Ever wonder how to roast the perfect turkey? I had no idea how to cook a turkey the first year I hosted Thanksgiving. I just knew I wanted all of my family together in one place. If that meant that I had to learn how to roast the perfect turkey, so be it. I’d do it. That’s how I learned how to roast a turkey.
I did a lot of research online and on Pinterest before I dove deep into this recipe. I wanted to prepare the best tasting, most moist turkey that ever graced a Thanksgiving tablescape and I did a pretty good job on my first year. By year two, I had all the kinks worked out and there’s been no turning back since.
This turkey recipe is very easy and has worked better than beautifully for me for the past 7 years. I am not a domestic diva but there are a few things that I can really cook so well that it will knock the taste right outta your mouth..turkey is one of those things. So, I want to share with you all my secret of how to roast the perfect turkey. Thanksgiving is my holiday our entire family, both sides come to our house because the Big Guy and I absolutely know how to roast the perfect turkey. I know people deep fry, rotisserie and all sorts of creative ideas but when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I like my turkey traditional. Today I will share with you what I’ve perfected as the sure-fire way of how to roast the perfect turkey.
Easy tips on how to roast a turkey perfectly every time
- Learning how to roast the perfect turkey starts with selecting the right turkey for your family. To calculate how much turkey you will need, I use the rule that allows for 1 pound of turkey for every adult and 3/4 pounds for every child that you will be feeding. You will have leftovers and there will be no fighting over portions. Everyone will have their fair share of the tryptophan high that Thanksgiving brings us all.
- Start with preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove turkey from bag. We have found that buying a non-frozen fresh turkey works the best. It eliminates the headache of thawing. We found this out the hard way when we had our turkey thawing in our game room fridge and little people playing under the bar cabinets, accidentally knocked the plug out of the wall. ( I know so dangerous, please hold all judgment.) Keep in mind that a partially frozen turkey will take longer to cook.
- If you need help deciding between fresh or frozen here are a few facts:
- Fresh turkeys need no thawing and are ready to cook. Winning! This is my favorite tip on how to roast the perfect turkey.
- Fresh Butterball turkeys are all natural.
- Frozen turkeys can be purchased weeks in advance but require several days of thawing before roasting. A quick rule of thumb is to allow 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey. We normally get about a 26-pound turkey. Yes, it takes forever to defrost in the refrigerator but it is less likely to give you salmonella than trying to defrost in cold water overnight. The water needs to be cold and changed every 30 minutes to prevent bacteria from growing. If you are not going with a fresh turkey, please defrost using the refrigerator.
- Remove all the innards. Do not forget the neck-bone and giblets, sometimes if you have a frozen turkey the neck-bone and giblets try to stay inside. Just remember, every turkey comes with the neck-bone and giblets inside so if you don’t find them. LOOK HARDER they are most likely still frozen inside.
- Drain juices and pat dry with clean paper towels. I like to rinse it once before I pat it dry.
- Place turkey lifter across the full length of a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan, 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. Keep in mind that a dark roasting pan cooks the turkey faster than a shiny one.
- Tuck wings back to hold the neck skin in place. Doing so will help stabilize the turkey in the pan and when carving. Place thawed or fresh turkey, breast up, on the turkey lifter. Raise one loop over wings and breast, and the other loop over drumsticks. Rest loops on turkey, not over the edge of the pan during roasting.
- *Next, this is important.* I place my hand between the skin and turkey itself. Then, gently lift on the skin. This separates the skin intact without removing it from the turkey. ( I fully realize that this is about as gross as pulling out the guts from a pumpkin but I enjoy that too:) Then take pats of butter and place inside the space between the turkey and skin. While the turkey cooks the butter flavor will seep into the turkey.
- This step is essential to ensuring moistness and a key factor in how to roast the perfect turkey, massage turkey skin with vegetable/olive oil ( I prefer olive oil) to prevent the skin from drying and locking in the juices, keeping your turkey moist.
- Melt about a cup of butter ( unsalted preferably) and pour over the turkey while massaging it into the turkey. Then shower the turkey with salt and pepper. Massage again. ( This turkey is very relaxed by the time he goes into the oven.)
- I do not stuff my turkey with stuffing. I do however quarter 2 lemons and 3 oranges and place inside the turkey along with some rosemary and thyme. There are a variety of things you can add inside your turkey for flavoring but oranges, lemons, rosemary and thyme are what I use. I keep it simple.
- Turn oven down to 325 degrees for cooking. To cook the perfect turkey we preheat to 400 degrees because once you put the turkey in the oven, it seals in the juices an then immediately turn the oven down 325 degrees for cooking. If this is your first time, I don’t suggest waiting until turkey is in the oven before turning down temperature because there is a big possibility that you will forget and burn the outside of your turkey while the inside is still frozen.
- Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle but not touching the bone. When the thigh is up to temperature and if the turkey is stuffed, move thermometer to center of stuffing. Stuffing should be 165 degrees when done.
READ ALSO: How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole
15. I do not stuff my bird with stuffing when roasting, it slows down the cooking process. I fear if I did, I’d have to title this post How to get Salmonella rather than How to roast the perfect turkey.
16. Place your turkey with a loosely tented piece of lightweight foil atop the breast and top of drumsticks to prevent overcooking in the pre-heated oven at 325 degrees. If you place your dark roasting lid on the turkey it will speed up the roasting process. I prefer to cook my turkey slowly. Think of that lid as Pitocin for your turkey, it will speed up the process but it might not give you the best results. The turkey may be drier than it would have been otherwise.
17. I check the turkey about every hour and baste it in its juices. This helps keep the skin moist and helps to brown the turkey. Yes, I do realize that I am obsessed with keeping my turkey moist. Have you ever had dry turkey? It’s almost impossible to eat and I don’t want to choke to death on Thanksgiving.
18. Use the roasting schedule below as a guide and start checking for doneness about 30 minutes before the end of recommended cooking times.
19. When the turkey is about 2/3 done, uncover the turkey to allow for the skin to cook to a beautiful golden brown. This is the perfect time to start preparing those final side dishes like the recipe for those delicious stuffed sweet potatoes I found on Lady and the Blog.
20. Your turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches the following temperatures:
180 degrees deep in the thigh. At this temperature, juices should be clear, not reddish pink when thigh muscle is pierced deeply.
165 degrees in the center of the stuffing, if the turkey is stuffed.
21. Lift roasted turkey onto a platter with turkey lifter and discard lifter.
22. Before removing stuffing and carving, let your turkey stand 15 minutes to allow juices to set. Garnish as you like, I use citrus and cranberries. This is how to roast the perfect turkey.
How to roast the perfect turkey every time
|Net Weight (lb.)
|4½ to 7
|2 to 2½
|2¼ to 2¾
|7 to 9
|2½ to 3
|2¾ to 3½
|9 to 18
|3 to 3½
|3¾ to 4½
|18 to 22
|3½ to 4
|4½ to 5
|22 to 24
|4 to 4½
|5 to 5½
|24 to 30
|4½ to 5
|5½ to 6¼
I know there are many ways to roast the perfect turkey but this is what has worked for me for many Thanksgivings. How do you roast your perfect turkey? What are your favorite Thanksgiving sides? What are your must haves at Thanksgiving? Stay tuned, I will be sharing a few of my favorite sides over the next week. How to roast the perfect turkey is the key to how to have a perfect Thanksgiving with your loved ones.