How to roast a turkey

Simple, perfect roast turkey just like grandma used to make. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and basted with turkey stock, the flavors of the turkey really stand out. Stuff with your favorite dressing.

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Ingredients

  • 1 (18 pound) whole turkey
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ quarts turkey stock
  • 8 cups prepared stuffing
  • Step 1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Place rack in the lowest position of the oven.

Remove the turkey neck and giblets, rinse the turkey, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Loosely fill the body cavity with stuffing. Rub the skin with the softened butter, and season with salt and pepper. Position an aluminum foil tent over the turkey.

Place turkey in the oven, and pour 2 cups turkey stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. Baste all over every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan. Whenever the drippings evaporate, add stock to moisten them, about 1 to 2 cups at a time. Remove aluminum foil after 2 1/2 hours. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F (75 degrees C), about 4 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter, and let it stand for at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Whether you’re roasting your first bird for Friendsgiving or hosting for the 26th time, use this handy guide to roast the perfect holiday turkey. This foolproof method has been tested (and tested and tested) by the Delish kitchen—it’s the best. Find our top tips below.

Choose the right size turkey.

Buy about 1 1/4 lb. turkey per person. We have an easy-to-read chart so you don’t have to read through an annoyingly long article while shopping for your turkey.

Adjust the cook time based on the size of your bird.

A 12- to 14-lb. turkey needs anywhere from 3 to 4 hours in the oven. But an 8-pounder will likely only need 2 hours 45 minute. As with cooking anything, the cook time here depends on a number of things, including whether or not the bird is stuffed (this recipe isn’t), how big it is, and if it has been thawed.

According to the USDA, a frozen turkey requires about 50% more time in the oven than a fully thawed turkey; we highly recommend starting with a fully defrosted turkey. Cooking time will also depend on the accuracy of your oven temperature (some ovens run hotter than others). Find out exactly how long your bird will likely need in the oven with our turkey cook time chart.

Thaw and bring the turkey to room temperature before roasting.

If you bought your turkey frozen, be sure to give it at least 1 day in the fridge to defrost fully. Depending on its size, larger birds will likey need 2 days to defrost completely. To avoid nasty poultry juice leaking in your fridge, place the bird inside a large container, tray, or sturdy plastic bag (just make sure there are no holes first!).

While the oven is preheating, bring your bird to room temperature. Starting with a tempered bird ensures more even cooking and reduces likelihood of burning the skin on the bird before the inside is cooked all the way.

Use a roasting rack.

Though you don’t technically need one, a roasting rack allows air circulation around the bottom of your turkey in the oven, which reduces the risk of undesirable soggy skin.

Start with a super hot oven, then reduce the temperature.

We like to blast the turkey with extremely hot heat (450°) for the first 30 minutes to get the skin really crispy and to seal in the juices; we then drop the temp to 350º so that the rest of the bird can cook through without burning.

Use more butter than you feel comfortable with.

Before the bird goes in the oven and while it roasts, add A LOT of butter. It’s key for crispy, flavorful, golden skin. If you end up using all of the melted butter on the bird before it goes into the oven, use the drippings in the roasting pan to baste. If you have butter remaining after the initial brushing, baste with that remainder to ensure you get a flavorful, rich, golden, crispy skin. (We all know that’s the best part.)

Be patient.

After your turkey emerges from the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes—just like you would with steak. To keep it warm, cover the bird with some foil. To prevent turning the perfectly golden skin soggy, be sure to create a fold in the foil so that you can “tent” it over the bird so that it does not directly touch the turkey and trap in moisture.

Need more Thanksgiving ideas?

Still need to plan your sides? Save your turkey drippings and incorporate them into your gravy, stuffing, or even mashed potatoes. We’ve got everything you need to complete your Thanksgiving menu.

If you’ve made this recipe, drop us a comment down below to let us know how it went and to share any tips and tricks you have for the best Thanksgiving spread!

Editor’s note: This intro was updated to add more information about the dish on September 11, 2021.

We’re sharing the fundamental rules for getting a beautiful, golden bird.

No matter how many Thanksgiving dinners you've cooked or eaten, no matter how many birds you've bought, thawed, brined, seasoned, buttered, basted, stuffed, or spatchcocked, there's no escaping those nagging questions, "Am I doing it right?" and "Is there a better way to roast a turkey?" Certain styles of cooking turkey come into fashion and fall out of favor, only to return every few years. Deep-frying was all the rage for a few years, then it was brining, then upside-down roasting. But what do trends have to do with juicy, flavorful turkey? As it turns out, very little. There's more than one way to roast a turkey, and as long as you follow a few fundamental rules, you can still use your favorite turkey recipe.

Choose Your Seasoning Method (Just Don’t Skip It!)

Don't skip the seasoning! Whether you go with wet brining, dry brining, a spice rub just before cooking, or the simple, tried-and-true combo of butter, salt, and pepper, the time to start adding flavor is before the turkey goes into the oven.

Dry the Skin

For turkey skin that's toasty golden brown—the kind of crispy skin that's just begging to be snitched and nibbled while you're carving—you need to dry every surface thoroughly before the bird goes in the oven. Employ plenty of paper towels or clean cotton dishcloths to soak up the liquid—or take your inspiration from New Yorker food correspondent Helen Rosner and use a hair dryer to evaporate every last drop of moisture from your turkey's nooks and crannies.

Don’t Go Cold Turkey

Remove the bird from the refrigerator and allow to sit out at room temperature for at least an hour before it goes in the oven. (Don't worry, the hot oven temperatures will kill off any bacteria that grows on the meat's surface.) If you put an ice-cold bird in the oven, the skin will burn well before the meat is cooked through. By letting it warm up a little bit, the turkey will cook more evenly.

If You Must Stuff…

A stuffed turkey will cook less evenly, will require longer in the oven than one without stuffing, and it poses a food safety risk (the danger being that the stuffing, full of raw turkey juices, will not reach a safe temperature even after the meat is cooked). However, for some families, it's just not Thanksgiving if the stuffing hasn't been cooked inside the bird. If this is you, follow these three rules: First, wait until right before the turkey goes into the oven to add the stuffing. Next, don't pack the stuffing too tightly, or it won't get hot enough. Last, check the stuffing's temperature with a meat thermometer. Don't serve it until it has reached 165 degrees F.

Legs First

The dark meat takes longer to cook than the white meat. Since the back of the oven is hotter than the front, place your turkey in the oven legs-first.

Use a Thermometer

The only way to be sure that bird is perfectly cooked—not raw, not dried-out, but just right—is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone. Take the turkey out of the oven when the thigh meat reaches 165 degrees F.

Let It Rest

After the turkey comes out of the oven, cover it loosely with foil and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Resting is actually the final phase of roasting: the internal temperature will continue to rise and the juices retreat from the surface, settling back into every part of the meat. While the turkey rests, keep yourself busy by making gravy.

Roast this year’s bird in a salt crust for the juiciest turkey ever.

My love for salt was kindled at a young age. I spent summers with my grandfather in the Florida Panhandle, fishing and swimming in the bay behind his house. My favorite thing to do was to dive as far down as possible and fill my mouth with the cold, briny water; I'd hold my breath as long as I could before shooting to the surface. I'd float for a minute, my taste buds tingling, before taking a deep breath and doing it all over again. As a chef, I treasure those Florida summers as the first moments I began to fall in love with food and, most profoundly, with salt.

Arguably the most versatile ingredient in any pantry, salt has capabilities far beyond seasoning. This recipe for Salt-Roasted Turkey Breast honors salt not only as an ingredient, but also as a tool. Salt-roasting is a technique that is often employed to keep lean fish moist while roasting; the mixture of salt and egg whites forms a nearly airtight crust when baked, locking in moisture and flavor. It works the same magic with turkey. Whereas traditional methods for roasting turkey tend to yield dry white meat, salt-roasting delivers an incredibly juicy breast that's perfectly seasoned to the bone, with no brining required. And though I'm a fan of salt in all its forms, from fine sea salt for baking to flaky sea salt for a finishing touch, coarse kosher salt is the best bet here to ensure maximum coverage at a reasonable cost.

There's also a helpful side benefit of salt-roasting: The crust keeps the turkey warm up to 30 minutes, freeing the oven for last-minute sides. When it's finally time for dinner, crack open the salt crust tableside to share the complete experience of salt-roasting with your dinner guests, and then whisk the bird away to the kitchen for carving. Watching their expressions as the steam rises from the crust and the aroma fills the room will help you appreciate the magic of salt in a whole new way.

How to roast a turkey

Hey cousins! I have the most simple roast turkey recipe for you all to try! I swear, you need very few ingredients, and the outcome will be simply amazing. For this roast turkey recipe, all you need is whole turkey, Rosamae Seasoning Salt, Rosamae Poultry Seasoning, unsalted butter, and olive or avacado oil! sounds like an easy roast turkey recipe right? Well it is, so let’s jump right into it!

How to roast a turkey

First things first, it’s ALL about the Rosamae Seasonings, and I’m not just saying this because it’s MY brand, I’m stating facts. Rosamae Seasonings isn’t like other seasoning. We don’t rely on artificial flavors, chemicals, dyes, and salt. We use real ingredients!

Rosamae’s Poultry Seasoning is made of celery salt, garlic, onion, sage, rosemary, pepper, and a few other ingredients. It pairs well with ALL poultry such as chicken, turkey, and even duck. Our seasoning salt is a combination of sea salt, paprika, garlic, thyme, and more. It’s all purpose! Make sure that you have both on hand during this holiday season to step your cooking game up a few notches!

This recipe is for a 8 lb turkey. However you can definitely double the ingredients for a larger one. Also keep in mind that if you roast a larger turkey it will take longer to cook. Add an additional 15 minutes for cooking per pound for larger turkeys.

The oven is undoubtedly the shining star of the holiday meal. But when it comes to using a convection oven, what makes this method of preparing turkey preferable to other styles of cooking? Don’t let the unfamiliarity intimidate you! We’re breaking it down to help you make the most of your convection oven this Thanksgiving (or really any time of year).

How to roast a turkey

What is the difference in a convection oven versus a conventional oven?

A convection oven has a fan and exhaust system that circulates heat around the oven while the food is cooking and ventilates regularly to prevent humidity. A regular oven has a single heating unit, meaning the heat is inconsistent and only flows from one direction.

What are the benefits to using a convection oven?

Using a convection oven yields more efficient cooking. Because dry hot air is blowing directly on the food, your dishes will cook about 25 percent faster in a convection oven. Additionally, the circulating convection heat prevents oven “hot spots,” making the entire oven space perfect for cooking the turkey and side dishes all at once.

What temperature setting should I use when preparing a whole bird/holiday meal?

The preferred method is to roast the turkey in the center of the lowest rack or oven shelf so the top of the turkey will be centered in the oven. If two racks must be used, place the turkey on the lowest or middle rack. When cooking with two roasting pans, position the pans in opposite corners of the oven. Place the pans so one is not directly over the other.

How long do I cook a turkey in a convection oven?

Depending on the size of your turkey, follow the chart for convection cooking or until you’ve reached the proper temperature. Use a meat thermometer to test the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh but not touching the bone. If your turkey is stuffed, also verify the temperature of the stuffing has reached 165°F.

  • 12-15 pounds, 1.5-2 hours
  • 15-20 pounds, 2-2.5 hours
  • 20-25 pounds, 2.5-3 hours

Other signs that the turkey is done are that the legs move loosely, and the juices run clear. Verify the internal temperature in several places – the thickest parts of the breast, thigh and wing – to be sure.

Depending on your brand of oven, it is recommended to reduce traditional turkey baking times from 10-40 percent.

Are there any tricks to ensuring my turkey stays tender and juicy in a convection oven?

How to roast a turkey

  • Start with a fully thawed turkey. See USDA’s tips on safely thawing your turkey.
  • There is no need to baste the turkey when using a convection oven because the blowing heat sears the turkey quickly, which locks in the juices. If a special sauce or marinade is used, baste the turkey during the last hour of cooking.
  • There is also no need to cover the turkey with foil because you want the turkey to sear and reach a golden brown color. However, if the legs or wings start to get too brown, cover those areas with foil.

Traditional Roast Turkey in Convection Oven Recipe

Ingredients

  • Fresh or frozen turkey – size is up to you depending on how many you’re feeding!
  • ½ cup oil, olive or vegetable
  • Rosemary, to taste
  • Thyme, to taste

How to roast a turkey

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to the lowest setting to make sure you have enough room for your turkey.

2. Preheat your convection oven to 350°F.

3. If your turkey has the neck and giblets, remove and keep for other uses if desired.

4. Use a low sided sheet pan with a rack. If using a higher sided roasting pan, make sure to use a rack that lifts the turkey up off of the bottom of the pan so the air can get around the whole turkey. With a convection oven you want the air to circulate around the turkey as much as possible. Place the turkey on the rack in the pan.

5. Do not truss or tie the turkey. This allows the warm heat of the convection oven to touch as many surfaces of the turkey as possible.

How to roast a turkey

6. Tuck the wings under the turkey.

7. Loosen the skin at the edge of the breast.

8. Place some oil in a small dish and using a brush or your hands, brush oil all over the turkey and under the skin of the breast.

9. Sprinkle the turkey with rosemary and thyme.

10. Using a metal skewer, stick the skewer between the two legs to keep the turkey balanced on the rack.

11. Wash hands and sanitize surfaces thoroughly after handling raw meat.

How to roast a turkey

12. Place the turkey in the preheated oven and roast per the recommended time on the convection oven chart or until the meat thermometer reads 165°F.

Keep an eye on the turkey towards the end. If the wings and legs look like they are getting too brown, cover with foil.

13. Remove the turkey from the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving to serve. It will continue cooking for just a bit after removing from the oven (called carryover cooking and makes the turkey juicier).

Learn how to roast a turkey for a delicious Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is traditionally the pièce de résistance of Thanksgiving dinner, but roasting a large piece of meat can be an intimidating task for any cook. Set your worries aside and follow these simple steps for how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Use a Thanksgiving turkey recipe to prepare the perfect meal for your Thanksgiving feast this year.

Roast a Turkey Recipe

Ingredients and supplies:

  • Turkey (thaw unopened in the fridge if previously frozen, allow for 1 day of thawing per 4 pounds of turkey)
  • Roasting pan (large enough to fit your turkey)
  • Roast rack
  • Oil
  • Salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, and cayenne pepper
  • Meat thermometer
  • Turkey baster
  • Stuffing (optional)

Here’s how to roast a Thanksgiving turkey, broken down into seven simple steps.

  1. Place your oven rack on the lowest bracket and pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Next, remove the turkey’s giblets and neck, and rinse under cold water inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Place your clean turkey breast side up on the roast rack inside of the roast pan.
  4. Rub the entire turkey with oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on both the inside and outside of the turkey. Add additional spices such as garlic, rosemary, or cayenne pepper. Stuff your turkey or leave it plain.
  5. Place the turkey in the oven and baste it every 30 minutes to keep it moist and flavorful, and to promote even browning. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest party of the thigh and cook until it registers to 175 to 180 degrees F. An average sized turkey (between 12-14 lbs.) will need to cook for about four hours. Be sure to base the cooking time on the size of the bird. Cook the turkey around 20 minutes per pound.
  6. Remove your fully cooked turkey from the oven and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.
  7. Carve your turkey and enjoy!

Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the raw turkey. With a little patience and careful attention you’ll have a beautiful main dish to serve on Thanksgiving day.

Did you know that you can roast a turkey for Thanksgiving a day ahead of time, carve it, refrigerate it overnight, and then reheat it to juicy perfection on Thanksgiving Day? This wonderful method ensures a moist and flavorful bird and is much easier on the cook. It is especially nice if you aren’t very confident in your carving skills and would rather not do it in front of an audience, or if you have a small kitchen with just one oven. This is also a great idea if you have a lot of people coming and want to make sure you have enough turkey—roast one on the big day and have this one waiting in the fridge!

And don't worry, it will still smell like Thanksgiving—when the turkey reheats, delectable aromas will drift through the house just as if the turkey was being roasted. Follow these steps the day before for a less stressful turkey day.

Watch Now: 7 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Thanksgiving

Roast as Usual

Roast the turkey the way you’d usually do it. (You can even roast the bird unstuffed from the frozen state.) When the interior temperature of the turkey reaches 170 F in the thigh, take it out of the oven and let it rest, covered, for about 30 minutes. Into a container, pour the drippings from the roasting pan including any bits that are stuck to the bottom; save it all to make the gravy tomorrow. You can wash the roasting pan to store the carved turkey or leave as is.

How to roast a turkey

Carve the Bird

Before you begin, make sure your knife is sharp and that you have a large enough cutting board. First, cut down between one breast and one leg, then pull and twist the leg to pop it out of the joint. Keep cutting until the leg and thigh come free. Then cut the leg away from the thigh. Put the drumstick and pieces of thigh meat into the roasting pan.

Next, cut the breast away from the bird, then slice it crosswise, keeping some skin on each piece. Place this in the pan. Cut off the wing and add to the pan. Then turn the bird around and carve the other side in the same manner. Check out “How to Carve a Turkey” for step-by-step photos of the process.

Watch Now: The Easiest and Most Elegant Way to Carve a Turkey

Ready It for the Fridge

You don't want the meat to dry out while it sits overnight, so you will need to cover it with a liquid. Spoon some chicken broth or the drippings from the roasting pan over the turkey so it stays moist. Cover snugly and refrigerate overnight.

Reheating the Next Day

On Thanksgiving day, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let sit to come to room temperature before reheating. Keeping the turkey in the roasting pan just as it is, cover with aluminum foil and reheat in a 350 F oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the turkey is hot and steaming and registers 165 F on your meat thermometer. You can bake it along with the stuffing (drizzle a little turkey broth over the stuffing before you bake it to add some turkey flavor). And don’t forget to make the gravy—pour the drippings into a saucepan, add a flour/water mixture, and boil hard, adding salt until the flavor blooms.