Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Leftovers Hack We'll Never Skip

Before tossing your turkey carcass in a stockpot, try this.

November 26, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Thanksgiving is over. You’ve packed up all the leftovers you couldn’t eat or give away, and now the second marathon begins: how to turn it all into something you want to eat again. If you’ve roasted a turkey (or chicken) before, odds are you know to save that carcass to use as the base for stock.

But when it comes to the most flavorful stock, the kind that you’d be happy to sip on straight when you just can’t get it up to make soup, there’s one thing you simply must do. Before making stock, you’ll need to roast the turkey carcass.

Roast my turkey again?! Yes. It may sound strange, but if you’re plopping that turkey carcass straight from the carving board into the stockpot, you’re missing out on loads of flavor-potential. For a dark-in-color, rich-in-flavor turkey stock, roast the carcass.

If you haven’t already, pick off all the edible meat from your turkey carcass (there can be quite a bit left on the sides and underneath of the breast!) and save it for salads, sandwiches, and soups. Heat the oven to 425ºF. If you have a sharp enough knife, carefully hack the carcass into a few pieces (this will leave more exposed areas of carcass to on color in the oven, but if you’d rather leave the carcass whole, it’s fine.) Place the carcass on a large sheet pan. If you have any raw onions, celery, carrots, or parsnips hanging around, toss them on the pan too, then drizzle the whole thing lightly with olive oil. Roast the carcass, turning a few times so the whole thing gets some time in the sun. Keep roasting until it’s super-dark and your kitchen smells like Thanksgiving all over again, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on your oven.

Set the largest pot you have (at least 8 quarts if possible) on the stove. Transfer the roasted carcass (and veg if using), as well as any rendered juices and browned bits accumulating or stuck to the sheet pan—lift really stubborn bits with a bit of water and a fish spatula. Fill the pot with at least 10 cups of water. If you have a handful of black peppercorns or any herbs on hand, toss those in too. Bring the mixture to a boil over high, then reduce the heat to low.

Ready for my second-biggest stock tip? While the stock is simmering, add a big splash (about 2 tablespoons, for those who prefer to measure) of vinegar—distilled white, red wine, white wine, or apple cider vinegar are all welcome. The acid in vinegar helps break down the cartilage in turkey bones, making a more gelatinous, and therefore more richly flavored stock. Partially cover the top and simmer the stock for at least 1 but ideally 4 or 5 hours.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. If you’d like, season the stock with kosher salt to taste now, or just leave it lightly seasoned from anything leftover in the carcass and season whenever you use the stock. Transfer the stock to pint or quart containers labeled with the date, chill completely in the refrigerator, then freeze.

How do you like to make stock? Let us know in the comments.
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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.

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