One 18-pound fresh turkey
About 12 cups of your favorite stuffing (see note below)
3 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade fat-free turkey stock, as needed
4 3/4 cups homemade fat-free turkey stock, as needed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp cold water (optional)
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
Remove turkey from refrigerator several hours before cooking. Position a rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. Reserve the turkey neck and giblets to use in gravy or stock. Pull out the pads of yellow fat at both sides of the tail and discard. (These are sometimes already removed by the processor, so don’t worry if they aren’t present.) If desired, rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat the turkey skin dry. Turn the turkey on its breast. Loosely fill the neck cavity with stuffing. Using a thin wooden or metal skewer, pin the turkey’s neck skin to the back. Fold the turkey’s wings akimbo behind the back (the tips will rest behind the turkey’s “shoulders”) or tie to the body with kitchen string.
Loosely fill the large body cavity with stuffing and cover the stuffing with a small piece of aluminum foil. Place any remaining stuffing in a lightly buttered casserole, cover and refrigerate to bake as a side dish. Place the drumsticks in the hock lock or tie together with kitchen string. Brush the turkey all over with the butter. Mix together the salt and pepper and season the turkey all over. Tightly cover the breast area (but not the wings) with foil. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Pour 2 cups of turkey stock into the bottom of the pan.
Roast the turkey, basting all over every 45 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan (lift up the foil to reach the breast area), until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (but not touching a bone) reads 180ºF and the stuffing is at least 165ºF, about 4 1/4 hours. (See estimated roasting times below.) Whenever the drippings evaporate, add broth to moisten them, one cup at a time, as needed. During the last hour of the roasting time, remove the foil and baste at least once to allow the skin to brown.
Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter and let it stand at least 40 minutes before carving (it will not cool off; this allows the hot juices to retract back into the turkey meat), which gives you plenty of time for making the gravy and for finishing any other last-minute dishes.
To make the gravy, use a rubber spatula to scrape the pan juices from the roasting pan into a fat separator, leaving the browned bits in the pan. Let stand 5 minutes; then pour off the dark brown drippings into a 2-quart glass measuring cup; reserve the clear yellow fat in the separator. Add enough stock to the drippings to measure 5 cups.
Place the roasting pan over two burners on high heat. Measure 1/4 cup of the reserved fat and add to the pan. Whisk in the flour (a flat “roux whisk” works best to reach into corners) and let bubble for 30 seconds. Since this is a reduced amount of flour and fat, it won’t coat the entire pan so try to concentrate the ingredient to one part of pan to prevent the flour from scorching. One cup at a time, whisk in the stock mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking often, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan, until reduced to about 4 cups, about 3 minutes. For a thicker gravy, whisk in the cornstarch, but keep in mind that as the gravy cools, it will also thicken, so it might not be necessary.
Strain through a coarse wire sieve into a bowl. Taste; season with the salt and, if desired, pepper and rosemary. Transfer to a warmed sauceboat.
Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.