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Make-Ahead Turkey and Gravy

Ease the holiday time crunch with a make-ahead turkey recipe that's ready to serve when you are. It's a great choice for potlucks, too. —Marie Parker, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Total Time
    Prep: 4-1/4 hours + freezing Bake: 50 min.
  • Makes
    16 servings (2-1/2 cups gravy)


  • 1 turkey (14 to 16 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


  • Preheat oven to 325°. Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning and pepper. Tuck wings under turkey; tie drumsticks together.
  • Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes. In a 4-cup measuring cup, mix broth, herbs, lemon peel and juice, and garlic; pour over turkey. Roast, uncovered, until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh reads 170°-175°, 3 to 3-1/2 hours, basting occasionally with broth mixture. Cover loosely with foil if turkey browns too quickly.
  • Remove turkey from pan; let stand at least 20 minutes before carving. Skim fat from cooking juices.
  • To freeze: Carve turkey and place in shallow freezer containers. Pour cooking juices over turkey; cool slightly, about 1 hour. Cover and freeze up to 3 months.
  • To serve: Partially thaw turkey in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350°. Transfer turkey and cooking juices to a large baking dish. Pour 1-1/2 cups broth over top. Bake, covered, until a thermometer inserted in turkey reads 165°, 50-60 minutes.
  • To prepare gravy: Remove turkey to a platter, reserving broth mixture; keep warm. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in broth mixture; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve with turkey.
Nutrition Facts
8 ounces cooked turkey with about 2-1/2 tablespoons gravy: 480 calories, 22g fat (7g saturated fat), 218mg cholesterol, 434mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate (1g sugars, 0 fiber), 64g protein.

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  • bjpalmer
    Dec 17, 2018

    I made this today for all of my in laws. I didn’t do the make ahead option, but I followed the ingredients as listed. It was a huge hit! Not dry at all. Actually sad that we don’t have leftovers to use this week. Ha. Thank you for a great recipe.

  • Rhonda
    Nov 20, 2017

    I have a question: Will this recipe work as well in a roaster?

  • RobinRL
    Nov 28, 2015

    I used this recipe to make my Thanksgiving Day turkey this year, without the make-ahead option. Without a doubt, it was the juiciest, tenderest, tastiest turkey I have ever pulled out of my own oven! We had just a small family gathering, so I used a turkey breast and basted it every thirty minutes--totally delicious! I liked it so much, I decided to use it in the future to buy turkeys on sale and freeze them so we can have delicious turkey and gravy during other times of the year as well.

  • Tristym68
    Dec 1, 2014

    I tried this for the first time . It was delicious . Saved time and mess in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day . I would definitely use this recipe again !

  • flojim
    Nov 9, 2014

    I also have made my turkey ahead for the past 2 years. I make it one day ahead, slice it and put it in a foil roaster pan. Thanksgiving Day there is no carcus or mess of carving that day. I also make my mashed potatoes (5#) a week ahead and freeze in a Tupperware container. I mash them with the milk and butter as usual. Take them out in the morning to thaw. They will seem watery as they are being warmed up but that soon evaporates and they are as good as the day I made them. You may need to add a little more milk. Everything is delicious and no one believes it. After 50 years of cooking I finally got smart.

  • Joene1
    Nov 9, 2014

    I have done this for YEARS! I cook turkey day before Thanksgiving and layer meat with slices of butter and refrig. Thanksgiving I put in oven 300 degrees and heat through. Very moist and oven is free for other foods.

  • GlennaG
    Jan 15, 2014

    My family and guests loved the moistness and flavor. Time was used enjoying my dinner and guests. 5 stars!!

  • Angel182009
    Jan 8, 2014

    My family absolutely loved this!! I was afraid by freezing it it wouldn't stay tender and would be dry but it was so moist and had such great flavor! I didn't have poultry seasoning so I just seasoned it with a little bit of salt and pepper then with the rest of the ingredients listed. I will definitely be doing this again!!! Such a great way to make Thanksgiving fast and stress free.

  • havingfunwithmyfamily
    Nov 30, 2013

    This was an absolutely delicious recipe! The only problem I had was a somewhat dry roasting pan from basting so often. I added 2 cups of water to the bottom of the pan, and stirred to deglaze the brown bits of cooked juices, and meat. I made that mixture into a gravy. I transferred the liquid to a saucepan, and added a mixture of flour, and water to make a gravy! Thank you for sharing!

  • MrsPie
    Nov 24, 2013

    I tested this recipe a few weeks ago in preparation for Thanksgiving. It turned out great! Moist and flavorful - maybe too flavorful, my husband asked me to tone it down next time. I'll go lighter on the thyme, rosemary and parsley when I bake it again today.I covered the turkey with plastic wrap before freezing, pressing the plastic wrap against the turkey and broth and up the sides to prevent any drying out. After defrosting, I was able to scoop some broth out of the pan before baking to make the gravy (and there was still plenty of broth around the turkey).The biggest advantage on Thanksgiving day will be not having my husband in the kitchen carving the turkey and making a mess while we're trying to finish everything else. And the turkey carving mess will be cleaned up days ahead of time.For small families (or empty nesters like us), this would be a great freezer meal - freeze the turkey and broth in 3-4 smaller pans and use it over time.