Never-Dry Roast Turkey

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 180 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10

When it comes to preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, we’ve tried every trick in the book to ensure it turns out tender and juicy. What we’ve discovered is there’s not just one trick to roasting the perfect bird, but seven: 1) Rub it with a dry brine, and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. 2) Bring the bird to room temperature before 3) slathering it all over and underneath the skin with lots of butter. Contrary to popular belief, 4) you shouldn’t truss the turkey; this prevents hot air from circulating around the legs, which results in uneven cooking. 5) Don’t forget to put liquid in the roasting pan (we like using chicken broth) to create a moist environment in the oven, then 6) roast the turkey until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 167°F (75°C)—the temperature will continue to rise as the turkey rests. And no matter how hungry your guests are, 7) let the roasted bird rest for at least 30 minutes before carving; this allows time for the juices to redistribute and will guarantee a moist, succulent bird that’s easy to carve into beautiful slices at the table.


For the dry brine:

  • Leaves from 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Leaves from 6 fresh sage sprigs
  • Leaves from 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 5 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. celery seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. sugar

  • 1 turkey, 12 to 14 lb. (6 to 7 kg), neck and giblets removed
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) (6 oz./185 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed


To make the dry brine, in a food processor, combine the thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic, celery seeds and peppercorns and pulse until a coarse paste forms. Add the salt and sugar and pulse until blended, about 30 seconds.

Rub the dry brine all over the turkey. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C).

Stuff the turkey cavity with the onion, garlic, thyme, sage and rosemary. Working from the neck end of the turkey, use your fingers to loosen the skin from the breasts. Rub the butter under the skin and all over the outside of the turkey. Pour the broth into the bottom of the pan. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C). Continue roasting, basting the turkey with the pan juices every 30 to 40 minutes and adding more broth as needed to maintain some liquid in the pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, registers 167°F (75°C), 2 1/2 to 3 hours more. If the skin begins to brown too quickly, tent the turkey with aluminum foil.

Transfer the turkey to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving. Serves 8 to 10.

Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen

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