Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


I’ve posted this before and I’m posting it again earlier this year. Thanksgiving is two weeks from this Thursday so if you have time, make some fresh turkey stock now and freeze it, or make it up to five or six days before Thanksgiving. It may be the most critical element of the Thanksgiving meal—the basis for a great gravy, of course, but it can also moisten the dressing and be used to keep the quick-to-cool sliced breast hot and moist.

To make the stock I roast drumsticks, wings, and necks. (I read in the Times that the venerable Jacques Pépin picks the meat off the neck of the turkey and adds it to the gravy. I might try that this year.) Roasting them will give your stock a nice flavor. All that golden-brown roasted skin above? Equals flavor.

I take enough meat off the drumstick for dinner on the day I make Thanksgiving stock, then throw the bones into the biggest pot I own, and put it in a low oven overnight (or leave it on low on the stovetop; just be sure it’s not simmering). The following day, I remove the bones (12 hours in hot but not simmering water does the trick!), add the vegetables and aromatics, and cook them, again without a bubble but with the pot too hot to hold your hand against, for another couple of hours. I then strain the stock through a basket strainer and, because it’s cold here, I’ll chill it outside, remove the fat, then strain it through one of my reusable All-Strain straining cloths, so that it’s very clean on the palate.

I’ll taste it. I may reduce it further but usually it’s pretty good by now. If I happen to have some veal stock on hand, which I do, I’ll add that because veal stock puts everything over the top.

I’m unaccountably lucky to be able to work from home, so this is easy for me to do any day to freeze and transport to the Hudson Valley, where we spend Thanksgiving with Donna’s family. But the weekend will be here before you know it, so if you plan ahead, this weekend or next, or whenever your weekend happens to be, pick up some turkey bones and roast them, then cover them with water and put them in an oven at 200°F or below overnight. That’s how great gravy begins, from the stock that is also an all-purpose player on the Thanksgiving table.

Easy Turkey Stock

Yield: 2 quarts stock

  • 2 large turkey drumsticks
  • 2 large turkey wings
  • 2 Spanish onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, cut in pieces
  • 4 celery ribs, cut in pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a pan or with a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • fresh parsley and thyme (optional)
  1. Roast the turkey pieces (you should have 5–6 pounds/2–3 kilos) in a hot oven, 425°F/218°C at least, till it looks delicious. Scatter the onion, carrot, and celery in the same pan, and take them out when you take out the turkey. Don’t let the veg burn. (You can cut the meat off the bones for dinner if you wish; but the meat will add lots of flavor to the stock.)
  2. Put the turkey bones in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3–4 quarts/liters, and put the pot over high heat. Turn your oven to 180°–200°F/80°–90°C. When the water comes to a simmer, put the pot in the oven for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey bones—they will have cooked out by now). Bring to a simmer, then reduce the temperature to low and cook for another hour or so. Strain into a clean pot. Cool, then refrigerate.
  4. Reserve any fat that’s congealed on top for the roux on Thanksgiving day. Reduce the stock to 1 1/2 to 2 quarts/liters if it’s not already at that level.


If you liked this post on turkey stock, check out these other links:

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


12 Wonderful responses to “The Stock of Thanksgiving
(how great gravy begins)”

  • Heidi

    I just loooove making turkey gravy early. That leaves me time to enjoy making those last minute items that always need attention on Thanksgiving.

    I especially love the idea of putting the stock in the oven overnight at 200 degrees. Sleep and awaken to almost finished gravy!

  • Steve

    Use this year’s turkey carcass to make stock for the following year. It’ll keep fine frozen.

  • NancyRing

    I already made one batch of stock, converted 12 cups to gravy and everything is in the freezer. One more smaller batch will be made this weekend. I love the overnight in the oven method. All stock I make this way is amazing!!

  • baydog

    I save chicken carcasses from the summer in the freezer, then make a big pot of stock the week before. Reduced to a glace, it’s brought THXG day to add to the deglazed fond in the roasting pan. All the giblets and neck are thrown in also, but I take and pull the neck meat for fork tastings before dinner is served. Some of the most tender meat on the bird.

  • Katie

    living in a southern climate, having the oven on all night is pretty high on the list of things I don’t want to do, so this weekend I put last year’s carcass (@Steve, I do that, too — if I don’t use it for soup in the meantime!) in the crockpot with the aromatics and let that take care of itself for 15 hours.

    Great stock, and doesn’t heat the house up…and now the freezer bin is full of turkey stock for this year. 🙂

    Bonus – I found a ham bone hanging out in the freezer next to the turkey carcass, so today is ham and bean soup. 🙂

  • tyler

    I’d normally make my stock out of necks and backs – why don’t grocery stores stock those at the beginning of November????? But I digress . . .

    I’ve never tried it in an oven, good tip. I’ve been doing my stock in the pressure cooker the past few years – cuts the time way down.

    Done and frozen!

  • Mary

    This sounds great, but my question is about step 2–put the turkey bones in the stock pot–what about the roasted veg? Do those stay out until step 3 when you cook for 1 hr on the stove after the oven deal? Thanks!

  • Ryan K

    What about throwing a veal bone or two in while making the turkey stock? How do you think that would turn out?

  • Sarah B

    “1. Roast the turkey pieces (you should have 5–6 pounds/2–3 kilos) in a hot oven, 425°F/218°C at least, till it looks delicious.”

    Delicious is a bit of relative term! Can you provide a time estimate for how long to roast the legs & wings?


  • Tom | Tall Clover Farm

    Every year I aspire to make turkey soup with the leftover bird. Not surprisingly, little is left to ‘soupify’ after a day or two of turkey/cranberry panini, potpie, and rib-sticking casseroles. And truth be told, I’m not so sold on turkey soup anyway. Now that I’ve worked through that (thank you kindly), your stock will provide handily for the really good stuff: gravy. And this year, I will get a bigger bird. Thanks for sharing your kitchen wisdom and culinary verve!


  1.  Roasted Root Vegetables & Book Giveaway | Michael Ruhlman
  2.  How to Roast a Turkey | Michael Ruhlman
  3.  Holiday Classic: Thanksgiving Dressing | Michael Ruhlman