This Roast Turkey recipe is actually easy to make so don’t feel intimidated. Below I will show you step-by-step how to make the perfect roast turkey for Thanksgiving or any special dinner!
It takes a bit of time to make but the steps are not difficult and creating a juicy holiday meal can be done by anyone. The guide below shares our favorite tips to ensure perfection! So cook up some stuffing and mashed potatoes, it’s almost turkey time!
How to Roast a Turkey
Cooking a turkey may seem overwhelming but this turkey recipe is easy to follow. It does take time but the results are worth it (and I promise it’s not difficult). Below I have provided step-by-step directions for how to cook a turkey to juicy perfection.
OVERVIEW of the Steps for Cooking a Turkey:
SEASON TURKEY – remove giblets and neck if they are inside. Not all turkeys have these. Add oil and seasonings to the outside.
STUFF TURKEY – Add our favorite stuffing if you’d like or just add a few slices of onion and some herbs if you don’t want to stuff the turkey.
TIE THE LEGS – Tie the legs (this is called trussing) and tuck the wings under (check out the video below if you’re not sure how). This ensures that the wings/legs don’t burn and the bird cooks evenly
ROAST – simply bake until golden and cooked (cook times below).
LET REST – this allows the juices to redistribute and ensures you have juicy turkey.
That’s all there is to this turkey recipe.
What You’ll Need to Make a Roast Turkey
A thawed turkey (unless you buy a cook from frozen but these directions won’t apply to a cook from frozen turkey).
A large rimmed roasting pan with a rack. The rack can even be a small cooling rack, you just want to hold the turkey out of the liquids. If you don’t have a cooling rack, use balled up foil and/or celery, carrots and onions to hold the turkey up.
A meat thermometer or Instant Read Thermometer. These are not expensive (under $15) and will make sure ALL of your meats are cooked to perfection, not just turkey. I have this thermometer for roasting and it was less than $20.
Kitchen twine, a carving knife.
How to Prepare a Turkey for Roasting
Thaw – If the turkey is frozen be sure to allow time for it to thaw can take several days. TIP: How long to thaw a turkey.
Brine (optional) – Brine turkey up to 24 hours or according to brine recipe. Drain well and pat dry. Roasting a brined turkey follows the same directions as a turkey that hasn’t been brined.
Remove Giblets/Neck – Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity. I usually place them in the pan to bake alongside the turkey and flavor my drippings for gravy. Cook the giblets too and use them for giblet gravy.
Stuff turkey (optional) – Loosely stuff the turkey with stuffing or herbs. Scroll below for more info and tips if you’re stuffing the bird. (Image #1)
Dab Dry – Dab the skin dry with a paper towel, this will help the skin crisp better. If you’re stuffing the turkey, wipe the inside with a dry paper towel to remove any debris.
Oil & Season – In this turkey recipe, you’ll rub the skin with olive oil or slightly cooled melted butter and season with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and lots of fresh herbs. (Image #2)
Tips for Stuffing a Turkey
Stuffing a turkey is optional, a stuffed turkey will take longer to cook. If you decide not to stuff your turkey, I would suggest adding onion and some fresh herbs to the cavity for extra flavor.
Prepare stuffing according to recipe directions.
Cool completely, this is important to avoid bacteria. I prepare my stuffing up to 24 hours in advance (but do not stuff the turkey in advance).
Very gently spoon the stuffing into the main cavity of the turkey, do not pack it in.
Add a little bit of stuffing to the neck cavity as well, seal with the flap of skin left on the turkey with a small metal skewer. Leftover stuffing can go into a casserole dish.
How to Tie or Truss
Now that the bird is stuffed and seasoned, the next step in this turkey recipe is to tie the legs and fold under the wings. This helps with even cooking and makes sure nothing burns.
Flip the wing tips under the turkey, this keeps the tips from burning and also helps stabilize the turkey.
If your turkey has a band of skin near the cavity opening, you can tuck the legs into the band. If not, simply crisscross the legs over the cavity and tie them together with a piece of kitchen string or twine.
The Perfect Roast Turkey Recipe
This roast turkey recipe makes it easy! You’ll need a large roasting pan, I do not recommend a disposable roasting pan as they don’t tend to hold the heat as well which can sometimes add tons of extra cook time.
Preheat oven to 350°F (per the recipe below).
Place prepared turkey breast side up on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan (photo #4 above). If you do not have a rack, balled up foil or large pieces of onion/celery/carrot are great to hold the turkey up and off the bottom of the roaster.
Add an onion, a couple of pieces of celery and a couple of carrots in the bottom of the pan (optional, this will add great flavor to your gravy). Add 1″ or so of chicken stock or broth to the bottom of the pan.
Place turkey in the oven, reduce heat to 325°F and roast until it reaches 165°F (and if stuffed, the center of the stuffing should reach 165°F).
Remove from the oven and REST at least 20-30 minutes before carving.
What Temperature to Roast a Turkey
I like to preheat the oven to 350°F and then when I place the turkey in the oven, I turn the oven down. Slow roasted turkey at 325°F comes out perfectly tender and juicy.
According to the USDA, a turkey is fully cooked with both the meat and the center of the stuffing reach 165°F. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh and ensure it is not touching the bone.
Use the drippings to create a quick and easy turkey gravy for the perfect holiday meal.
How Long to Roast a Turkey
Turkey roasting time can vary depending on if the turkey is stuffed or not. If you are short on time, you can Spatchcock Turkey to make cooking extra quick. For a smaller turkey meal, make Roast Turkey Breast.
14 to 18 pounds Unstuffed: 3 3/4 to 4-1/2 hours Stuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds Unstuffed: 3-1/2 to 4 hours Stuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds Unstuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours Stuffed: 5 to 5-1/2 hours
24 to 30 pounds Unstuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours
Cook times are approximate and will vary. Turkey should reach 165°F* in both the meat and the center of the stuffing.
Favorite Turkey Dinner Sides
Easy Roast Turkey Recipe (Step by Step)
Herb rubbed turkey roasted to juicy perfection.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity and pat turkey dry with paper towels. If stuffing the turkey, wipe the inside of the cavity with paper towels.
Rub olive oil and chopped herbs over turkey and season generously with salt/pepper.
If stuffing turkey, fill with stuffing loosely (do not pack stuffing) or add ½ an onion and fresh herbs to the cavity.
Tie legs together with kitchen string or tuck under the flap of skin at the tail if your turkey has one. Twist the tips of the wings under the turkey.
Place turkey in a roasting pan on a rack, breast side up (optional, add celery, onion, carrot and the turkey neck to the bottom of the roasting pan). Add 4 cups broth to the bottom of the pan (or enough to fill the pan about 1″ deep).
Add turkey to the oven, reduce heat to 325°F and roast until turkey reaches 165°F *see below. Once the breast starts to brown, loosely tent a piece of foil over the breast so it doesn’t overcook.
Remove turkey from the roasting pan and tent with foil, rest at least 20 minutes. Make gravy from the drippings while the turkey rests.
If stuffing the turkey, ensure stuffing is completely cooled.
Turkey should be placed on a rack in the roasting pan. If you do not have a rack, use a small cooling rack or use balls of foil or carrots/celery to lift the turkey off of the bottom of the pan so it isn’t sitting in juices.
Tying the legs ensures the turkey will cook evenly.
The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the thigh ensuring it isn’t touching the bone.
The turkey (and the center of the stuffing) should reach 165°F. I usually take it out about 5 degrees before as the turkey will continue to cook as it rests.
14 to 18 pounds Unstuffed: 3 3/4 to 4-1/2 hours, Stuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours
Unstuffed: 3-1/2 to 4 hours, Stuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
Unstuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours, Stuffed: 5 to 5-1/2 hours
Unstuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours, Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours
Calories: 498, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 70g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 232mg, Sodium: 648mg, Potassium: 787mg, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 233IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 42mg, Iron: 3mg
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)
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