Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Wondering how to cook a turkey in the oven and keep it moist? Karen Anderson, owner of Alberta Food Tours, has some great fail-proof, beginner techniques to help you roast that perfect turkey, with a simple and delicious gravy from her new cookbook, Eat Alberta First.

Always brine the turkey. Brining a turkey is easy, but you need to start it the evening before you want to cook your bird. The extra effort is worth it, though, because this brine turns the turkey a deep bronze, keeps it moist, and results in a deep brown, rich gravy.

Shop local if you can. The key to a great-tasting turkey is to buy a fresh, local one that’s been raised with a healthful feed program and access to fresh air.


For the maple brine
4 quarts water
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups loosely packed brown sugar
¾ cup kosher salt
8 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried summer savory
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup maple syrup

For the turkey
25 lb turkey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried summer savory
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 firm apple, halved (Gala or Granny Smith)
1 onion, halved
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup apple juice

For the gravy
½ cup apple juice
2 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
3 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce


For the maple brine

  1. Put the water in a large stockpot and add the garlic, sugar, salt, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, sage, summer savory, soy, and maple syrup. Place over high heat until it boils and the sugar and salt dissolve, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool.

For the turkey

  1. While the brine cools, remove the giblets and neck from your turkey (reserve for stock if you like). Immerse the turkey in the cooled brine.
  2. Store in the refrigerator overnight (but no longer than 12 hours).
  3. When you’re ready to cook the turkey, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Remove the turkey from the pot, rinse it, and pat it dry. Rub the turkey inside and out with the oil and sprinkle with the summer savory, salt, and pepper. Fill the cavity with the apple, onion, cel.ery, rosemary, and thyme. Tie the legs together to close the cavity.
  5. Place your turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, pour the apple juice directly into the pan, and roast until a thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 165°F. At 15 minutes per pound for an unstuffed 25 lb turkey, that’s about 6 hours, but I find it’s usually done at 5 hours so start checking around 4. hours.
  6. Remove the turkey on its rack to a carving board when ready. Set the roasting pan and its juices aside. Remove the fruit and vege.tables from the cavity and discard. Cover the turkey with foil and allow it to rest while you make gravy.

For the gravy

  1. Pour any juices in the roasting pan through a sieve and into a large measuring cup. Place the roasting pan on medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the apple juice and scrape the bottom of the roasting pan to loosen any brown bits. Pour this liquid through the sieve and into the cup with the juices.
  2. Skim and discard any fat from the surface of the juices. You should have at least 1 cup of liquid. Add enough chicken stock to make 3 cups.
  3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, just until lightly browned.
  4. Whisk in the hot juices and bring to a boil. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce. Cook for 5 minutes more, then taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Reduce the heat to low to keep the gravy warm until you’re ready to serve.
  5. Carve the turkey and arrange it on a platter.

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Recipe by Karen Anderson from Eat Alberta First, copyright © 2023 by Karen Anderson.