How To Roast Your Turkey for Thanksgiving
What you need to begin:
- 1 whole turkey, any size, thawed if frozen, approximately 3-4 days in refrigerator.
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, water, or other liquid
- 2 sticks (1 cup) melted unsalted butter or oil, for basting (optional)
- Roasting pan (or an alternative)
- Roasting rack (or something to lift the turkey off the pan)
- Turkey baster, brush, or ladle (optional, if basting)
- Meat thermometer
- Prepare the turkey for roasting. Thirty minutes to an hour before roasting, take the turkey out of the refrigerator. Remove any packaging and the bag of giblets (check in the body cavity and in the neck cavity). Set the turkey breast-side up on the roasting rack set in a roasting pan and let it sit while the oven preheats. This takes the chill off the meat, which helps the meat cook faster and more evenly.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Position an oven rack in the bottom third of your oven, remove any racks above it, and heat to 450°F. If your turkey is straight out of the package, rub it with some butter, salt and pepper before putting it in the oven. We do not recommend roasting your turkey with stuffing as it may cause uneven roasting and may cause bacteria if not properly roasted. Use the meat thermometer as the USDA recommends 165 degrees throughout, check in various places.
- When ready to roast, pour the broth or water into the roasting pan.
- Place the turkey in the oven and turn down the heat to 325-350°F. We recommend roasting the turkey breast-side up. We cover the breast meat with aluminum foil toward the end of cooking if it starts getting too browned.
- Roast the turkey. The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 15 minutes per pound. So our 16-pound turkey was estimated to cook in about 3 1/2-4 hours. Plan on the 15-minute-per-pound rule, but start checking the temperature of your turkey about halfway through the scheduled cooking time to gauge how fast it’s cooking.
- Every 45 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven, close the oven door (don’t let that heat out!), and baste the turkey all over. To baste, tilt the pan if needed and use a turkey baster or spoon to scoop up the pan liquids and drizzle them on top of the turkey. Basting with pan juices cools the surface of the turkey and slows down cooking, which in turn keeps the breast meat cooking at close to the same rate as the legs and thighs. In the last 45 minutes or so of cooking, you can also baste the turkey with melted butter or oil. This helps crisp up the skin and turn it a beautiful deep golden brown.
- Begin checking the turkey’s temperature about halfway through the estimated cooking time. Check the temperature in three places: the breast, outer thigh, and inside thigh. In every case, the meat should be at least 165°F when the turkey has finished cooking. If any place is under that temperature, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Shield the breast meat with foil if needed to keep it from overcooking.
- Remove the turkey from the oven. Grab one side of the roasting rack with an oven mitt and tilt the whole pan so the liquids inside the turkey cavity run out into the pan. (These juices are used to make the gravy.) Then, lift the whole turkey (still on the rack) and transfer it to a clean cutting board. Tent the turkey loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives time for the meat to firm up and the juices to be re-absorbed into the muscle tissue, making the turkey easier to slice and taste juicier.
- Carve the turkey the same way you would carve as chicken. Remove the wings first, then the thighs, then the breast meat. Once you have the meat off, you can separate the thighs and drumsticks and carve the breast meat into individual slices.
- Don’t forget about the leftovers. The leftover meat needs to be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, after which the risk of something nasty taking up residence starts to increase exponentially. Be safe!
Ways to Add Flavor to Your Turkey: Rub your turkey with butter or oil for a richer flavor and browner skin, rub minced herbs or ground spices into (or beneath) the skin for more flavor, place a few halved lemons or garlic cloves inside the cavity of the turkey.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.