Thanksgiving is a great holiday, but it’s often difficult to find a way to make a bird fit into your meal plan. It’s such a big meal that it feels like you have to stuff yourself silly with traditional turkey and fixings. But there are plenty of ways to make a turkey the centerpiece of your meal so you can still enjoy it with your friends and family!
Dry-Brined Turkey With Tangy Honey Glaze
Other whole turkeys frequently fall short, but this straightforward Thanksgiving turkey recipe yields a festive centerpiece that excels in every way: Thanks to a simple dry brine, it’s juicy as hell and flavorful as all get out. Additionally, cooking the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet rather than a deep roasting pan is ideal for giving it an even browning throughout. Just be careful when removing the bird from the oven so that the drippings don’t run over the sides.
The dry brine, a straightforward concoction of kosher salt and brown sugar, should be applied to the turkey at least 12 hours before you intend to cook it. Your brined turkey will taste even better if you can give it a full two days in the refrigerator without being covered. Wet brining can be messy and cause the bird to become waterlogged, therefore we strongly recommend dry brining, which guarantees a well-seasoned, soft, juicy turkey.
You’ll quickly prepare a glaze with vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and a few aromatics once the turkey has been placed in the oven. Although the recipe calls for fresh rosemary, you are welcome to use another robust fresh herb, such as sage or thyme, in its place. Brushing rather than basting will help guarantee that the wide turkey breast receives a uniform coating, resulting in more evenly distributed crispy skin.
Plan appropriately as this roast turkey dish requires patience. The turkey must rest outside of the oven for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour after reaching the ideal internal temperature (we strongly advise purchasing a meat thermometer if you don’t already have one) so that the juices can redistribute. Avoid covering it with anything, including aluminum foil, as doing so will make all of the hard-earned, crackling skin go limp.
You have to trust me that it’s fine. In fact, the cooked turkey won’t become chilled. Use the time to prepare the sides for your Thanksgiving meal, such as the green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and other sides (or to plan what you’ll do with the leftover turkey in the days to come).
If you’re still not persuaded that this is the ideal roast turkey for you, try making our garlicky spatchcock turkey or roast your turkey in pieces so that the breast flesh and legs are roasted to the correct doneness for each component.
½ cup Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 12–14-lb. turkey, neck reserved for gravy, giblets discarded, patted dry
12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
¼ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 sprigs rosemary
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 2×1 strips orange zest
Work the salt and brown sugar with your fingertips in a medium bowl until combined. Put the turkey on a wire rack inside a baking sheet with a rim. Place the turkey on a V-shaped rack inside a sizable roasting pan if you don’t have this setup. Sprinkle dry brine all over the turkey’s exterior and inside, patting it in place and working some into the cracks. Although you won’t use all of the dry brine, it’s a good idea to have some extra because when you season the turkey, some of it will end up on the baking pan. After 12 hours, uncover the turkey and let it come to room temperature. After 2 days, discard any leftover dry brine. Uncovered, chill bird for at least 12 hours and no longer than 2 days.
To ensure the best possible results, take the turkey off the wire rack, and if necessary, wash the baking sheet and rack. Set the rack back into the baking sheet after lining it with three layers of foil. Put the turkey on the rack breast-side up, and tuck the wings beneath. After giving the turkey two to three hours to acclimate, put the turkey in the oven and cook according to the recipe.
To make the skin on the breast of the turkey looser, use your fingers to spread the skin apart. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread 4 tablespoons of butter evenly across both breasts of turkey under the skin. Spread 4 more tablespoons of butter on the turkey’s exterior.
Put one cup of water in a circle on the baking sheet and then tie the legs together with kitchen twine and then place the chicken in the center.
Roast the turkey for about 30 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the skin is mostly golden brown throughout. After this time, the skin will be fully cooked and ready to be served.
In the meantime, simmer the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Keep the glaze warm by lowering the heat to the lowest level.
To ensure your turkey will be cooked through, reduce the oven temperature to 300° and roast the turkey for an additional 65 to 85 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast near the neck registers 150° (don’t worry; the temperature will rise while the bird rests). Brush with glaze every 30 minutes and add additional water by 12 cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in the baking sheet. While it’s cooking, make sure to crisp, lustrous, and deep golden brown skin is achieved. Before carving, move the turkey to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.