Nothing is more important than make-ahead turkey stock for Thanksgiving. NOTHING. Good turkey stock is the foundation for great stuffing and gravy. A poorly seasoned, under seasoned, or just bland turkey stock can make the stars of Thanksgiving taste flat.
Making homemade make-ahead turkey stock for Thanksgiving is actually incredibly simple to make and it can be done days, weeks, or even months before the big day. You'll need a few simple vegetables and herbs, turkey wings, and a turkey neck. Most grocery stores do sell turkey wings and necks year-round, but you may need to ask your butcher.
If you are thawing a frozen turkey, you can make the stock a few days in advance once the turkey is thawed enough to remove the neck if you can't get one in your stores.
Why is turkey stock important for Thanksgiving?
Turkey stock is essential for gravy, stuffing, and turkey (sort of). Turkey stock is a main ingredient for Thanksgiving. It's the liquid that moistens and flavors stuffing. You can't have turkey gravy without it. I always keep extra turkey stock on hand as a way to reheat dishes too. If my turkey or stuffing gets cold, I ladle some hot turkey stock over these dishes to warm them back up.
If you do decide to buy turkey stock instead of making it, taste it. You want a turkey stock that is tasty enough that you would drink it on its own. You also want to look for a turkey stock that is low in sodium so you can have better control of the final product. Again, though, it is really easy to make ahead with many ingredients you'll end up buying anyway.
How long can I keep fresh turkey stock in the fridge?
Three to four days. If you freeze your turkey stock, not only will it save time, but you can extended its shelf life to 4-6 months.
I typically make a giant batch in October to freeze, but this year I'll be making another round of it a few days before Thanksgiving. Here's a link to my preferred containers for storing turkey stock.
- 4 turkey wings
- 1 turkey neck
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, quartered with peel on
- 1 garlic head, sliced across with skins on
- 1 cup of parsley (stems and leaves)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 sprig of sage (about 7 leaves and stem)
- 1/2 tsp peppercorns
- Canola oil
- Lightly oil the turkey wings and neck, and roast at 450° F for 45 minutes. Turn halfway through cooking.
- While turkey wings and neck roast, add bay leaves, carrots, celery onions, garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage, and peppercorns to a pot with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.
- When turkey wings are done, transfer to stock pot. Take 1 cup of water and pour onto hot baking sheet the wings roasted on. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the brown bits and pour drippings into stock pot. This part is essential.
- Cover wings with at least 1 inch of water and proceed to simmer for 3-4 hours.
- Ladle stock throw a fine mesh sieve to strain, allow to cool, and store for 3-4 days in the refrigerator or freeze up to 6 months.