-spice fans.
And does rub play well with traditional sage/thyme-forward bread dressing?
It doesn’t make it spicy at all. It will be fine with an herby stuffing.
I love the idea of using onion instead of other veggie (which I agree as side dishes)! Prefer to use big chunk of onion because it’s my favourite!!! Thanks for the recipe! I’m going to try it. I do found a great application on google play sorting all kind of plants with their benefits it’s called Herbs Encyclopedia.
You can read about onion here https://herbs.page.link/Onion
PERFECT! Very close to Thanksgiving holiday, this recipe is very handy and it looks amazing and delicious, I will need to try it! I am in ketogenic diet now, but hey…it is Thanksgiving, and turkey is a great lean protein ;-)
Please publish the slow-roasted whole chicken with gochujang chili paste recipe!
Perhaps in the spring!
Ooo, here’s a second plea for the slow-roasted whole chicken with gochujang chili paste recipe! We are fans of turkey!
I’m a little concerned that the onions roasted under the turkey might be greasy; not so? At Thanksgiving I serve green beans with oven roasted onions in a butter sauce so I’m thinking of using the onions roasted with the bird instead. Any thoughts?
Deb—911! Roast breast up or breast down??
I roast breast up. I don’t bother flipping. It’s basically exactly as you see in the photos.
Do you think substituting olive oil for butter would work? I understand it will taste different….
All these onions cooking with turkey….does that not make the turkey juices taste more like onion soup…making the gravy also onion soup like flavor?
It’s not something I noticed, but I also don’t think it would bother me. Most of onion soup’s flavor, however, comes from deeply caramelized onions. These approach that but it doesn’t have that kind of intensity.
Got a question!!! What If I use the basting mix as part of the “dry rub” inside and out, between the skin and the meat? Going to happen here I think . I use a lot of onions for under the turkey. Makes a great side dish if I do share it…going to be great with this basting sauce!
When you tried this with a chicken, did you also first cook at high heat then reduced temperature? Also may do this with a turkey breast. Do you recommend specific times for either? And, dare I ask, how about subbing the butter with olive oil? For both cholesterol issues and just can’t quite bring myself to cook meat or poultry with butter…..thanks.
For the chicken, yes, but for less time (I don’t remember how much). Not sure of turkey breast times but I bet it ranges by weight. I’d probably start with less (maybe half) the high heat time.
I’m with you, I’m all about the sides and maybe a turkey sandwich the next day. I usually think the best thing about turkey is making turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers ( as my mom did every year) and it would be exceptional with the lovely added flavors here. This recipe looks great and I would readily dive in if I was hosting this year. I love the addition of the onions. It’s Friendsgiving for me and my onion gratin with sage and Gorgonzola. I think I will try this with chicken. Yum!
Alright it’s dumb question time! I tried a dry brine a few years ago and a LOT of juice came out of my bird. And it ended up being really dry after roasting. I’m afraid to try again, because it’s not like you can put the juice back in…what did I do wrong?
Not sure at all, but you absolutely can save the juices and pour them back over the sliced turkey, I always do.
Amateur question – but where do the onions go exactly? Under the roasting rack, or on top of it with the turkey?
Right in the pan
As a result of the chili paste, does the gravy turn out spicy? Wondering how kid-friendly this recipe is (I’m guessing it’s kid friendly, from you!)
Not even a little. I cannot underscore how little impact the 1T has on a big turkey. It’s more like a black pepper alternative with more color and flavor.
I always tuck the wings under. It stops them from burning. You have to manhandle the bird a bit (womanhandle?) but the result is nice and tidy, and the wings don’t splay out, which always looks a little scary to me. Maybe one could practice on the roast chicken?
I just can’t get them to bend! I try every year and I’ve even watched videos. I’m missing something.
Refer to the Cooks Illustrated explanation about roasting a stuffed turkey: the secret to having food-safe stuffing AND moist turkey, is to stuff the turkey with HOT (too hot to handle) stuffing, then roast straight away. It doesn’t extend the roasting time very much, & the added turkey flavour in the stuffing … I love it.
Great advice; thank you.
Do the onions sit on the rack with the turkey or in the bottom of the pan?
Bottom of the pan.
When roasting the turkey, do you leave uncovered the entire time? and just loosely apply the foil when it gets to dark? So excited to try this recipe this weekend!
To deal with the juices dripping when you carve, I put my whole cutting board on top of a cookie sheet when I carve. At the end I pour all the drippings back into my roasting pan and make my gravy. I’m not wasting any delicious juices and my counter stays a little cleaner.
Deb! Thank you so much! I’m going to give this a try on my unsuspecting guests next week. Also, thank you for all you do – I’ve been loving your blog, books, and witty banter since 2009 and have never been led astray. You are a true culinary gem.
Are you putting the salt under the skin ? I have found the salt and seasonings are often not very discernible if not put under the skin.
With dry brining, time is the key element. After 2-3 days in the fridge, the salt most definitely makes its way down into the meat.
I’ve done a dry salt brine for years now (after a wet brine – NEVER AGAIN) and it’s always resulted in a gorgeous, delicious bird. I think I got the “recipe” from Saveur magazine, it’s more of a method than a recipe since you quite literally only use salt and nothing else on the bird itself. Per this method, my turkey is hanging out in my fridge for 1-2 days completely *uncovered*. Doing so ensures the skin sort of dries out, resulting in a lovely crispy skin after cooking. You’ll think your bird is ruined after a few hours of this, but don’t worry! Keep it simple, keep it uncovered. I’m excited to add Deb’s onions and rub to my turkey this year.
I clicked on this article once I had stopped drooling/ licking that turkey photo!
Quick Q. For the paste, I’ve not seen any of the options in my local supermarket could I get away with adding white pepper?
Also re: gravy… Sounds alot like hard work and tad stressful
Do you not have Bisto gravy granules in the states?? You get all flavours from Veggie to Chicken to Beef and Turkey. Few tablespoons add hot water or water from the veggies stir and mix. I like to do it on the hob til bubbling then pour into gravy boat. Ta da 3min gravy. Ahhh Bisto!
You could use any other kind of pepper you’d like, or hot sauce. Don’t use a full tablespoon of black pepper, of course, it will be too much. We have lots of gravy starters and pre-made gravy here, but none will taste like this. ;)
Yes there are 20,000 recipes on the internet, but I trust YOU, 20,000x more!Perfect timing, I am volunteering again this year to cook a turkey and gravy for my Co-op holiday party in early Dec. Last year I did some internet research and dry-brined in the fridge while it was defrosting. This year I will do it your way. Need to work on my carving though.
How would you recommend making this without butter? (Kosher style) thanks !
This looks perfect. Thank you! For those who no longer want to cook with aluminum foil, I offer my mother’s method. She cut a couple of pieces of cheesecloth large enough to cover the turkey–that is, very large. Then she soaked the cheesecloth in the oil/butter/juices in the pan, and laid the soaked cheesecloth over the entire turkey. During the cooking, she basted the whole thing without ever removing the cheesecloth. The skin crisped beautifully, and the turkey browned without burning. Be careful when removing the cheesecloth–you might need to baste it as you do, so the cheesecloth easily releases.
Note: Mom also sewed a cheesecloth bag for the wild rice stuffing (a Minnesota favorite). It made getting the stuffing out SO much easier.
Amy, my mom did this too. For some reason, I’d forgotten but then saw another recipe this year that mentioned cheesecloth. I’m going to do so this year and hope for a lovely turkey!
Welp, I was so excited about this recipe, I went ahead and ordered an organic 14lb turkey from Amazon Prime Now. It arrived deeply chilled — which means it was not frozen, but I don’t think it ever got anywhere close to room temp. I put it immediately in the freezer because I didn’t have any other options, did I? I just assumed all birds from the grocery store would be frozen! My questions are 1) this is okay from a food safety issue, right? Most sources I’ve found suggest yes, but you’re more suspicious of salmonella and I trust you and 2) will this turkey taste alright?
Absolutely not a food safety expert but can offer solidarity — got a semi-frozen turkey this week from Fresh Direct after ordering a fresh one. I need it for tomorrow so am hoping it’s finished defrosting. The store said to run it under cold water for 30 minutes in the sink (my inner environmentalist is shuddering) and it should be fine but mine was still a little frosty in the center last night.
Thank you Deb! My uncle always cooks our birds on the grill after I prep them. Though I hate to miss the onions — which sound AMAZING — we are going to use your brine and rub method this year, which I’m imagining can only be complemented by the smokiness we usually get on the grill. Will report back.
I don’t own a roasting pan and rarely cook meat. We will have a small turkey and a GIANT Dutch oven- do you think roasting in the Dutch oven would work? I could rest the metal rack from the Instant Pot inside, if having a little lift is the essential part.
It really depends on the size of the bird vs. the size of the oven but if it fits, definitely you can use it.
This looks amazing!
Could I do this with a turkey breast? How long would you cook a 12lb turkey breast and same temp as a whole turkey?
Thanks for the information on the salt brands and adjusting the amounts.
My store only sells fresh “Butterball” turkeys. Can they be dry brined? The label says a natural water/salt mixture has been injected into turkey. I would love to try your recipe but I am concerned about the bird becoming too salty.
Hi Deb, going to use this recipe to make my first ever turkey! Question, I don’t have a formal turkey roasting pan with a rack, can I just put the turkey directly on the onions in whatever roasting container I use?
This feels like a really amateur question, but that’s where I’m at! Been following you for years, thanks for sharing your food genius with the world!
You can definitely use a large sheet pan.
I always cooked my turkeys to 165 degrees, and you recommend 150-155 degrees. Why is that? Does it continue cooking as it sits and results in a moister turkey? Thank you
I talk about this in the recipe: “Rest, carve, and serve: Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes before carving, which you should estimate 20 or so minutes to do, depending on your comfort level. This will allow the juices to be locked in and the turkey to carry over to an internal temperature of 165°F…”
Hey, Deb. I usually use a turkey roasting bag. I know I won’t be able to baste, but is there any other reason you think this wouldn’t work in the bag? I’m terrified to try a turkey without the bag to keep the bird moist. I’m frantically printing off all of your t-day recipe ideas. Thanks for keeping us all cooking! xo
The dry-brine (salting) keep it moist. You can use a bag but I’m never trying to have anything that airtight; I want it to dry a little in the fridge.
Roasted onions are always my favorite part of roasted poultry. One way that you can share those delicious roasted onions with others is to make them into a gravy. Put them in a blender with the drippings and some chicken broth to thin out as much as you wish. No need to add flour. Super easy.
I’m making a tiny thanksgiving for two and therefore only roasting a turkey breast- do you think this recipe/method would work on a breast (with adjusted cooking time of course)?
Yes but I don’t think you’ll need or want as long at 450.
I made this last night for a Friendsgiving. It was amazing! I had a 20lb turkey so i did 2tbsp more butter and a little more maple and Chile paste. Plus the lemon/garlic/herbs. It was perfect. So many complements!
How long did you cook your 20 lb turkey? I am thinking I am going to do the same. Very excited about this!
As always, your recipes are foolproof showstoppers! I made this turkey recipe today and it was a hit! And so easy! I roasted mine in a foil pan atop onions and whole baby red potatoes. Everything came out perfectly. Thank you!
I bought two smaller turkeys that I am going to have butterflied. One will be traditional herbs, dry brine and oven roast to make kick-ass gravy. The second I think I will do this combo on the grill. I am with you and don’t love turkey but would take a bath in gravy so need those pan drippings but excited about some flavor!
What’s the wweetness factor with the maple syrup? We want a savory bird, not at all sweet. Love appropriately salty, savory skin. I’m hoping the syrup gives just the slightest hint of sweetness rather than announcing maple, along with the subtle spice of the paste. Wondering if I could cut back on the syrup a bit, esp. since my turkey will be on the smaller end of your weight scale.
Should I use the same gravy recipe with duck? Any suggestions?
I made this for my first-ever hosted Friendsgiving (meaning it was also my first turkey!) last night and it turned out wonderfully! I was surprised by the lack of drippings, but this could be user error rather than the recipe itself. I also only had the brine on the bird for about 18 hours, so next year I’ll time this out to ensure I have a whole 2 days of brining. Thank you, Deb, for your clear instructions and inspiring confidence in this fledgling turkey chef. Have a great Thanksgiving!
This is great, look forward to trying this out this year!
Love the idea of the onions but afraid they’ll absorb a lot of fat and juice I typically use for the gravy and also the stuffing that will be baked in oven. Are the onions necessary for infusing the flavor of the turkey?
p.s. love your site
Can I make the first simple gravy like way ahead of time? Maybe on Tuesday to just get that part done for the big day? Cooking in our small nyc kitchen so hoping to do as much prep as possible!
My friend, who has never cooked a bird before, made an 11 pound turkey and it turned out great. No roasting pan, sitting in a glass dish, forgot to take out the giblet bag, never turned it over . . . still juicy, flavorful and lovely. Don’t be scared of the glaze being spicy, it isn’t at all, just yummy.
Re: chipotle chili sauce – is this the sauce in a can of chipotles in adobo? Sorry if it’s a dumb question!
Would sriracha – for rooster sauce lovers – be an acceptable chili paste in this instance? Or is it too liquid?
Happy Thanksgiving! I ordered the mama gochujang hot sauce accidentally instead of a paste- how should I change the amount to the sauce mix without it being too hot spicy? I like that this option is more of a sweet hot rather than a chipotle or harassa taste. I am cooking for an early wed thanksgiving dinner so don’t have enough time to order paste. Thank you!
Can’t wait to try this! Just curious if you need to add any liquid to the roasting pan while cooking? Worried that the juices will burn and will have nothing left for gravy. Or do the onions on the bottom of the pan keep this from happening? Thanks!
That turkey looks amazing! Spending the days before Thanksgiving looking for inspiration (there’s an abundance on this site) and contemplating what (small, but useful gifts) to buy my children for Christmas.
Can you please tell me the knife set you purchased for your (at the time) 4-year old? I can’t find the recipe in which you mention it.
Urgent Thanksgiving question! My bird is around 17lb, just checked it in my fridge and it is still pretty frozen. Any tips on when/how to defrost and if I can dry brine with the salt today or tomorrow even if it is still (a little / or a lot) frozen?
Do I just pull the plug and buy a fresh turkey tomorrow morning (if I can get my hands on one?)
So excited to try this recipe!
You’ll want to soak it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, for a couple hours for a quicker defrost.
Anyone read that article in the NYTimes a few weeks ago about mayonnaise being the secret ingredient for cooking any/all meat? I’m tempted…
I’m doing this turkey; it sounds so easy. I’m cutting up the turkey to make the cooking time faster. Question: how spicy is this turkey? I have 2 picky kids who don’t do spicy. I know 1 T gochujang isn’t much for a whole bird but just wondering. Thanks!
A bit last-minute, but I can’t find kosher salt where I live. Can I substitute fine sea salt? If so, I’m assuming I should use less, is that correct? Thank you, as always, for your wisdom!
Yes, use even 1/3 to be safe.
It’s absolutely not even a little spicy.
The oven should preheat at 450 for 2 1/2 hours? Just want to make sure I read that right.
Exactly my question. It seems. . . off.
It says 2 1/2 hours before SERVING (not before cooking) to preheat the oven and proceed cooking.
Oh, my goodness, Deb! For the longest time I’ve been screen printing the recipe section because I didn’t see a print button or using my phone to follow the recipe. I just found out today that if I just use the browser print function, you’ve set it so that only the recipe prints! Am I the only one who didn’t know?
No, not just you. When the site is next redesigned, the print button will be easier to find.
If my turkey is already wet brined how would that change the recipe?
Just leave it. I would season it with salt, as you would any other piece of meat (generously but not dry-brine level, after you brush on the maple mixture.
Thanks for the quick reply!
Deb, you have never failed me, but…I am nervous about the maple syrup….
Can someone promise me it doesn’t make the turkey taste like a pancake?
I promise that the turkey won’t taste even close to a pancake. I actually really dislike sweet with meat. This is merely there to complement the salt and provide color. There just isn’t enough to sweeten the turkey.
Thank you for sharing this recipe! I made this today for a local family, and I am excited that I get to make it twice this year. :D The sweetness of the syrup was just enough and the gochujang added a subtle flavor. Happy Thanksgiving!
In searching the internet for cooking times for a turkey many have substantially longer cooking times (https://www.epicurious.com/holidays-events/the-easiest-way-to-cook-turkey-article). I love your recipe but with cooking for many people timing is always concern. I know I can always wait for the turkey but getting every thing out together always seems to be my challenge.
I made your turkey and gravy (and apple pie) for thanksgiving and GOOD GOD. Those onions! My family thinks I can walk on water. It was so delicious. Seriously. These will be staples for all future Thanksgivings. Thank you. There’s a reason you’re my favorite cookbook author and food blogger.
Being extraordinarily thrifty, I always use the string from basmati rice bags to truss a turkey. Circle of life. Whatever that means. Happy Thanksgiving to my American neighbours.
I am a passionate home cook and have been following you since you began your blog. In fact, many of your earlier posts on recipes you tried I had already made myself—I tweaked them differently, but I knew you and I thought alike about skill level, desired result, and time management. For the first time in over 25 years, I am not hosting Thanksgiving, and I was relieved. My guests were always complimentary, but I really felt the main event, the Turkey, was never up to snuff. So today, I find myself alone (non un-happy—I’ll have MORE than enough family and friends over next few weeks). I made this turkey, just for me, just to experiment. Hands down, BEST TURKEY I EVER MADE. I didn’t change a thing from your post. You weren’t kidding when you said the bird will get dark, but I soldiered on and waited with my meat thermometer to get where I needed. This turkey was so delicious! Salt brining really works. And for those who feared the chili paste—not remotely an issue. This will be my future turkey recipe, and I will take up the reigns again soon and proudly serve this. Thank you Deb, thank you for taking the time, the science, the expense, to perfect something for us home cooks. In my mind, you are a national treasure.
Oh my! I made this for Thanksgiving. Used gochujang and it turned out great. Nice and dark and crisp, and the gravy was delicious. Will do a whole chicken next.
Hands down the best turkey ever. Thanks Deb. You made me a rock star thanksgiving 2019!!
Just did this to a 4.8 pound turkey breast and cooked it first for 20 min then down for 1 hour and no basting and it was great!
I was nervous about this being too salty or to spicy but decided we were going with it…so glad we did! It was absolutely perfect. Used chipotle chili paste with the maple syrup and it was just delicious. Used the drippings for gravy and yum…followed exactly as written and it was a winner!
What a disaster! I followed the directions exactly. When I checked the turkey at 20 minutes to baste and turn down the oven temp, most of the breast skin was burned black, definitely not brown, BLACK. Everyone in the house (neighborhood?) heard me yell OH NOOOO! and were concerned that I had hurt myself, but fortunately just my pride and reputation were injured (along with the turkey).
Made this as my first ever Thanksgiving turkey for my large, opinionated Italian family… with the anxious hovering of both my grandmother and mother resting on my shoulders… and it was dubbed “the best turkey in years!” Deb, you are my go-to for so many recipes– your instructions are clear, your writing is a little irreverent and unpretentious, and once again you made me look like a brilliant chef! THANK YOU!
Made it. Crushed it. Crowned Thanksgiving Master. I followed this exactly as written, only I spatchcocked my bird, and it came out phenomenally! I had a 13 lb turkey, which I cooked at 450 for 25 minutes, then at 400 for another 50 minutes. An hour fifteen for a 13 lb turkey! And even with that, I could’ve pulled it out of the oven a few minutes earlier. It was SO tasty. Thanks, Deb.
Holey Thanksgiving success Deb! This recipe produced the best turkey I have ever roasted — including my home raised hen. It was that good!!!!
But! For a 14 pound turkey I did the 450 for thirty minutes and then 2 hours at 350 and Then 1 1/2 hours at 300. It was moist falling off the bone delicious!!!
So much easier than the turkey recipe I had been using for several years and the turkey was so much more flavorful and juicy! Loved the skin, the salty meat and those roasted onions! My 12-pound turkey was done in little more than an hour. Definitely my new go-to!
After five years of doing a wet bribe, this dry brine was a revelation. So much easier and so much better. Thank you Deb!!!!
I had a 14 lb turkey and it was done around the 1:45 min mark, so check early!
This is a great turkey recipe! We used oil (not butter) and just maple syrup. The turkey looked beautiful and was done earlier than expected. We use the blanket trick (wrap your turkey in foil then in a heavy blanket and set it aside for up to an hour) and it was the best turkey ever. Thanks for another winning recipe!
Made this yesterday and everyone agreed it was the best turkey we’ve ever had! I also made your green bean casserole and the bourbon pumpkin cheesecake. Way to have all of the stars on my thanksgiving table. You never disappoint!!
I made this turkey for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Let me tell you though, we rented a cabin on the Shenandoah River in Virginia and were in a location that had no cell or internet service. I was certain I printed the recipe before I left, but could not find it anywhere. My daughter finally walked down to the river and was able to get enough cell service to get your recipe. I used a lot more chili sauce (not paste) and syrup but it was an amazing turkey. Everyone commented on how this was the most tender and flavorful turkey they ever had. Thanks for a wonderful recipe. Oh, and I used the drippings for seasoning my green beans. Amazing!
Just adding to the crowd: this was AMAZING last night and I’m so happy I followed Cindy’s suggestion for the cutting board inside a bigger pan. Had my kid stand there with a laptop, watching the carving video and talking me through it. All in all a stellar recipe that i’ll be repeating every year. Thank you!
I made this for Thanksgiving yesterday with slight apprehension – I was a little worried that the gochujang would leave the turkey noticeably spicy. No need to worry, though, because it was perfect. It just tasted like well-seasoned turkey, and even though I cooked an 18 lb bird, the meat was tender and not at all dried out. I’ll definitely try it again.
Thank you for this recipe. It was the first turkey I’ve ever had, much less made, that I ate the turkey meat by itself. No cranberries for extra flavor. And while the 2 quarts of gravy seemed excessive, it was my first successful, solo gravy making. Seriously, I cannot tell you how successful I felt after making this for our Thanksgiving meal. The Brussels sprout, pomegranate salad made an excellent side.
I followed this recipe making a bone in turkey breast and the turkey came out absolutely fantastic, juicy and flavorful. However you can’t make a standard gravy from the drippings because of the spices.
I do! The gravy isn’t, to me, spicy or off at all. The onions help.
I would say “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” but of course we’re talking turkey. At any rate, this won rave reviews from the family last night! My 82 year old mom told me it was “the best turkey she’s ever had!” Thank you for being such a reliable source for truly “knock ’em out of the ballpark” recipes!
My ONLY alteration to this dish was to roast the turkey breast side down for the first 90 minutes and then flip the bird for the last 30…keeps the breast nice and moist.
Roasting turkey isn’t rocket science, but turkey can be really bland.
This is a great method – not only easy, but no crazy ingredients.
The skin was beautiful, the turkey really tasty, and the onions!
My new go-to turkey roasting recipe.
Wow, best turkey ever! I think I’ve found my forever turkey recipe and I didn’t even make it myself 😩. Had a bad fall that damaged my shoulder on the Monday before thanksgiving so directed my sweet husband how to make it from my throne on the couch. He couldn’t find my garlic chili paste (yeah, I have a TON of condiments) so he used sriracha. If I had asked to look for the harissa I think his head might have exploded 😂. I think this will be our go to recipe, looking forward to trying it on a roasting chicken. Thanks Deb!
This was fabulous – this is my favorite recipe to date and I love that the onions/onion juice can basically double as gravy (because…I hate making gravy and find it gross – this is so much better!)
Best turkey I have ever made, hands down! Guests were very impressed- thank you very much!
This was the best turkey that we have ever made. We used a 6lb turkey breast with bone. Made a gravy out of the drippings. Love the onions. This will be our go to recipe.
Came here to say… this turned out SO nicely. Dry-brined for about 36 hours (Tuesday evening to Thursday morning), 450 for 25 minutes, then 350 until it was done. Moist and flavorful, and, sadly, not a lot left for those all important next-day leftovers.
I used this method with a 20 pound turkey. It was done when I checked it at 3.5 hours but I think it may have been done sooner. I was skeptical because it seemed so simple but it worked like a dream.
I used this method for a 20 pound bird (1.5 x the ingredients). I was skeptical because it seemed so simple in its method but also the ingredients. It came out really well though. Clean flavors, moist, etc. It was done when I checked at 3.5 hours but I think it may have been done before that. I wrapped it in foil and a towel and packed it in a cooler bag to transport on my bike and it was still delicious!
This was the first time my turkey hasn’t been dry! I’ve tried most of the other methods, but this will now be my go-to!
Delicious! Turned out perfect (we made it exactly as you instructed here, even going with the riskiest gravy method ;)) and would make this again!
This looks so incredibly delicious and the skinnnnnnnn oh my goodness! I only made a turkey once- it was delicious but it was so large that the oven door wouldn’t close and I had to keep it shut by dragging in some of the dining room chairs. I think( now that thanksgiving is over and the pressure is off) I will try this for a weekend Shabbat dinner!
First, the turkey: either my oven is way off base, but in testing it with a thermometer says it isn’t or the butcher mislabeled my turkey because for 12.4 pounds it took almost 3 hours. That said it was very juicy and the skin was a lovely burgundy and nice and crisp. My other thought that opening the oven to baste drives the temp down and then it has to work to get it back up to the 350 degrees, making the process take longer.
Second, the gravy: It was the best I’ve ever made and the highlight of the meal. I did the third method of deglazing the fond with white vermouth, adding the flour and broth. It wasn’t at all salty and the maple/chili rub didn’t add any weird flavor or spice.
Third, the onions: they didn’t cook terribly well, were still quite crunchy when the turkey was finally finished; I was expecting more of a caramelized finish. I suspect they did add some flavoring to the drippings. All said, I don’t know that they were worth it.
This was wonderful. I did take the onions out after about an hour and they were a revelation. All my roasts will have a bed of onions for now on.
I butchered my turkey this year and cooked the pieces following this recipe. (My family did not miss the Norman Rockwell moment.) Bird was wonderful. Also made the best gravy ever with the pan drippings. I made broth days ahead with the bones and some vegetables. We had ‘leftover’ turkey soup the night before Thanksgiving.
What pan do you use to cook in???
I saw this recipe a few days before Thanksgiving and decided to put myself in charge of the turkey this year. My family is so glad I did! I followed the recipe exactly and it was perfect. Juicy and great flavor.
Thank you for this – hands down the best and easiest turkey we’ve ever made! Your notes on timing were so helpful.
I made this yesterday and I cannot emphasize enough how delicious this was. I did everything exactly the way Deb says and the turkey turned out just perfect. Very moist with a nice spicy kick and oh my God, the onions. I could eat them with a spoon (and I did the next day).
My turkey came out just great: flavorful, juicy enough, etc. But the onions didn’t come out roasted. Instead, they excreted a ton of liquid (from the bird and from themselves?) and basically simmered themselves. They were still delicious, and the drippings made for some really nice gravy! Probably my best yet. Even though i didn’t have “jammy” onions, i think i’m still going to do that part again, even with a roasted chicken.
This was my experience. They were _swimming_. The turkey was great, but the rub didn’t add much, I didn’t think, in terms of flavor. The dry brine, though? So going to do this from now on.
Same here this year – while the turkey was roasting, I fished the onions out and put them on a parchment-lined sheet to roast further.
Agree about the rub not adding much flavor – last year I did this but with herbs in the rub, and that worked out much better. (This year I put the lemon, garlic, and sage in the cavity, and the garlic didn’t even soften up!) So the dry brine and general approach seem good, but not unworthy of tweaking.
Thank you for working so hard on this recipe. It was my first time cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving, and I was stressing a little about it until you posted your recipe. After that, I knew it would turn out great. And it did — it was sublime!
Oh my lord! Mouthwatering just looking at that top image. We have got to try this method out for Christmas Day here in rainy England. It will add a nice twist to our traditional family feat but I better give it a practice run first eh?
I used your recipe with our turkey this year and it was delicious. I loved the dry brining, so much easier than a liquid brine. The butter-maple-chili paste treatment gave our turkey a great color and the gravy had a deep rich color and flavor. Thank you for a winning recipe!
After multiple years of multi-day wet brining, stuffing the turkey with aromatics and other fussiness, I tried out this recipe in search of a simpler process. So so pleased with the delicious results. Added a little water to the bottom of the pan throughout cooking to encourage more “sauce” for gravy making. Served some of the onions with Thanksgiving dinner and saved the rest to make french onion soup with stock from the turkey. This is how I will cook the turkey from now on!
First time commenter here. So I tried this recipe and I’ll tell you the turkey was outstanding! I am not the best in the kitchen, but I tried going a little more above and beyond (for me) and attempted method 2 for the gravy. And let me tell you…. using the drippings from the turkey was incredible! Oh. My. Goodness. (yes I was probably sheltered in my cooking lol)
I did have one question though, you mention in here a friend showing you a YouTube tutorial on turkey carving. Could you link to it? I could definitely use some work in that department too before Xmas… Thanks!
This was THE BEST turkey I had ever made. Thank you so much for a simple, solid recipe. Everyone was very thankful!
Question: my fave Mark Bittman simple roasted chicken recipe has a similar short high temp cook breast up, then a longer lower temp cook breast down. Do you cook your turkey breast up the whole time? Thanks!!
P.S. I made you cranberry pie with thick pecan crumble and you swiss chard sweet potato gratin for Thanksgiving and both were huge hits!! I’ve had to share your thanksgiving email with several people💙💙
My husband was too worried the gochujang [his favorite condiment!] would turn off my MIL, so we did it w plain butter [w lemon garlic & sage inside]. The 5lbs of quartered onions under the bird were a revelation! They were delicious themselves and the drippings made the best gravy I’ve ever made. I will add onions-only to the the pan for the rest of my life… and try the gochujang version at Xmas when it’s just us.
On my son birthday i ordered dry-brined turkey & chiken kabab from the newsham restaurant and the taste of dry-brined turkey is very delicious and yesterday i made at home dry-brined turkey according to the recipe ,both taste are almost similar.
Dear Deb, today I made your turkey for Friendsgiving (we were all editorial assistants at the same publishing company, so it’s EA Thanksgiving, or EAT). I didn’t have all the ingredients—subbed chipotle chili powder for paste, and ran out of maple syrup and had to use honey—and I bought a cheap bird. Still, it was SO GOOD and I swatted a skin-picking husband away from the bird more than once. And the best cook in the group cursed me for having a juicer turkey than hers. Maybe took 13 years, but what a winner! Thanks for making me believe I could cook my Scariest Thing.
This dry-brine is THE BEST. We do an annual Thanksgiving/holiday party in Beijing and hubby has voted this as the best turkey ever. I have to butcher my turkey anyway to fit into my tiny countertop oven, so got to do a maple glaze and an herbed version. The gravy from the drippings was amazing!
I wanted to let you know that I used this recipe when hosting my first ever thanksgiving, complete with my divorced parents and in-laws (14 people total!).
Somehow, everyone got on and there was a warm buzz to the evening. I think that may have been due to them waiting to see how I managed a 17lb turkey on my first try! WELL, DEB, it was perfect!! 3.5 hours roasting time and it came out to an ideal 155, where I let it rest and then carved the juiciest, carmalized turkey I’ve ever seen on a Thanksgiving table. The real winner for me though were the onions!! I am now leaving mushy carrots to the side and putting a crap ton of onions under every bird I roast. What a dream. Thank you for helping me win at Thanksgiving and prove that doubted me wrong. You rock.
Wow! this is such a wonderful recipe! I have never seen such instructions that are very detailed. I’m going to try this on Christmas!
We made this and loved it! I was reminded of your baked buffalo wings recipe which uses baking soda in addition to the salt. I wonder if that would work on the turkey also, but didn’t want to risk it for the big day. I may try it for a smaller turkey at another time.
In the past five years, we’ve been using a traditional brine but we liked the dry brine better because the turkey itself was not as salty but still deliciously moist, plus prep was so much easier. We will be using this recipe again. Thank you!
So thankful that this was the winter you posted a roasted turkey recipe (as this was the winter I had to cook my first turkey for a crowd). I followed it as best I could and it turned out delectable! Rave reviews from my family!!
This was unbelievably good! I made it for our annual Christmas dinner turkey and the overwhelming consensus was that it was our best turkey ever and by far the best gravy (I always use the reckless third method!).
It wasn’t salty at all, just really juicy and delicious. Thank you for sharing!
The secret to a moist turkey is a ROASTING BAG! Take my work for it — it really works.
Hi Deb, Wondering how this dry brine does when smoking a turkey? I usually do a wet brine before smoking a turkey. I would assume you smoke on high heat and then lower the temp just like you would when cooking in the oven? I host a Friendsgiving in January every year (thus the late comment) and am excited to try this recipe out this weekend!
I’d think it would be fine, but caveat: I know literally nothing about smoking meat. So, that’s big grain of salt!
Love, love this recipe! Am planning on doing this with a roasting chicken, how should I adjust the heat and time?
I didn’t write down the cooking times with chicken, or not yet. Sorry.
I did this with a whole chicken tonight, about 3.5 pounds and it took an hour at 400 degrees in a convection oven. Fantastic, and those onions!
Loved this recipe and just did it with a turkey breast. The onions underneath are heaven. Oh, so good. We had a mini quarantine off-season Thanksgiving with all the fresh veg and mashed potatoes. Those onions with a little mashed. I have no words. Thanks, Deb!
Made this turkey tonight. Tasted good but was juices were very salty. I will decrease the salt or wipe some off before cooking it next time.
I made this turkey last year for a Friendsgiving to rave reviews. Really wanted to adjust it for a roasted chicken so I used this recipe as a guide for times. (It also uses a high sugar coating/marinade, with the same temperatures as Deb’s recipe. https://food52.com/recipes/3296-misoyaki-roast-chicken-with-shoyu-onion-sauce
I had a 4.5 lb chicken. Halved the dry brine and left it on the chicken overnight (no more than 24 hrs), used 1/2 of the maple syrup, butter, hot sauce. 450F for 25 min and then 350F for about 45 min. (I started temping after 40 min.) I basted and rested the chicken per Deb’s recipe. My husband couldn’t stop talking about it! He said it was the best chicken he’s ever had, and he’s quite an honest critic.
The only thing different I would do is not use my cast iron pan for roasting (a la Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Cabbage,also from this site). Too small surface area which made the onions too juicy and not roasted enough.
I can’t wait to make this again!
Thank you Kate! Planning to adapt this for some bone in chicken thighs or maybe a whole chicken…have been looking for a guide just like yours. :)
Deb, this sounds wonderful–if doing a bone in skin on turkey breast (5-7 pds.) would one lower the temp? I am subbing artisanal cane syrup for maple.
I need to test it out (soon!) but I don’t think a lower temperature is required. Just check the internal temperature for doneness.
Is the turkey on a rack? Are the onions flat on the bottom of the pan, ie under and around the rack?
I always liked America’s Test Kitchen method of starting upside down, then flipping after an hour, provided that the turkey is small enough or you are strong enough.
I use a rack. You can absolutely use the flipping method here, too, if you prefer it.
Love your recipes and your voice! I used to facilitate a cookbook discussion group, and your books were always beloved.
Just wanted to that I notice you link a lot to Amazon. If you go through https://smile.amazon.com/, they donate a tiny percentage of every sale to the charity of your choice. You still get your commission though.
Thanks for all the great recipes (and stories)!
Thank you for your recipe but will a dry brined turkey be as good as a wet brined one?
Thank you so much!!
I have found it to be 90% as good and 500% less work.
Any way to make gravy gluten free?
Just use plain white rice flour instead of the all purpose flour. Measure as usual. Works for any roux!
For those of your frantically trying to find a good chili paste and you don’t have a Korean or other ethnic grocery – check Walmart if you have one nearby. I haven’t made this yet, but I looked all over for a chili paste that sounded right and would be yummy but not too spicy. I finally found a brand of chipotle chili paste at Walmart called Gran Luchito. It sounds delicious – chipotle chilis ground with caramelized onions, spices, balsamic vinegar and dark agave nectar. I got it specifically because it is apparently gluten free, unlike some of the gochujang sauces I found at the store. I’ll report back how it turns out.
Living in South Korea and only have access to frozen turkeys. Mostly Butterball. Should I still do the brining step? Thank you so much! I love your recipes!
Similar situation here- mine was injecting with “Turkey broth, salt and seasonings” – wondering if the dry brine will make it too salty? Might just try doing the brine for a shorter time!
Deb, I am so excited to make this recipe. After reviewing the notes, I went all in and ordered a heritage bird. Since I pulled the trigger, I’ve seen a lot of caution on the internet about cooking heritage turkeys differently because they’re more gamey, tougher, cook faster, etc. I am now terrified that I’m going to ruin it.
Any tips specific to a heritage turkey that you can share? Thanks for your help!
April, I also ordered a heritage bird for the first time this year and am in the same (panicked) boat as you! I figure I’ll follow the directions here since it has such rave reviews and just hope for the best. It seems most heritage turkey recipes advise starting at a hotter temp (425 or 450) and since this recipe starts at 450 I’m just going to cross my fingers and follow this one.
Deb or :) April and Katie – any tips from cooking the heritage bird? I tried it last year and it was difficult for me to get the thighs to cook enough before the breast got too dry… I’m going to try again this year!
Looking for the same time tips for a heritage turkey this year! It’s also on the smaller side (11lb) so I’m worried I’ll torch it beyond repair.
I made this for Friendsgiving and wow! It was my first time roasting a turkey and it came together so well. It was a huge hit and there were no leftovers! First-timers rejoice!
Since we are doing Thanksgiving just 2 of us this year, I would like to just do a turkey breast with this! (We are also experimenting with some Medieval Times-style drumsticks). Any ideas on cook time adjustment?
I just have to say thanks for the recipe. Made this last year and my MIL said it was the best turkey she’s ever had. Now all I have to do is repeat it next week!
Because #2020 and we’re doing a smaller thanksgiving gathering, do you have tips on how to adjust the ingredients for a smaller bird? Say 8-10 pounds – how much less salt should I use?
Same process, same ingredients, just scale them down to the size of your bird. Cooking time will be less but not much, much less. You can look up cooking time estimates online for the size you have, or just use a meat thermometer and it will never be over or under.
Hello Deb! I Am a long time Smitten Kitchen fan <3
I’m guessing this is a rookie question (I looked through the comments to avoid repeating a question but I couldn’t find the answer). If I am getting a frozen turkey, do I defrost it completely before dry brining? So 2-3 days defrost, then add salt, then back in the fridge for 2 days?
Thank you for your wonderful recipes! I’ve been especially thankful for the happiness and relaxation baking from your recipes has given me during 2020!
Yes, that’s exactly right. You can brine it as soon as it’s defrosted.
Deb, I’ve been following you for years. I’m turning 50 in January and I’ve never made ” the turkey”. (Mostly because my mother is still alive ❤)
After thoroughly enjoying reading this…I’m ready. I’m so ready. Thank you so much for all that you write.
Can we discuss the challenge of a 10 lb half turkey, which is what was available to me when I called our local butcher this week? #thankscovid
Half turkey, as in it’s been divided in half, i.e. one leg?
I’m in a similar boat. And yes, in my case it’s cut vertically, so we have the left half of the turkey—one leg, wing, breast, etc.
Would the cooking times stay proportionally the same?
I’m thinking of doing this for Christmas and I’m in the same boat – the farm I ordered from only had massive turkeys (25lbs) and there are only 3 of us, so we’re getting a turkey cut in half. Anyone try this method or have any tips for cooking?
Deb, will roasting the onions in the pan with the turkey absorb juices and drippings that I could otherwise use in gravy? I want to try roasting them in the pan, but there is a fearful/greedy part that doesn’t want to miss out on a speck of gravy. Please advise.
It will probably depend on the bird, the vessel, etc. But I could pull drippings out when I was done.
I adapted this to what I had on hand (turkey thighs and tenderloins, honey, hot sauce) and it was…interesting. Spicy. Looking forward to trying it as written next year!
Hi Deb, This looks like the turkey I want to make this Thanksgiving but our bird is 9#s!
Don’t think the onions will be cooked enough with a shorter cook time. What adjustments should I make to get similar results.
Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving 2020 style!
Just pop the onions back in once you take the turkey off if needed. You’ll have time as the bird rests and you carve it.
Those that say to rinse also say to pat dry. Does the bird need to be dry before I salt it? I’m talking no blood in the cavity dry?
Ack! I over salted this last night (2 days before) because I used Morton instead of diamond. Can I rinse and redeem myself? Should I put a small amount of salt back on. Yikes!
Yes, rinse. It might be okay. Watch the drippings if you’re making gravy.
Soooo delish. Adding a couple bulbs of sliced fennel adds a little to the roasted onions. Even if you’re not a fennel person they really become buttery pieces of heaven when roasted under meat.
Ack! A brain fart. Read all directions? Yes. Follow them? Not quite. But I’ll own and out my error, expecting that I’m not alone in my faulty logic (135 grams/2 (wrong) vs. 1 vs 2 T of salt/lb).
Would you be able to add a grams of salt/lb of turkey instruction to this recipe?
This was the BEST turkey we’ve ever had! (We actually don’t like turkey) We used a kosher turkey breast from Trader Joe’s and it was absolutely amazing! Thank you!
Like an idiot, at 6 AM on Thanksgiving morning I decided to see what Deb thought about roasted turkey. Why I didn’t do this a week ago I can’t tell you. So while my 18 pounder was wet brining in the fridge, I thought – well I can do the onion part anyway. I already created my pre-roasting rub and wondered if maybe I should just add some maple syrup and chili paste. So I did. I put a bed of onions along with a garlic head under the rack. The turkey itself was incredible. The onions were to die for. Thank you so much for this recipe.
Oh and by the way, I used the convection/roast option and the outcome was perfection. The skin was perfectly crisp and the meat was really moist, tender and flavorful. I never needed to use a foil tent. Preheated it to 400°, turned it down to 325° 20 minutes after I put the turkey in the oven. I set the probe for 161° and it was done in less than 2½ hours.
This was the simplest and most straightforward way I’ve ever prepared a turkey, and it was also the best turkey we’ve ever had. We prepared it exactly as written, without need for foil tenting. The gravy was great and the onions were out of this world. Thanks for making our lives more delicious on this day (and hundreds of others), Deb! Hope you had a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.
I am not a fan of turkey but this is the second year I have made this and it’s just incredible. I love how simple it is and it tastes amazing. The only issue I have is that I don’t seem to accumulate enough drippings and every year I manage to save it by pouring a bunch of broth in the pan just seconds before it completely burns. Otherwise: so good! This is my turkey recipe from now on.
Made this today. I’m at high altitude, so that might play in – temp registered fine, but upon carving it was not done and had to put back in oven. Top seemed done, bottom not!
Onions awesome, gravy Devine.
I made this for Thanksgiving 2020 and my family loved it! It wasn’t dry like most turkey and the flavor was great! My kids even went back for seconds! Definitely a keeper!
I made this for our turkey day feast yesterday. I misread the directions and added ALL the butter to the gochujang paste to spread on the turkey pre-baking. Whoops! I basted with some broth instead of more butter. The turkey turned out well anyway, although I do think most of the “paste” slid off due to there being just too much butter and became part of the drippings. I had a lot of hot chili oil/fat to skim off the drippings! The turkey was still moist and delicious, although we thought the skin was too salty. That may be because I used a frozen turkey (injected with broth)? Not sure. I’d like to try this rub again with the proper amount of butter, maybe just on a chicken next time.
So I followed this recipe for my turkey yesterday. Big fail. Pouring that much maple syrup (mixed with butter and harissa) over the turkey just flat out burned the turkey skin in 15 minutes. Also burned my pan and smoked up my kitchen a bit. I put foil over it and turned the heat down to 350 (from 450) and it was ok but still…burned turkey skin. I have sad photos.
Deb, I love your recipes. I use them often. I hate posting a sad comment but I was really bummed. This was my first time hosting Thanksgiving for my family and my parents. In my very humble opinion, 4T of maple syrup (mixed with butter and harissa) is too much for a 16 lb bird.
I’m sorry that it was too dark and burnt. I had hoped to warn about this in the recipe — “This turkey is going to brown fairly quick and quite dark. Don’t fret, it will not taste burnt, but go ahead and put the foil on when it gets as dark as you can stand it.” — I actually never cover mine and get the color you see here, which tastes delicious, but I don’t have a very robust oven.
Deb, thank you so much for all you give us with your time, talent and experience! Thank you again for putting yourself out there so we can be as epic as you are (or at least pretend)!
I too made this w a 3.5 turkey breast, 2 legs & wing (from a 10 lb. turkey I broke down). I brushed on the sauce–and basted every 20 min w add. sauce) but I was surprised by lack of flavor the sauce produced. I’d meant to add some GOOD soy & fish sauce to it but w everything else I forgot. Since my bird parts would take far less time, I cut onions in 1/8 but they still didn’t jam after 1.5 hours in the oven. That said, I saved them & remaining sauce and they will go back in the oven for further roasting. Thinking of onion soup or tart.
My menu was 80% everything from your book & website.
The walnut (pecan) tart
parker house rolls
Mushroom & bean casserole (including the fried onions)
sweet potato hassleback (hybrid of yours & mine)
I did my own cornbread & andouille dressing
cranberry sauce, onion soubise (SE) and gravy
I’ll do separate comments for each of your recipes.
This is THE turkey! I am never disappointed by your recipes and so left on our own for Thanksgiving this year, my husband and I decided to go for your gorgeous looking turkey. I will admit, when I tasted the chili paste and maple syrup mix I got a little nervous that I was straying too far from Tradition, but the end result was subtle and perfect. So juicy and flavorful, even my children professed it was the “best turkey ever”. I will add a note here: we discovered my oven had temperature control problems resulting in run away heat up to 500 degrees. With a thermometer and careful watching we managed the sides and pies in the oven, but decided it was too much to ask for the turkey so we spatchcocked the bird and did it in a large foil pan on the grill. I left the middle burners on very low and the side burners on high with the roasting pan in the middle. I cooked it for 50 min, breast side up, flipped it and cooked it breast side down for about another hour. It did not taste grilled at all and I think we might do this forever to leave the inside oven free. Thank you for making it easy to make a delicious turkey! I also used your gravy recipe and it was simple and delicious.
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I just wanted to say that this year is the first time I’ve ever made a turkey, I’ve never even roasted a whole chicken! Needless to say I was intimidated. This recipe is amazing, and so easy to follow. The turkey was delicious, maybe my favorite I’ve ever had, and like I said it was so simple! I did need to tent the turkey with foil, as it darkened very quickly like you described. And my turkey was on the smaller side (12 lbs), so I did end up roasting the onions a tad longer so they caramelize more, they became delicious, flavorful, and jammy but still crispy in spots. Amazing. And I had a ton of drippings which I added to a make ahead gravy, it really added a great flavor.
I wanted to share my experience in case anyone panicked like me lol. My turkey was frozen and I defrosted it for a few days, but the day I planned to dry brine it it was still just a bit frosty. Because I didn’t allow time to give it another day to defrost, and because I didn’t have a huge plastic bag to put it in to defrost under cold water, I just decided to dry brine the turkey at this point. It turned out amazing anyway. While I agree it’s ideal to work with a completely defrosted bird, I just wanted to share that it seems to work ok as long as the turkey is mostly defrosted. Just in case anyone finds themselves in a similar scenario.
Thank you as always, Deb, for an incredible recipe with thorough and well written instructions. Your recipes are always easy to follow and the results are always amazing!
Also I followed you optional suggestion for putting a lemon, head of garlic, and fresh herbs to the cavity of the turkey – I think you’re right that it maybe doesn’t add that much to the flavor, but the smell while the turkey roasts is fantastic! And I think it might infuse a subtle flavor as well, i would do it this way again :)
This is so helpful because my turkey is 12.2 lbs and I just picked it up yesterday (Monday) and I fear it may still be slightly frozen by the time I start brining it today but your comment is super helpful and comforting, so thank you!
I am a year late to this Turkey recipe party…after 10 attempts over 10 Thanksgivings cook the perfect turkey…I finally did it! This recipe is perfection.
In Deb We Trust!!! Made this for my parents for our modest 2020 Thanksgiving and it was so easy and delicious! We used the gochujang and it added color and a little flavor but otherwise the turkey was just juicy and perfect! We may have forgotten to put a rack in our roaster so we had to ditch the onions, unfortunately. They smelled amazing, though.
I made this turkey for Thanksgiving. Have not roasted a turkey in a long time.
18lb turkey. I dry brined Tues nite and left at room temp for about 2 hrs.
Flavor was really good. Skin was great! I basted every 30 min and added broth to bottom of the pan regularly as onions were burning. I put turkey on rack. My cook time was about 4 hrs, breast was 175 and thigh just barely 165. That was a little stressful but turkey was not dry. Next time I would not open oven as often and add broth to onions. Perhaps tent turkey for most of cook time. Really good!
Another great recipe, Deb! Made this for Thanksgiving this year and it was unbelievable. Oh, that tasty, crispy skin! Made as directed and used a Chinese chili garlic paste.
I loaded up (double +) on the onions even though my turkey was a breast, two thighs & one leg. While the onions were not done w my turkey I put them up and continued roasting a few days later. Chopped the onions finer & made onion soup w them. BEST. DAMN.ONION SOUP. EVER!!
I just wanted to give you the credit you deserve (much more than I remember to share) for keeping me sane during this work at home cook at home time. You are awesome and hit the nail on the head over and over. Thank you and BRAVISSIMA!! Nothing is harder than the cold kitchen at 5 pm with no good options for take out (we are not in Gotham anymore, Auntie Em!)
I made this with an 8-lb turkey breast, cutting the initial high-heat cooking time. Total cooking time was longer than expected. The turkey was delicious and moist the the drippings became the base for the best (and easiest) gravy I’ve ever made—not spicy at all, just dark and rich. Instead of onions I threw a mix of peeled whole shallots, and peeled chunks of carrots and potatoes into the bottom of the pan, after tossing in olive oil and nothing else. They were fantastic too.
I’m dying to make this with a turkey breast. Besides cooking time, did you adjust anything else? Brining time, amount of salt, etc?
We’ve made this with both chicken and turkey – because the Thanksgiving turkey was just – so – good – that we had to try it with chicken, too. We like both a lot, mostly because the onions that result are ultimately the most delicious thing in the world. They get more cook time and turn into almost an onion chutney with the turkey, but with the chicken, you still get some of the jammy sweetness, but also a bit more texture. The bird itself has great flavor and moisture. When using chicken, we often will do a salt rub/brine, but usually just in the morning for a late afternoon cook, and it works out fine for us. This preparation has turned into a go-to for Sunday lunches with the UK branch of the family, alongside the requisite roasted potatoes and a veg.
I have been reading this blog for over 10 years, and I rarely comment… but since I have made this several times, on two continents, and with multiple types of poultry, I thought I would chime in. Thanks, Deb, for all the amazingness you have brought to our family kitchen(s)!
Last year, (11/2020) I stuck my Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer. In May of this year, I needed to finally roast it and used this recipe. (Thank you for warning us about how dark the turkey would get.) Also, it was difficult to find Diamond Kosher salt, so I reduced the amount of Morton kosher. Turkey was moist, flavorful and delicious. Family raved. Almost no leftovers. Perfect for any time of year!
Anyone tried this with a large turkey breast? Or small chicken? I tried to read as many comments as I could but didn’t really see an answer. LOVE SM recipes!!
Here are a few comments from people who have adapted this with a turkey breast — sounds like it comes out great:
Any recommendations for an oil besides butter, if – hypothetically – your sister-in-law can’t stand butter? Can I replace the butter with an oil and expect the same results?
Not the same flavor profile, but yes, you can use an oil too.
I always wonder if you need to brine a kosher turkey. Will it alter the taste—for better or worse? I’m curious. Hoping you know. Thanks as always.
I do not think it is necessary.
For the allium sensitive among us what would you suggest as the replacement for the onions?
Any other vegetables you like with turkey! Or, you can try to mash it up with this cabbage base, as one reader just said she was going to.
Ooh that did occur to me. I like that recipe.
I’m so excited to try this recipe. I’m only cooking for two. How would you revise this recipe for a 6 lb bone-in turkey breast?
I haven’t tested it with a turkey breast but I’m sure it will be great. Just follow recommended cooking times for turkey breasts by pound — there are many online.
I’m making 2 turkeys this year, one oven….so I need to do them at different times. What is your advice regarding slicing early in the day? What is best way to reheat the onions? My sense is to just slice it like I normally would, put in large pan with onions, cover with juices, then foil. Reheat on low heat. Thoughts?
Would this also work in the big green egg? Planning on grilling our turkey this year!
Came to the comments looking for thoughts on grilling, too! I’m thinking of trying this recipe with my new gas grill.
Mmm I may have to try this flavor profile (sweet/spiced, with jammy onions) this year. However I’m going to make my usual modification of skipping basting for cooking the turkey *breast side down* and turning it right side up for the last 10 minutes. Makes for the juiciest white meat ever!
Can you make this recipe with a turkey breast?
Here are a few comments from people who have adapted this with a turkey breast — sounds like it comes out great:
Any change in salt if your only turkey option is using one that already has a “solution” of salt and water added? Maybe dry brine the BB longer?
Hi! Thanks for sharing! I just need a breast this year, do you think this could still work?
Yes, just less roasting time.
What do you do if you start out with an empire kosher turkey?
Do you SPATCHCOCK?! Obvi, all else could! should! apply here, but the cooking time, is that correct? Have you tried this? Your thoughts on this for more even cooking? Definitely going to gochujang the pants off my salt and pepper in-laws, and possibly bathe in the onions. Thanks Deb, you’re the best.
After three years in a row of spatchcocking turkeys and having them turn out amazing, I’ll never go back. But this sounds amazing ; any kind of adjustments you would suggest for one that is “spatched”, Deb?
Just less baking time, and you might find you want the onions to have more.
I made this turkey last year and it was hands down the best tasting turkey I have ever had. The skin didn’t really get as crispy as yours did though. Should I increase the temperature or cook time to get that skin? I don’t want to dry out the turkey because it was PERFECT.
Do you think this would work on a spatchcocked turkey?
Anyone have success converting this recipe to a roasted chicken? Loved it with turkey, but looking to make a chicken version for a Friendsgiving this year.
Here are two comments from people who report back after making it with chicken:
Your timing is impeccable Deb! Just as I’m using the ‘find’ feature to look through the comments for how to adapt for chicken, boom! Might use this for a butchered chicken or some bone in/skin on chicken thighs…but this is really about the onions, yes? Also gochujang seekers: check out your local Asian food store; gochujang is found with the Korean supplies, and almost always in a red container. Keeps well in the fridge, multi use deliciousness!
So excited to try this recipe this year! I have some young and picky eaters and I’m wondering how this might turn out if I skip the chile paste. Should I replace something else or just go with maple and butter? Thanks!
We’re cooking turkey for the first time ever this thanksgiving! Does the turkey need to be completely defrosted before dry-brining?
Hi! This looks like a great recipe. I want to try it – smitten is always tried and true and I haven’t done many turkeys. You have probably answered somewhere in the comments, this but I couldn’t find it: I have a slightly bigger bird this year – 19lb. How would you recommend adjusting cooking time.
We’re planning on grilling our turkey – any idea on whether this would work with a grilled bird?
I can’t find chili paste, but have LOTS of chili powder. If I swapped them, should I adjust the amount at all? Thanks!
I came for the Thanksgiving recipe … and now I want/need to try this on a chicken, as I’m living in a part of the world where turkeys are not everyday supermarket fare. Could I follow this entire recipe for, say, a 3-lb chicken, simply reducing the cook time according to weight? Or would there be other changes?
EDIT: Nevermind! I scrolled up (duh) and found this addressed by some earlier commenters (and Deb). Thank you!
I came for the Thanksgiving recipe … and now I want/need to try this on a chicken, as I’m living in a part of the world where turkeys are not everyday supermarket fare. Could I follow this entire recipe for, say, a 3-lb chicken, simply reducing the cook time according to weight? Or would there be other changes?
I had great success with mid-size turkeys (14-18lb) and dry brining but the last two years with 21-22lb birds I have not found the same success. I am going to try your recipe this year! I think I have read all through the comments and I am assuming the purpose of the 450 degree stage is to brown the skin and if it gets too dark we can turn it down earlier (and tent with foil). Also, any recommendations for timing and process for the larger turkey? I need to regain my reign of turkey champion! Also long-time follower, first-time commenter :-)
Question about the onions: do you put them under the rack, on the rack or are they in place of a rack and turkey just sits on them?
Can ancho Chili’s be made into a paste for the chili paste? Also could an Italian chili paste be used? Thanks
Any of the above would work. It’s just about giving it a gentle background suggestion of heat.
If the turkey is on a rack, they can go under and around. If the turkey is not on a rack, around.
Pretty please can you share the chicken version?! After all the work and meh results of turkey last year I refuse to do it but have a lovely local chicken defrosting in my fridge at the moment.
I have a question…Deb (or one of Deb’s followers!!) do you know of anyone who has made this without using the chile paste? My concern with using it is not the spicy flavor—Deb, you have made it clear that this doesn’t make spicy turkey. :) My husband has an intolerance for bell peppers and I am concerned that this might upset his stomach. Just curious if anyone has used this method but without the chile paste.
I think I might try this method on a turkey breast sometime and see how he does with it.
Thanks for any input you can provide!
Hi! I’ve made this recipe for the past two years without the chili paste and it has been delicious. Everyone raves about it and the caramelized onions and subsequent gravy. (We substitute Hoisin Sauce for the Harissa with wonderful results!)
Audra–Thank you SO much for taking the time to respond! I am so grateful!
Happy Thanksgiving! :)
Couldn’t find Diamond here in Vermont so I’m using your recommended conversion for David’s kosher for an 11.6 lb turkey. Hard to feel like I spread the salt around enough with basically half the amount in volume. Is it going to work?! In Deb I trust.
I made this recipe last year with a reasonably sized turkey, and it came out great! This year I’m cooking for a lot of people and wound up with a 23.5 pound bird. I saw some folks comment that they used 20 pound turkeys and they were done in 3.5 hours, and I’m wondering if anyone has cooking time tips for a larger bird. I’m planning on trying four hours.
This is currently happening right now! My daughter is making this for her first turkey. It looks so pretty I can’t wait to eat it.
I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, except that my turkey is a bit larger (20 lbs), so I multiplied the seasonings by 1.5. I used a pan with a rack, and put the onions in the bottom under the rack. The turkey cooked in about 3 hours and looks great, but the onions are a mess. Rather than roasted and caramelized, they are more like stewed in turkey drippings – gray, soggy, and unappetizing. Has this happened to anyone else? Any idea what I might have done wrong?
I made this for TG yesterday w a 14 lb. bird. Yes, similar happened to me. The onions didn’t roast (but they weren’t grey either) like Deb’s photo. Full disclosure I used Taste’s Butter Cape Turkey w butter (and it turned out beautifully, w NO basting! so I didn’t brown the turkey as much as SM onion recipe. However all is NOT lost. Further caramelize those onions for soup or a soufflé! They are divine, 1/2 your cooking work is done for you and they offer a multitude of uses!
We made this tonight for Thanksgiving, followed the recipe exactly, and it was the best turkey we’ve ever made.
We made this for a Friendsgiving on Wednesday. It was fantastic. Our 20lb turkey took exactly 3 hours. Turkey was perfectly done. This is my 3rd attempt at turkey and by far the best recipe I’ve tried.
I don’t comment on recipes much, but I had to on this one. Last Christmas, my beloved Chef father passed away, so I was tasked with making the Thanksgiving turkey this year. I was super nervous, but HOLY CRAP! Best, juiciest, most flavorful turkey EVER! (Sorry Dad.) Better yet was the gravy made with the pan juices. (Different recipe, just strained the pan juices, made a butter/flour roux, cooked to a deep brown and slowly added the drippings. The hint of sweetness is spectacular. No further seasoning needed.
I used real maple syrup, sambal oelek and adjusted for my 26 pound bird which popped 90 minutes early, but it still didn’t matter! (Hint: keep covered, just shut off the oven and rest.) AMAZING! SmittenKitchen is always a trusted source for a reason! Thank you!
Mmm this was so good! The onions were perfect and my little girl’s favorite part of Thanksgiving this year (besides pie!) It was my first try at gravy, and I put the roaster right on the burners and it was perfect! Good to finally have a Thanksgiving go-to.
I made this for my Thanksgiving dinner and it was absolutely delicious! Definitely the best turkey I have ever made- moist and flavorful. Thank you for the recipe!
I am bereft that I didn’t read far enough down in the comments to see that the onions are supposed to go underneath the rack. My onions browned and softened but didn’t get infused with turkey essence–and how could they, resting atop the rack? Deb, you might just make a note in the text of the recipe that if you’re using a rack, the onions go beneath. Otherwise, this turkey was wonderfully successful. It was my first time dry-brining, and the turkey came out incredibly flavorful and moist, with a lovely flavor to the skin. This was such a simple recipe with such a high ratio of reward to effort. Thank you, Deb! The turkey was the star of Thanksgiving this year, as it should be but so very rarely is.
Hi Deb! I have been a follower of yours for almost a decade and love your stuff! Question on this turkey. I have made it twice, both times with a 12 lb bird, and the meat is DELICIOUS but somehow I have wound up with let’s say “less-than-crispy” skin. Squidgy turkey skin… (oy…) at least it’s easy to remove! …But no bueno. I am just somehow missing this mark! This 2nd time I tried the recipe, knowing I had an issue the first time, I didn’t cover in foil at all for the last half hour because I wanted to make sure it crisped but still no dice. Any advice??
Are you covering it with foil midway because it’s getting dark? My advice would be to not fear it getting dark, it never (to me) tastes burnt, but it does keep it crispy.
Question about the Cuisinart roaster you cooked this bird in – I have the same one and have found that the finish chips and scratches very easily. Cuisinart has now sent me a second replacement, but I’m not hopeful it won’t have the same issue. Have you experienced this problem?
No but I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve only used mine 4-5 times so it’s in great condition. I even put it in the dishwasher. You might ask Cuisinart for an upgraded one — whichever customers are happier with — since you don’t want to have a third that might go the same as the first two.
While the onions did not get eaten for TG dinner (too many other choices and they weren’t quite caramelized) I did make Turkey onion soup w it a few days later. I continued to caramelize them for another 30 mins for nice brown stage. Used turkey, white wine, veg stock & a little fresh apple cider for soup and it was so good.
It’s interesting for me to see folks asking for substitutes for gochujang, as I am trying to figure out a substitute for the maple syrup (I’m Korean so gochujang is a staple whereas I don’t use maple syrup even once a year). I have honey on hand or I could make a simple syrup. Any recommendation on which would be the best substitute for maple syrup? Thank you!
Any liquid sweetener will work — honey or another thick syrup.
I’ve made my fair share of turkeys in the day, usually the traditional sage/garlic route and it’s always turned out fine. But this recipe blew my mind! Holy cow! The depth of flavor from a turkey?! Cranberry sauce & gravy were insulting next to this juicy, complex, delicious meat. Everyone at the table couldn’t stop groaning in pleasure between bites. It was a home run. Deb never steers me wrong and this was a true testament to her amazing site. Thank you for making our Christmas dinner the best we’ve ever had!
I made this with a whole chicken and we are dry-brining all poultry going forward! lol It came out tender, moist and flavorful. My BF doesn’t care for herbs so this was perfect for him. We’re going to make a bone broth from the carcass. Curious as to how it will turn out!
I made this turkey and it was very delicious. Dry brine is going to be my go-to from now on. My bird was 13lb, no antibiotics, subjected to 2 days brining, and required about 4 hours to reach 150F temp. I used more salt than specified, but didn’t really measure it out. I erred on the side of more salt than too little. Unfortunately it took so long to cook that I had to forgo making gravy. No complaints from the guests, thankfully. Thanks Deb!
I have a 20lb turkey. I imagine I should increase the amount of ingredients and by how much? Thank you Debbie, love your recipes
I’d use 1.5x to 1.75x the ingredients. Hope it’s a hit!
Made this turkey recipe last Thanksgiving and it was my best ever. Dry brining and this wonderful glaze left me with tasty, juicy perfect turkey. And so EASY on the actual day to have my turkey already prepped in the pan! None of that wrestling with the bird while I am still drinking my morning coffee! Definitely my permanent go to in future!
Been following you for years and love your advice and recipes. This is my first comment/question. If, when using just a turkey breast for the dry-brined turkey with roasted onions recipe, the onions don’t caramelize, per other commenters, could I start the onions first and add the turkey later? Would this work and if so, how long should I let the onions cook before adding the turkey breast?
I have been using this turkey recipe for years. It is the best I have ever tasted!
I have used a dry brine method for years and swear by it. I love your take on it with the added maple syrup and gochujang. My question is if I would like to use a cheesecloth to soak in the butter, can I also mix in the syrup and gochujang with the butter and dip the cheesecloth in the mixture or do you recommend putting the syrup/ gochujang directly onto the bird and then draping the butter soaked cheesecloth over it?
do you think this could be done with vegan butter or olive oil? for me, butter and turkey do not mix (we keep kosher)
thanks in advance!
Could I use this same process for a turkey breast, just shorter cooking time? Thanks!
So I have a question. The turkey is on a rack. Are the onion below the rack in the pan or balanced on the rack.
Also wonder if I can use GOCHUGARU which are the chili flakes
1) Would this work with a spatchcocked bird? It’s got a much shorter cooking time so I could see the onions needing more time.
2) SHALLOTS. Do you think I could substitute whole shallots for the quartered onions? That Rishia Zimmern chicken with shallots recipe is a big hit in our house and the idea of a big bowl of caramelized shallots as a Thanksgiving side dish sounds heavenly!
Would this method work for Turkey breast? I know-no dark meat but there are only 7 of us?
Yes. You’ll just need less roasting time!
So this year it is just my husband and I- I bought just a small Turkey Breast. Can you advise me on how I would do the Brine and the measurements. The Basic Brine or what you recommend. I usually do onions/garlic and season. I use Kitchen Bouquwt for the gravy ) I know m but my Mom used to do this also)
Thank you….follow so many of your amazing recipes. Happy Holiday
Do you put the turkey on a rack like in the Photo or directly on the bottom of the roasting pan? It doesn’t specify in the instructions. And then do the onions go under the rack (if using) or around the turkey (that’s what the instructions say)? So basically I’m just confused about using a rack in the roasting pan or not. Please help! Cannot wait to make this…. thanks Deb!
Use a rack if you have one — my roasting pan comes with one.
We’ve been dry brining for years (we use the big plastic brine bags since we have a small fridge). Typically we stuff with oranges, veg and herbs. Very excited to try this recipe for something different and easier! Nothing I love more than caramelized onions and you’re so right that all the other veg is overwhelming represented in other dishes. Thank you!
The bird looks wonderful, love the mahogany crispy skin it produces. I do have one question and concern: we do not and can not eat anything hot/spicy (health reasons) and would like to make this turkey. What would you suggest subbing for the spicy ingredients or would it be okay just to leave it out all together?
Do you think we can use gtmreen cabbage instead of onions. Like in your one Whole Roasted Chicken recipe? Or will the Cabage just become mush?
I’ve made this turkey last three years in a row and love it!
Xo – Julia
Do you roast the turkey directly on the bottom of the pan or do you put it on a rack. Thank you!
My pan comes with a rack.
Hi Deb-any idea if I use the same amount of salt here for a kosher turkey? Kosher chicken & turkey taste quite different than non kosher. Thank you :).
Hi! Looking forward to trying this but am wondering… do I leave roasting pan dry (only onions tossed with a little oil in the bottom)? No broth or water in pan initially?
No need to have broth or water in the pan.
Can I use a 22 pound turkey, or do you think the cooking time will be too long and cause it to burn? I’m worried about it with the maple syrup. Thanks!!
I think it will be just fine.
Made this today and it was delicious. I think it’s my favorite turkey recipe! Wr had the turkey butchered as this is my preferred way of making it. We also took the onions after the turkey was done and caramelized them with a little more butter, maple syrup and gochujang. Really added flavor to the thanksgiving plate!!
In case anyone is wondering whether this works for a bone-in turkey breast, it does! I just used this recipe for a 6.5 lb bone-in turkey breast. I roasted it for 15 mins at 450 and then 2.5 hours at 250 degrees. I overcooked it slightly, so I would follow the guidelines of 20 mins per pound. It was absolutely delicious! So much easier than a full turkey and just as delicious.
Made this today and am thrilled with the recipe! So savory and delicious! Loved the onions, this one’s a keeper
We made this for Thanksgiving and it was amazing. We did add an herb butter under the skin and didn’t need to baste at all. The meat was flavorful and juicy. The skin was deeply browned and crispy. A keeper recipe for sure!
Wow, the onions. Amazing and might be the main reason this will be my forever turkey recipe. The turkey and onions are so delicious. The gravy itself was a star, but next time I’ll save some and add it to the gravy (immersion blend it in) like another comment suggested. The turkey was moist, the mixture to brush over the turkey is perfect, and the skin was crispy.
I made this today for Thanksgiving and I knew it would be a winner because of Deb’s commitment to her recipes. This was excellent.
As someone who loves onions, add as many as you can fit in the pan!
Best turkey I ever made. Moist, tasty, fantastic. The onions are a bonus that keeps on giving. The pan juices were so tasty, I didn’t bother to make gravy — just used as is. Highly recommend this recipe.
Made this and it was perfect! My 14 lb bird cooked faster than written- more like 2 hours. We stuffed it with sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme, plus a lemon and garlic head. Delightful. The gravy from the drippings was onion-y and nice. My new go-to!
HEAVEN! Second year in a row I made this and it’s divine! Usually, the side dishes are the stars, but this baby is THE BOMB! I only wish I had made a bigger bird. As the previous commenter noted, mine was about 13 pounds and cooked in about 2 hours (I actually overcooked it and let it rest over an hour and you couldn’t tell). I had NO leftovers. I’m devastated. So… off to the store for another turkey.
I used Sambal Oelek as my chili and I think the butter, maple, chili combo is something I’m going to try on everything from now on! I had six toddlers lining for scraps as I was deboning, one whose parents said doesn’t eat anything! GENIUS!!!
Made this for thanksgiving this year- the only change I made was having the first glaze be just butter and then after the first 30 min roast I took the turkey out and glazed it with the chili maple butter mixture and turned the oven down. I think this helped prevent the turkey from getting too dark. I also stuffed it with fresh sage, thyme, lemon, and a halved garlic head. It was absolutely delicious and the family was raving about it.
This is the second year in a row I’ve made this turkey and it’s just so good. This year I cooked a 10-lb turkey for about an hour and a half following the recipe as written, and it probably could have come out sooner as the turkey’s temperature was well over 150-155 degrees, but nevertheless, the meat wasn’t dry at all. Just so good!
Huzzah! The best bird I’ve ever prepared! I changed only one thing: I asked the butcher to spatchcock the 15-pound bird so it would cook more quickly. Less than three hours to perfectly moist, flavorful meat — both light and dark — and crispy skin. The only challenge is having a pan large enough for the bird to spread out.
This is now our go-to recipe. Thank you!
This has been my go to recipe for the last two years. Its great! I made it with an 8lb turkey breast last night for the first night of Chanukah dinner. It worked great- I used same measurements for the rub. I did only 20 min at 450 and the rest at 350. It took almost 2 hours and came out perfect – well flavored and juicy. The only recommendation I have for the breast vs the whole turkey is to put some chicken broth over the onions if you have the turkey sitting up on the rack and the onions below- the turkey breast doesn’t produce enough drippings to keep the onions moist so halfway through I added that.