How to Prep and Roast a Turkey

From buying your bird to carving it.

November 18, 2022
HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY
Laura Wallis
The Simplest Roast Turkey
Food Network Kitchens
Whole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEYLaura WallisThe Simplest Roast TurkeyFood Network KitchensWhole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs,HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY Laura Wallis The Simplest Roast Turkey Food Network Kitchens Whole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs

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

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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. Read on for our guide on how to prep your turkey and roast it.

Step 1: 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.

Calculate How Much Meet You’ll Need: Factor in 1 1/2 pounds of meat per person.

Choose a smaller bird: Smaller birds tend to be more tender; think about cooking two small turkeys instead of one large one if you need to feed a lot of people.

Opt for a fresh, organic turkey for the juiciest results: Freezing turkey disrupts the cell structure, making for drier results. Many frozen turkey are “self basting,” or, in other words, injected with a salty solution prior to freezing. Self-basting turkeys are quite high in sodium. I

For more info on different turkey buying terminology (kosher, self-basting, etc), head over to our Turkey Buying Guide.

Step 2: Thaw and Brine Your Bird, If Necessary

Plan ahead for safe thawing, allowing at least 1 day for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Clear the bottom shelf of your fridge. Set an unwrapped frozen turkey on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, slide it onto the bottom shelf and then let it sit. Occasionally check to see if the baking sheet or roasting pan needs to be drained.

If you’re wet brining your turkey, you can submerge a frozen turkey in brine. Typically, turkeys sit in wet brine for 12 to 24 hours, so do the math on when to start brining.

If you’re dry brining your turkey, you’ll want to wait until the turkey is thawed so you can remove the giblets from the interior and the skin will be pliable. Dry brines sit on the uncovered turkey for 24 to 72 hours, so plan your timing accordingly.

Step 3: Let the Bird Sit at Room Temperature While Prepping It

Pulling the bird from the fridge ahead of time allows it to cook more evenly, which ultimately leads to a juicier bird. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking it. Use this time to prep your turkey further.

Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting rack in the largest roasting pan you have, which will allow the air to circulate around the bird as it cooks for extra crispy skin.

Pat the turkey as dry as possible with paper towels. The drier you get the turkey, the crispier its skin will be.

Check it over for any forgotten pinfeathers, and pluck any out with tweezers.

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY
Laura Wallis
The Simplest Roast Turkey
Food Network Kitchens
Whole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEYLaura WallisThe Simplest Roast TurkeyFood Network KitchensWhole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs,HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY Laura Wallis The Simplest Roast Turkey Food Network Kitchens Whole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs

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

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Step 4: Oil and Season the Bird

Brush the outside of the bird all over with melted butter.

If you’ve brined your bird, there’s no need to season it any further. However, if you didn’t, generously season the cavity and the entire exterior of the turkey with salt and pepper.

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.

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY
Laura Wallis
The Simplest Roast Turkey
Food Network Kitchens
Whole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEYLaura WallisThe Simplest Roast TurkeyFood Network KitchensWhole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs,HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY Laura Wallis The Simplest Roast Turkey Food Network Kitchens Whole Turkey, Salt, Pepper, Onions, Lemons, Herbs

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

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Step 5: Stuff the Turkey If You’d Like

Stuff the cavity with aromatics such as quartered onions, lemon halves and fresh herbs.

If you’d like to add actual stuffing to the turkey, make sure you do it safely by loosely stuffing it – about 3/4 cup per pound of turkey – right before putting the turkey in the oven. For more safety tips, head over to our story How to Properly Stuff a Turkey.

Step 6: Truss the Turkey

Point the cavity of the bird (and the ends of the turkey drumsticks) towards you.

Tuck the wing tips behind the bird’s shoulders to prevent them from burning.

Using cotton or linen twine, make a loop in the middle and hook that over the little nub where the turkey’s neck is. Bring the rope down on either side of the breast, then tie it together into a tight knot right behind the breast plate. This will push the breast up into a beautiful balloon shape. Hook each of the lines around the bird’s legs, pulling them together so they cross, and loop the twine around a few times and tie the legs together.

Step 7: 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.

If you stuffed the turkey, 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.

Rest an unstuffed turkey, covered with aluminum foil, about 20 minutes before carving.

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