October/November 2012

Super-Moist Roast Turkey

One of America’s top chefs slathers his turkey in mayonnaise before roasting it. If it’s good enough for Thomas Keller...

Why This Recipe Works

Here in the test kitchen, we’re always looking for new ideas for our Thanksgiving turkey. In this recipe, the bird is rubbed all over with seasoned mayonnaise before roasting. We found that the mayonnaise carried the flavors of the herbs and spices without melting off the bird and made for perfectly browned skin. Threading a skewer through the thighs elevated the legs, exposing them to more heat, so dark and white meat cooked at the same rate. Using a rimmed baking sheet (with a wire rack inside) was more streamlined than using a clunky roasting pan.


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Serves 10 to 12


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1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved for another use
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cups water


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups water
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

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Serves 10 to 12

We like Butterball Frozen Turkeys for this recipe. If you prefer natural, unenhanced turkey, we recommend brining. You will need a 12-inch skewer for this recipe.

1. FOR THE TURKEY: Set wire rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Dry turkey thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. Tuck wings under turkey and transfer to prepared wire rack. Pull legs upward and slide 12-inch skewer under bone of fattest part of drumstick across to other drumstick so skewer connects both and legs cover small point of breast.

2. Combine thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in bowl. Rub 2 tablespoons spice mixture evenly over surface of turkey and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Add mayonnaise, oil, and vinegar to remaining spice mixture and whisk to combine. Divide mayonnaise mixture in half.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Brush half of mayonnaise mixture evenly over surface of turkey. Place 18 by 18-inch sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil diagonally over breast, tucking point of foil inside cavity and over tops of legs. Transfer turkey to oven and pour water into bottom of baking sheet. Roast until thighs/drumsticks register 165 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove turkey from oven and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

4. FOR THE GRAVY: While turkey cooks, melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until well browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 2 cups water, broth, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes (gravy will be very thick). Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Once oven has come to temperature, remove foil and brush remaining half of mayonnaise mixture evenly over turkey. Return turkey to oven and roast until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes. Tip juices from turkey cavity into baking sheet and transfer turkey to carving board. Let rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

6. Remove wire rack from baking sheet. Pour remaining 1 1/2 cups water into baking sheet and scrape up any browned bits. Carefully pour pan juices into fat separator and let sit for 5 minutes. Pour defatted pan juices into gravy and bring to simmer over medium heat. Simmer until gravy is thickened and reduced to 3 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain gravy through fine-mesh strainer into clean saucepan; discard solids. Rewarm gravy gently over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve turkey and serve with gravy.


How to Make Super-Moist Roast Turkey

We swapped our usual roasting pan and V-rack for a rimmed baking sheet and wire rack. Then we combined a few techniques to even out the cooking of light and dark meat and produce a moist, well-seasoned bird.

SEASONED MAYONNAISE: Adds flavor, aids in browning.

SKEWERING THE LEGS: Is easier than trussing and elevates the slower-cooking thighs into the heat of the oven.

RIMMED SHEET WITH RACK: Allows better access to slather on the seasoned mayonnaise.


FOIL SHIELD: Protects the delicate breast meat from drying out.

WATER IN THE PAN: Prevents the drippings from scorching.

Cooking Class

Don't Toss that Carcass

Don’t let leftover turkey sandwiches (see related content for our recipe for Prosperity Sandwiches) be the end of your bird: Get every ounce of goodness out of your turkey by making our speedy broth with the bones (see related content for our recipe for One-Hour Turkey Broth).

Our streamlined method maximizes the flavor of the chopped vegetables by browning them in butter before adding boiling water (most broths start with cold water). Bay leaf, thyme, and pepper is all the seasoning required.

Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB