The best Thanksgiving gravy starts with rich, homemade turkey broth. Make your turkey broth ahead of time and freeze it, then thaw for use Thanksgiving Day. It also makes the best turkey soup for using with that leftover turkey. Broth from a box, can, or sodium-filled concentrate cannot hope to compare to homemade. The flavors are superior and there are no funky additives or high sodium issues when you make it yourself. I make a 4 quart batch to insure enough for Thanksgiving gravy and soup after. Extra broth freezes well for 3 months.
Roasting – The Crucial Step for Homemade Turkey Broth
For a rich, flavorful broth, start by roasting turkey pieces like necks and backs or legs and thighs along with the vegetables. Roasting is an extra step compared to making chicken broth, but its worth the extra time, plus most of the time is hands-off. Roasting the turkey meat and bones and caramelizing the vegetables produces a rich flavor and color.
For 4 quarts of rich broth, start with 7 pounds of turkey pieces. Use what parts are available at the butcher or store. Remove as much skin as possible. This helps degrease the broth from the start.
How to Make Homemade Turkey Broth
Distribute the turkey parts in a large roasting pan, then top with chopped carrots, celery, onion, a split head of garlic and herbs. Roast the turkey and vegetables for 1 hour at 375°F, then add 1 cup of white wine or dry vermouth and roast for another 30 minutes. The wine adds nice flavor, but if you don’t use wine in cooking just skip it.
Simmer Slowly, Add Water as Needed
While the turkey and vegetables are roasting, get out a large stock pot. I use a 12 quart size, but you can squeeze it into a 10 quart pot. When the turkey and vegetables are finished roasting, place everything in the stock pot and fill to cover with 5 quarts of cold water to start. Add bay leaves, fresh thyme, parsley, and black peppercorns to the pot. Turn up the heat to get the pot to a good simmer, then turn down to low for a gentle bubble for 8-12 hours or longer. Do not boil as the broth will be cloudy.
As the water level drops, add hot water from a tea kettle. This is where an electric tea kettle comes in handy. I can’t believe I waited so long to buy one. Over a 12 hour period I will add about 2 to 3 more quarts to keep the water level up. Cooking long and slow ensures extracting the most flavor and nutrition. The house will smell like roasting turkey and you will have a rich, golden broth, full of flavor.
Cool Quickly and Freeze
Discard the spent bones, meat and vegetables and strain the broth through a fine sieve into a clean stainless steel pot. Don’t use plastic as it will slow or prevent cooling the broth. Place the container in a sink filled with cold water and ice. To speed cooling, place something under the pot like a trivet so cold water circulates underneath. Stir broth occasionally for faster cooling. You want the broth to cool as quickly as possible for food safety reasons.
Place the cooled pot, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove any fat that has solidified. Divide broth into containers, label and freeze for Thanksgiving and after. You will be glad you did this ahead of time. Homemade turkey broth will add big flavors to your Thanksgiving recipes.
Note – You can make the broth Monday of Thanksgiving week and it will be good until Friday. For longer use, freeze it.
Tools: Stockpots and Roasting Pans
Roasting pans – I have a large All Clad stainless steel roasting pan. I use it for roasting turkey and for making this broth. It is also what I use for roasting my tomato marinara in summer. It’s nice and heavy for even heat distribution and a worthwhile investment. It’s a pan you will buy once and have for a lifetime. Check out CookWareNMore.com for All Clad irregulars. Their stock and sizes vary, but it’s worth it if they have what you want. I have bought a lot of my All Clad here. Check out the stock pots too.
Homemade Turkey Broth
- 7 pounds turkey pieces such as thighs and legs
- 2 medium brown or sweet onions
- 3 large carrots
- 3-4 celery ribs
- 1 whole head garlic
- 1 cup white wine or dry vermouth optional
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 bunch talian parsley
- 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 5 quarts cold water
- Boiling hot water to fill pot as needed
- Pre-heat oven to 375° (190 c) and get out a large roasting pan. Remove as much skin and any extra fat that you can from turkey pieces. Place pieces into the roasting pan in a single layer
- Roughly chop onions, carrots and celery. Split garlic head horizontally through the center (no need to peel). Add vegetables and garlic to the roasting pan with the turkey. Place pan in the oven and roast for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, add the wine and roast another 30 minutes.
- Place roasted turkey and vegetables into a large pot (I use a tall 12 quart/liter). Add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, peppercorns and cold water. Bring the pot to just under a boil, turn down to low and barely simmer for about 6 hours. You want the pot to be at a slow, gentle bubble to extract as much flavor as possible. When the water level drops, add hot water from the kettle. Do not stir. Turkey and all vegetables should remain under water the whole time.
- At the end of 8-12 hours (or longer), remove all meat, vegetables, herbs and discard, as they will be spent. Drain broth through a fine sieve or through a sieve and cheesecloth. Place in a sink filled with ice and cold water to cool quickly. Place pot on a trivet or small rack to help water circulation under the pot for faster cooling. Stir occasionally. You want the broth to cool as quickly as possible for food safety.
- When stock is cool, below 70° (21° C), cover and place in the refrigerator. The next morning, remove any fat solidified on top, place into containers, label and freeze.
To thaw broth, place containers from the freezer into the refrigerator for 24 hours and thaw slowly. Alternatively, place frozen containers in a sink with cool water to start the thaw, then place semi-frozen broth into a pot and heat over low until liquid. Do not leave broth out on the counter to thaw at room temperature as this is not food safe.