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5 Simple Ways To Make Your Thanksgiving Turkey So Much Better

Everything you need to know about roasting the perfect turkey — from seasoning, to carving, to making a delicious homemade gravy.

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There is truly nothing scarier than roasting a Thanksgiving turkey.

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What if you overcook it? Or worse, what if you undercook it and serve your guests raw turkey!? 😬

So we went ahead and created a simple, foolproof method for roasting turkey that'll help ease your nerves. You can find the full recipe at the bottom of this post.

By rethinking the entire process, we created a 100% manageable game plan for roasting the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey.

To start, we broke the process down into five easy steps:

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These steps are:

Breaking down the bird into manageable parts: I know, I know — this is not traditional, but hear us out: Breaking the bird down into pieces helps ensure every part of the bird is cooked properly. You know how the breast is always dry? This solves that.

Dry brining the turkey: Brining the turkey (AKA soaking it in a salt water bath) helps keep it juicy, but it also takes up a ton of room in the fridge and is not very practical — so we decided to make a dry brine for our bird, which works just as well as liquid brine and is way more convenient.

Making the gravy: Utilizing the turkey carcass to make your own turkey broth takes your gravy to the next level. It may sound hard, but it's nothing more than roasting the scraps with some veggies, then simmering the whole thing in water — and doing it the day before helps free up time on Thanksgiving day.

Roasting the turkey: Roasting the turkey on a rack helps it crisp up on all sides — and rubbing it in oil helps it brown evenly — but the most important step is taking out the pieces as soon as they reach 165°F. This means taking some pieces out before others and makes sure none of them are overcooked and dry.

Carving the turkey: Breaking down the (already broken down) turkey parts into even smaller pieces makes serving easier — and it makes it look super fancy, too.

Next, we decided to take a closer look at these steps to see how they can be perfected. Ready for a closer look?

And if you simply want the recipe, just scroll down to the bottom of this post.

STEP ONE: BREAKING DOWN THE BIRD

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Breaking down the bird into smaller, more manageable pieces helps it cook faster and prevents certain pieces from overcooking. You know how the breast is always dry? Well this technique solves that problem and allows you to roast different pieces for different amounts of time.

Before you start cutting it into pieces, pat it dry with paper towels so it doesn't slide around too much, and remove the innards and neck. Cut the wing tips off (the very end of the wings) and set all of that aside.

Turn the bird over and release the oysters.

Pierce Abernathy / BuzzFeed

This sounds complicated, but they're just large chunks of meat attached to the thighs. Cut an X in the skin, release them from the turkey, then flip it back over.

Now it's time to get cutting...

When breaking it down, you'll end up with five parts:

The breasts and wings:

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This cut is the easiest of them all. Simply run your knife along the back of the breast bone on either side. Glide it against the bone, leaving as little meat behind as you can, continuing down the breast bone until the meat releases.

Pierce Abernathy/BuzzFeed

The wing will still be attached to the breast, so just cut that baby off. You will naturally be able to see where the joints meet and cut 'em off.

The legs and thighs:

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Go ahead and pull the carcass away from the thigh. Use your knife to work around the joint and slowly release it from the body. The oyster you released earlier should be attached to this piece, and it should come off all in one go.

This will leave you with a piece of meat that includes the leg and thigh.

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To separate them, turn the leg and thigh over, and look for a fat line running right down the middle. Use your knife to cut along this line and the thigh will release from the leg. If it's not coming off easily, feel free to give it a little twist. It sometimes takes a little effort to pop the joint.

And everything else...

Pierce Abernathy/BuzzFeed

What you're left with is the carcass, wingtips, and neck. These will be used to make stock later, so don't throw them out! And don't worry if this seems complicated — full directions for breaking down a turkey are included in the video at the bottom of this post. Once your turkey is broken down into pieces, the hard part is over. ✓

STEP TWO: DRY BRINING THE BIRD

Pierce Abernathy/BuzzFeed

A brine is just a fancy name for a salt water solution that you soak proteins in. It's a simple trick restaurants use to keep meats moist and help crisp up the skin.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, the bad part is that it takes a lot of brine to fully submerge a turkey — we're talking multiple gallons. So we decided to take out all of the liquid and focus on the functional ingredients — in this case, salt, brown sugar, black pepper, and garlic graduals. Rubbing the turkey in this simple mixture and letting it rest overnight in the fridge will give you the same results as submerging it in a traditional brine, just way easier.

Once you rub that mixture on your bird, pop it in the fridge uncovered and let it rest overnight. Now onto the gravy!

STEP THREE: MAKING THE GRAVY

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Remember that carcass you just saved? This is where it's gonna come in handy. We recommend making your gravy the day before to get a head start. It might seem excessive, but it will save you a ton of precious time on the big day.

Place the carcass, wing tips, and the neck on a sheet tray with a bit of oil, salt, celery, onions, and carrots, and roast until browned.

Pierce Abernathy / BuzzFeed

Dump off the excess oil, and add some warm water to the pan and scrape off all the burnt bits. The goal is to mimic the roasted flavor that develops in a traditional roasting pan, and these little burnt bits are your secret to recreating that flavor.

Put your roasted carcass and veggies in a pot, cover with some water, and let it simmer.

To make the gravy, make a roux with the turkey drippings and flour, and slowly add your prepared turkey stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and you're done. Just pop the gravy in the fridge and reheat the next day.

STEP FOUR: ROASTING THE BIRD

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The next day, grab your turkey out of the fridge and rub it in a bit of canola oil. There will be a lot of dry brine stuck on the skin, but you can leave it on. (It melts in the oven and seasons the turkey.)

Roast all of the pieces at 425°F for 30ish minutes, checking each piece with an instant thermometer every 10 minutes or so. You want each piece to register an internal temperature of 165°F, and some pieces may cook faster than others, so just take them out and tent with foil if any are cooking too fast.

Once every piece is cooked through, tent them with foil and let 'em rest.

STEP FIVE: CARVING IT

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You're almost done, now it's just time to cut it up and make it look nice!

The goal is to cut the turkey into servable pieces. Some pieces will be a bit uglier, like the thighs, while others will be beautiful, like the breasts. Anything unsightly can be placed at the bottom of the serving platter, while the beautiful pieces (such as sliced breasts and whole legs) can be placed on top. Anything with a bone (besides the legs) can be sliced and removed from it — and try your hardest to make sure every slice has a bit of skin still attached. Some of the skin will fall off, so don't worry too much about making every slice perfect.

We jazzed up our platter with some roasted oranges, lemons, and herbs — but you don't have to go that crazy. Once you're happy with how it looks, you're done!

And that's it: The perfect Thanksgiving turkey in five easy steps! Sure, it's untraditional, but if it results in a better tasting turkey, why would you do it any other way?

View this video on YouTube

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And remember, Thanksgiving is about having fun and relaxing — so don't stress too much and remember you can always throw some fancy garnishes on the plate to hide any mistakes. You got this!

A TASTIER THANKSGIVING TURKEY

Taylor Miller

Servings: 15

INGREDIENTS

1 15-pound turkey

¼ cup kosher salt

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Cooking oil of preference, for drizzling

Turkey Stock

1 turkey carcass

1 medium yellow onion, quartered

3 carrots, peeled and halved

3 stalks of celery, cut into thirds

Kosher salt, to taste

Cooking oil of preference, for drizzling

Cold water

2 bay leaves

Gravy

⅓ cup rendered turkey fat or butter

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

1 quart turkey stock or chicken stock

1 bunch of fresh sage (optional)

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

One day before serving, prepare the turkey for brining. Pat dry with paper towels. Set the neck aside for the stock. Cut off the wing tips and set aside with the neck. Butcher the turkey into 8 pieces: 2 breasts, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 wings. Set aside the carcass for the stock.

Combine the salt, brown sugar, pepper, and granulated garlic in a small bowl.

Set a wire rack inside a baking sheet. Place the turkey parts skin-side up on the rack and generously sprinkle with the seasoning blend. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Make the stock: Preheat the oven to 450˚F (230˚C).

Place the turkey carcass, wing tips, and neck on a baking sheet with the onion, carrots, and celery. Season lightly with salt and drizzle with oil.

Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until the carcass and vegetables are deep brown.

Transfer the roasted vegetables, turkey carcass, and other parts to a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add the bay leaves and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer (don’t boil!) for 3 hours.

Strain the stock, discarding the solids. The stock will keep 5 days in fridge and 3 months in the freezer.

From the still-warm baking sheet from roasting the carcass, pour any rendered fat into a small bowl. Add about 1 cup of water to the pan and scrape off any browned bits from roasting process, then pour into a separate bowl. Reserve for gravy.

Make the gravy: Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the turkey fat and flour, stirring to combine. Cook the fat and flour together, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. This is a roux--you are cooking out the raw flour taste and deepening the flavor.

Gradually add the stock to the roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, continuing to stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator until ready to warm for serving with the turkey. The gravy will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Two hours before you are ready to serve the turkey, preheat the oven to 425°F (220˚C).

Remove the turkey parts from the fridge and drizzle with oil before placing in the hot oven.

Roast for 30 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet to ensure even browning. Reduce the oven temperature to 400˚F (200˚C). Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 160°F (70˚C), or the thigh registers 170˚F (77˚C). Start checking after about 20 minutes, removing any parts from the oven as they reach proper temperature so that they don’t overcook.

Once all parts are done, loosely cover with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes while you warm the gravy.

Add the gravy and sage, if using, to a medium saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve the turkey with the gravy and your favorite Thanksgiving dishes.

Enjoy!

And if you're looking for more Thanksgiving recipes, tips, and tricks, check out our Tasty-est Thanksgiving to help make this Thanksgiving the best one yet.

Ellie Sunakawa / Taylor Miller