How to Roast a Turkey

It occurred to us that we had no directions for the basic Roasted Turkey that is served at most Thanksgiving tables in America. Some of you already know this stuff, but we know that some of our readers come here looking for directions on those basic things that “everybody” knows. So this is for you:

To Roast a Turkey:

Remove the thawed turkey from its packaging. Remove the neck and giblets from the large cavity. Rinse in cool water, inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.

Cut a whole onion in half, and roughly chop 2-3 whole carrots and 2-3 stalks of celery, and place inside the large cavity. Tie the legs together with twine, or tuck into the band of skin left for this purpose (some turkeys are sold with the legs already fastened.)

Place the turkey in a turkey roaster pan, breast side up. Brush the skin with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. (Optional: pour half a bottle of white wine over the bird first.) If using a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the breast, being sure that the tip does not touch bone. (Some turkeys come with a little red pop-up doneness indicator already inserted–when the red thingy pops up, the bird is done.)

Cover with the roaster lid or loosely with aluminum foil that has a vent/opening. Roast for the appropriate time, occasionally basting with drippings from the bottom of the pan. (Basting is re-moistening the turkey with its own juices, using either a spoon to scoop up the drippings, or a turkey baster to suck them up.) When the bird is 2/3 done, release the drumsticks and take off the lid/foil. Continue roasting until the meat thermomenter reads 180-185ºF. When the bird is done, the drumsticks will move very easily in their sockets, and if you pierce the thigh with a knife, the juices will run clear.

Remove the bird from the oven and cover with foil. Let it stand for 15-20 minutes before carving. Throw out the aromatic vegetables from the cavity (even though they look tasty, they may not be safe to eat), carve the meat in slices, and serve.

Time required to roast a turkey (unstuffed) at 325ºF:

  • 6-8 pounds 3-3.5 hours
  • 8-12 pounds 3-4 hours
  • 12-16 pounds 4-5 hours
  • 16-20 pounds 4 1/4-5 hours
  • 20-24 pounds 5-6 hours