Roasting turkey is a lot easier than people make it out to be. Just follow these steps, and you’ll end up with the perfect bird.
How to Roast a Turkey
COOK TIME: (Note: These times are approximate, and are based on an average 15-lb turkey.)
Have a different sized bird? Consult the USDA’s Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey for appropriate roasting times.
- A turkey, thawed and ready to go
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 ribs of celery
- 2-3 carrots
- 1 stick of butter, brought to room temperature
- Poultry seasoning (buy it or make your own)
- Your choice of herbs: try fresh rosemary, sage, thyme or a combination of all three
Roughly chop the carrots, celery and onions.
Mix the poultry seasoning, salt and pepper together to create your own seasoning rub.
Unwrap your turkey. If the legs are held together with an oven-safe plastic clip, remove it; and set it aside. Then, remove the bag (or bags) containing the neck and giblets. Be sure to check both the neck and body cavity – cooking a plastic bag inside your bird is no bueno.
Rinse the inside and outside of your turkey with cold water. Then, pat it dry with paper towels. Take your time with this step. Butter doesn’t stick well to a wet bird, and you’ll be buttering your bird later.
When you’re done drying, place your turkey in a roasting pan. Use a wire rack or the rest of your vegetables to keep your turkey off the bottom of the pan. Then, tuck the wing tips under, so they don’t burn.
Rub some of the seasoning mix that you made inside the cavity. Then, add a handful of chopped vegetables, plus whatever fresh herbs you decided to use. Secure the legs together with baker’s twine or replace the plastic clip (if you removed one earlier).
Gently loosen the skin from the breast meat to make space for butter. Start by lifting the skin with your fingers. Then, switch to a spatula. Work slowly, so you don’t tear the skin. You should be able to get 2/3 of the way down the bird.
Cut (2) two-tablespoon pats of butter from your stick. Lift up the skin, and work one into each breast. You can also use melted butter, if you’d prefer.
Rub the rest of the butter into the outside of the turkey. Try to get every nook and cranny.
Then, rub spices into the butter (you may have some spices left over, if you’re roasting a smaller turkey).
Add a half-inch of broth (or water) to the bottom of the pan. You want just enough to keep things moist, but not so much that your turkey is sitting in liquid. Your pan will continue to gain liquids as the turkey cooks, so it’s important to leave room for that, too.
Loosely wrap the breasts in foil, so they don’t cook faster than the rest of the turkey.
Move the oven rack to the bottom third of your oven. Then, roast your turkey at 325 degrees. Figure on 15-20 minutes per pound, but don’t be surprised if it cooks faster or slower than this. Your turkey is done when the breasts reach 165 degrees and the thighs reach 180.
Many turkeys come with a built in thermometer that pops out when it hits the right temperature (mine did), but it’s still best to check the temperature yourself.
Remove the foil one hour before the turkey is done, so the breasts brown nicely.
Let It Rest
Loosely wrap your turkey in foil after you remove it from the oven, and allow it to sit for 15-30 minutes before carving. This will give the juices time to redistribute, so you end up with a deliciously moist turkey.
Good to Know
- The USDA says to allow 24 hours of refrigerator thaw time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. If you need to thaw your turkey faster, submerge it in a bowl of ice water, that you change out every 30 minutes. This method should take 30 minutes per pound.
- Save your pan drippings, the neck and the giblets, and use them to make gravy or turkey broth
- If you’d like, you can use the pan juices to baste your turkey, as it cooks
- Save the turkey carcass, and use it to make broth