News & Politics

How to Roast a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

>> Thanksgiving Guide

Blue Duck Tavern chef Brian McBride is a roasting pro. Here are his secrets for a gloriously bronzed Thanksgiving bird—gravy and all.

• The key to moist, flavorful meat? A good soak in aromatic brine. It’s especially important for naturally raised turkeys, which have tougher meat. McBride scents his brine with bay leaves, fresh sage, thyme, black peppercorns, and juniper berries, lets the bird soak for 16 to 24 hours, then dries it uncovered in the refrigerator. The cold air tightens the skin, making it crisp better in the oven.

• Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Rub the skin with a few spoonfuls of cider vinegar—it boosts the flavor.

• Bake any stuffing alongside the turkey, not in its cavity. There’s no risk of bacteria, and it’s faster.

• McBride thickens his gravy not with the traditional roux but a mix of chopped carrots, onions, parsnips, celery, and rutabaga, which he roasts under the turkey. When the turkey’s done, he takes the turkey and vegetables out, sets the pan over medium heat, and adds a cup of chicken stock. After the liquid comes to a boil, he purees it with half the roasted vegetables.

• “Low and slow” is McBride’s roasting motto. He starts his turkey breast side down in a 325-degree oven, flipping it after an hour and raising the heat to 425 degrees for the last 20 minutes (total cooking time is 2½ to 3 hours). That keeps the meat moist and turns the skin crusty and golden. Cover it with foil and let it rest outside the oven for another 20 minutes. Then it’s carving time.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.