For the perfect roast turkey this Thanksgiving, follow our step-by-step guide.
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What You'll Need
Serves 12 to 14
1 20- to 21-pound fresh whole turkey, giblets and neck removed from cavity and reserved
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 bottle dry white wine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red or white wine for gravy (optional)
Tools and Materials
Instant-red meat thermometer
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Step 2: Prepare the Turkey
Place rack on lowest level in oven and heat to 425 degrees.
Tuck the wing tips under the body of the bird, and place turkey breast-side-up in a roasting pan. Season inside of bird with salt and pepper. If your turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness.
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Step 3: Make Stock
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Step 4: Stuff the Bird
Insert the stuffing just before the turkey goes into the oven; never do it ahead of time and don't pack it too tightly; the stuffing won't cook evenly and bacteria may grow. Don't forget to stuff the neck cavity.
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Step 5: Secure Neck Flap
Pull the flap of skin at the neck down and use toothpicks to fasten it.
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Step 6: Truss the Bird
Pull the legs together loosely and tie them with kitchen string -- a bow will be easy to untie later. Any kind of sturdy white string or twine will do, as long as it's made of cotton, not polyester (which may melt in the oven's heat). Rub the turkey with butter and season salt and pepper. Choose a heavy roasting pan with sides two to three inches high; don't use one with a nonstick surface. A roasting rack will keep the turkey from sticking to the pan.
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Step 7: Cover with Cheesecloth
Cover the turkey with cheesecloth that has been soaking in the butter and wine. It should cover the breast and part of the leg area. Place turkey, legs first, in oven and roast 30 minutes, then brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey parts with butter mixture and reduce temperature to 350 degrees.
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Every 30 minutes, use a pastry brush (better than a bulb baster) to baste the cheesecloth and exposed areas of the turkey with the butter-and-wine mixture. The turkey pictured here is out of the oven, but basting should be done in the oven and as quickly as possible so the oven temperature doesn't drop. Watch the pan juices; spoon out and reserve them for the gravy if they are in danger of overflowing.
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Step 9: Final Roast
After the second hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard the cheesecloth; it will have turned quite brown. Baste the turkey with pan juices, taking care not to tear the skin, and return it to the oven.
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Step 10: Take the Temperature
After another half hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone; when the temperature reaches 165 degrees, the bird is ready. This will take 1 to 2 hours more (start taking temperature after 2 1/2 hours total cooking time).
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Before roasting, be sure your turkey is prepped the right way. Follow Martha's tips for the perfect holiday bird.
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Step 11: Make Gravy
Transfer the turkey to a serving platter to rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the gravy. Pour pan juices into a glass measuring cup; when the grease rises to the surface, skim it off and discard. Place the roasting pan over medium-high heat and add a cup of dry red or white wine or water; bring to a boil and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the brown bits. Add giblet stock, return to a boil, and cook until reduced by half. Add reserved, defatted pan juices, cook ten minutes more, and strain into a gravy boat.
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Use a thin-bladed, carbon-steel knife to carve the meat into thin slices. Make sure bird is sufficiently rested (approximately 15 minutes after it has been removed from the oven) before cutting.