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Citrus-Sage Roast Turkey and Gravy

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Chef notes

Save time and brine and thaw at the same time! Take a frozen turkey and thaw in a brine solution and kill two birds with one stone (get it?). It will take about 12 hours or overnight. Leave a thermometer in to make sure water doesn't get above 40 F.


  • 1 (14- to 16-pound) fresh turkey
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 orange, zested in large strips
  • 2 gallons ice-cold water
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 orange, zested and quartered
  • 1 lemon, zested and quartered
  • 8 large sage leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4-5 sprigs parsley
  • cups turkey stock, plus more if needed
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) turkey drippings or butter
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) flour
  • 5 cups turkey stock
  • 1 ounce sherry wine (optional)
  • 1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the brine:


hours before roasting your turkey, prepare the brine. Rinse the turkey and remove the giblets and add to your turkey stock pot.

In a pot large enough to submerge the turkey in water, whisk together the hot water, kosher salt, sugar, sage and zest until sugar and salt has dissolved. Add the cold water to about half-way up the pot. Add the turkey and add more water to cover. Cover pot and refrigerate overnight.

For the turkey:


Preheat oven to 325 F.


Remove turkey from brine and rinse very well inside and out. Pat dry.


In a small food processor, combine the butter, citrus zests, sage and salt, and process until very well combined.


Use your hand to separate the skin from the flesh of the turkey around the breasts and rub the butter mixture in this area liberally. Fill the cavity with the citrus pieces, onions, garlic and parsley. Pin the back together with a skewer and tie the legs together with twine. Fold the smallest part of the wings back to sit under the turkey and avoid burning. Place turkey on a roasting rack in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan, breast-side up. Rub top of breast skin with a bit of the butter mixture and cover this area only very tightly with foil. Add the stock to the bottom of the pan.


Roast turkey for about 3¼ to 4 hours, or until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 180 F. For the last hour, remove the foil and baste with pan drippings often. During roasting, if the pan starts to dry up, add more turkey stock.

For the gravy:

Remove the pan drippings and pour into a larger separator. Strain the liquid into a measuring cup and add enough turkey stock to make about 4 cups. Measure 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of the fat from the top of the liquid.

Place the roasting pan on top of two burners on the stove over medium heat. Add the fat to the pan and whisk in the flour. Cook until flour has just begun to brown about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the measured stock, sherry and half-and-half. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until the gravy has begun to simmer and thickened. Taste and season with salt and a pinch of pepper.