GobbleFest 2015: Roast Turkey
20 Dec 2015

GobbleFest 2015: Roast Turkey

20 Dec 2015

I’ve been meaning to try roasting my own turkey for a while now.  At our last GobbleFest I only made the sides and we bought our turkey from Turkey Point Cafe, which has since closed shop.  The years after that there were issues getting halal turkey, and there was one year when all the suppliers just decided to protest and not import turkeys at all.  This year, finally we are seeing an abundance of imported and local halal turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Cold Storage was selling them for RM29.90/ kg at one point and I missed out – darn!), and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity again.  GobbleFest 2015 is on! The menu:

Roast Turkey | Creamy Cauliflower and Bacon Soup | Mashed Potatoes | Brown Butter Cornbread | Classic Sausage Stuffing

Handling a turkey was definitely interesting; I underestimated the effort it took even to just cart it around the kitchen, and butterflying it wasn’t as straightforward as it is with chicken, with random hard-to-cut bones along the backbone I had to manoeuvre around with my kitchen shears.  Update: As I gained more experience butterflying a turkey, I learned that the trick is to cut as closely along the backbone as possible. If done correctly, what you should expect to be cutting are simply the smaller, thinner bones like the ribs. Two points to watch out for are the pelvic bones and shoulder blades. Try to cut between them and the backbone, else you’re in for massive hand cramps cutting through those hard bones.

When roasting, I should’ve followed my gut and tested it for doneness instead of following the recipe cooking time too faithfully, so I ended up with a slightly overcooked turkey.  Nonetheless, butterflying the turkey and cooking at a high temperature created such crispy skin and cooked the turkey super-fast, so this is the only way I’ll roast my turkey.  Update: If you’re planning to roast chicken or turkey often enough, I strongly recommend you invest in an in-oven thermometer, ideally one with two probes. I have the ThermoPro TP20 and it has been giving me perfectly juicy chicken or turkey ever since. The double probes is very useful as a check and balance of sorts, just in case one of your probes didn’t get positioned deep enough into the thickest part of the breast meat. I would observe the probe with the lower internal temperature and take out the bird when it hits 65 degrees C. My TP20 even beeps to alert me when the desired temperature has been reached, which is super handy especially when I’m busy preparing other things in the kitchen.

Brining the turkey gave it amazing flavor, which makes this recipe a keeper.  All in all it was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait for next year’s Gobblefest!

Based on the recipes by Ree Drummond and SeriousEats.

Recipe and photos updated 25 Dec 2016.

Roast Turkey

  • 3/4 cups coarse salt
  • 1 cup red sugar OR dark brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary OR 6 sprigs fresh, leaves picked
  • 4 oranges, 2 peeled, white pith removed, skin cut into strips, and 2 zested
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 4 liters water
  • 1 (12- to 14-pound/5.5 to 6.5 kg) fresh turkey
  • 9 tablespoons (about 130 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 3 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 12 thyme sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Chicken stock cubes, enough to make 1.5 liters stock
  • 1.5 liters water
  • 4 tablespoons flour


In a very large pot (make sure it can fit in your fridge!), combine the salt, red sugar, garlic, 3 bay leaves, black and white peppercorns, rosemary, orange peel, apple juice and water.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.

Turn off the heat immediately, cover, and allow the mixture to come to room temperature. Cool the mixture in the fridge until ready to use.

Prepare the turkey for brining. Remove the turkey from its wrapper, take out any plastic pegs and parts (check on the body as well as inside the cavity), and remove the neck and bag containing the giblets which should be stuff inside the cavity of the turkey. Rinse thoroughly under cool tap water.

Place the turkey, breast-side down, into a large pot (make sure it can fit in your fridge!).  Pour the cooled brine mixture over the top, adding extra cold water if you need more to completely cover the turkey.

Cover the pot and transfer to the refrigerator to brine, at least 16 and up to 24 hours before roasting.

About an hour before roasting, remove the pot from the fridge and discard the brine. and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Return the turkey to the now-empty pot, cover with fresh water and let soak, 20 minutes.  This soaking process will decrease the likelihood of too-salty gravy.


Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven 230 degrees C (210 degrees C fan).

Line a large roasting pan with aluminium foil.  Scatter two-thirds of the onions, carrots, celery and thyme sprigs across the bottom of the pan.  


While soaking the turkey, make the butter mixture.  Mix 6 tablespoons of softened butter with the rosemary and orange zest.

Using kitchen shears, butterfly the turkey and trim any excess fat.  Reserve the neck, backbone, and giblets for making the gravy.

Place the turkey on top of the wire rack, arranging so that it does not overlap the edges, pressing down on the breast bone to flatten the breasts slightly.  Tuck in the wing tips behind the back.  

Place the wire rack directly on top of the vegetables. Pat the turkey dry using paper towels.

Rub the herb butter mixture evenly all over the turkey inside and out, going under the skin where possible.

Transfer the turkey legs-first to the oven and roast, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 65 degrees C, about 1 hour.  Start checking for doneness at the 45-minute mark.

While the turkey roasts, make the gravy.  Roughly chop the neck, backbone, and giblets.  Heat the oil in a 3-litre saucepan over high heat until shimmering.

Add the chopped turkey parts and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining onions, carrots, and celery and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften and brown in spots, 5 minutes.


Add the chicken stock cubes and water…

… the remaining thyme, and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil then simmer over low heat, 45 minutes,

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the broth into a 2-litre liquid measuring cup and discard the rest of the ingredients.  Skim off any fat from the surface of the broth.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in a 2-litre saucepan.

Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until flour is golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Stirring or whisking constantly, add the broth in a thin, steady stream until thoroughly combined.

Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer, until the liquid has reduced to about half, about 20 minutes.  

Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. I personally didn’t add any additional seasonings.

When turkey is cooked, remove from the oven and transfer the wire rack to a new roasting tin. Allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving.

Carefully pour any collected juices from out of the roasting pan through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup.  Skim off excess fat and discard.  Whisk the juices into the gravy.

Carve the turkey and arrange on a large serving platter.  I don’t carve turkey often enough and always need a refresher especially when I get to the thighs, so here’s my go-to video for that.

Serve together with the gravy.

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