Accidental Make-Ahead Turkey

Prep Time
5h 30 min
10 servings

Whether you’re hosting a large social gathering or simply want a meal that will provide plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week, this simple and delicious recipe requires ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. 



Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions & Sage

tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
tbsp all-purpose flour
cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade
tbsp Cognac or brandy
leaf large fresh sage leaves
leaf bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio


Kosher salt
tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
(12- to 14-pound) fresh turkey
large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths
lemon, quartered
sprigs sprigs fresh thyme
tbsp tbsps (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Freshly ground black pepper
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy (see recipe)


Step 1

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onion becomes browned and starts to caramelize. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, Cognac, sage leaves, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour and strain, pressing the solids lightly and then discarding them. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 2

After the turkey is cooked, remove it to a carving board to rest while you finish the gravy. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat and add the wine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring and scraping up all the bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Slowly whisk the gravy base into the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the gravy is smooth and slightly thickened. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

Step 3

Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 3 tablespoons salt, the rosemary, and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well, and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt mixture in the cavity of the turkey and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish to catch any drips and wrap the whole dish tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one or two days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Be sure your oven is very clean!

Step 5

Place the onion, lemon, and thyme in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tie the wings close to the body. Brush the turkey with the butter and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Step 6

Roast the turkey for 45 minutes, placing it in the oven legs first. Lower the temperature to 325ºF and roast it for about another hour, until 165ºF for the breast and 180ºF in the thigh on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven, cover the turkey tightly with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Step 7

Carve the turkey and arrange it on a platter. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

Step 8

To reheat, pour a 1/4-inch layer of the gravy into a large (12 × 16-inch) ovenproof serving platter (make sure it’s ovenproof!). Arrange the turkey artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side.

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