How to Roast a Turkey

Everyone who has ever roasted a turkey has an opinion on how to do it. Here's a simple, foolproof method, step by step. 

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

How to Roast a Turkey

There are breast-side-down devotees, deep-fry fanatics and those who swear that the highest of heats is the only way to go. They all are right — every one of those methods can produce a delicious, moist bird. But sometimes the simplest way, especially if you’ve never roasted a turkey before, is the best of all. 

 

By Laura Wallis

Pick Your Bird

Don’t be intimidated by a turkey. One that’s not huge (in the 10-to-12-pound range) is basically just like a big chicken. The markets are full of fresh, organic turkeys these days. If you get one of these and have never before cooked a turkey that wasn’t “self-basting,” you may worry about it being dry. In this case, brining can be a good insurance policy. Frozen turkey? Plan ahead for safe thawing, allowing at least 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey.

 

 

Prep Your Bird

Start by washing your fresh (or thawed) turkey inside and out, then patting dry with paper towels. Check it over for any forgotten pinfeathers, and then set it on a rack in a roasting pan. Generously season the cavity with salt and pepper, and stuff with aromatics such as quartered onions, lemon halves and fresh herbs.

Brush

Brush the outside of the bird all over with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Truss the Bird

Tuck the wing tips under and tie the legs together with chef’s twine.

 

Get More Flavor

For extra flavor, add some lemon zest and juice, plus some chopped fresh herbs, like thyme, to the melted butter you brush over the surface of the turkey. Or, go a step further: Use your hands to loosen the skin on the breasts and tuck softened butter, mixed with some additional fresh herbs, into those pockets. 

Roast and Carve

Roast at 325 degrees F for 1 hour and 45 minutes, then turn up the heat to 425 degrees F for the last 45 minutes of cooking, until juices run clear when you cut between leg and thigh. Rest the turkey, covered with aluminum foil, about 20 minutes before carving. Prefer a stuffed bird? Fill the cavity loosely with prepared stuffing instead of aromatics, immediately before putting the turkey in the oven. A good rule of thumb is to use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey — don’t overstuff! Allow a bit more time for roasting: The stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 in the deepest part, to be safe. Let the bird rest, with stuffing in place, about 20 minutes, then remove stuffing to a serving bowl and carve the turkey. Now that you know how to roast a perfect bird, try these turkey recipes.