How to roast a turkey

Oven roasting is all kinds of yum! Tune in to our video to learn how to roast a turkey in the oven. This classic turkey technique is perfect for a first-time cook or a seasoned pro.

Turkey roasting cook-time varies by weight, so there’s also a handy turkey cooking calculator to help you plan. Don’t forget the foil tent when you’re ⅔ of the way through cooking to prevent dryness!

How to roast a turkey

How to Roast Fresh or Frozen Whole Turkeys

Roasting a whole turkey is easier than you think. Just follow these simple instructions for a fresh or thawed turkey:

Roasting Tip

If you don’t have a roasting rack, crunch aluminum foil into a coil or use vegetables like carrots to keep your turkey off the bottom of the pan.

How to Roast Fully Cooked Whole Turkeys

Fully cooked turkeys are an easy way to get a great tasting turkey on the table in less time. Follow these special directions for a delicious meal:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Remove wrapper.
  2. Place thawed turkey, breast side up, on flat rack in shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep. DO NOT stuff.
  3. Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
  4. Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the thigh without touching the bone.
  5. Begin checking the turkey for doneness about 30 minutes before the recommended cook time.
  6. Your turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches 140°F in thigh.
  7. Carve and serve immediately.

How to Roast Whole Turkey Breasts

Turkey breasts cook up tender and delicious, and are easy to roast when you follow these instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. Remove whole breast from bag. Drain juices and pat dry with clean paper towels.
  3. Place breast, skin side up, on a flat roasting rack in a 2-inch deep roasting pan. Do not add water to pan.
  4. Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
  5. Roast uncovered according to Cooking Schedule or until meat thermometer in thickest part of breast reaches 170° F. If breast is stuffed, center of stuffing should be 165° F.
  6. Roasting time will vary if turkey is covered or placed in an oven-cooking bag.
  7. Before you remove the stuffing and carve, let your turkey breast stand for 15 minutes to allow the juices to set.

You can roast a frozen turkey breast too. Just follow these steps:

  1. Roast skin side down, uncovered, on a flat rack in a 2-inch deep open roasting pan at 325° F for the first hour.
  2. Remove from oven and carefully remove gravy packet and refrigerate packet for future use.
  3. Turn breast skin side up, and brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance. Return to oven.
  4. Roast uncovered according to Cooking Schedule or until meat thermometer in thickest part of breast reaches 170° F. If breast is stuffed, center of stuffing should be 165° F.
  5. Let breast stand for 10 minutes before carving.

How to Roast Boneless Turkey Roasts

For smaller groups that love that roasted turkey taste, try a boneless roast. It’s easier than ever with these directions:

Roasting Tip

Since you can’t adjust the string netting when roasting from frozen, be sure to wrap the roast in foil after it comes out of the oven.

To cook turkey roast from frozen, try this method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. Remove gravy packet with spatula and refrigerate.
  3. Place roast, skin side up, on a flat roasting rack in a 2-inch deep roasting pan. Do not add water to pan.
  4. Roast uncovered according to Cooking Schedule or until meat thermometer in center of breast roast reaches 170° F and in center of turkey roast reaches 175° F.
  5. For easier net removal after roasting, wrap roast in foil and let stand 10 minutes. Remove netting and slice roast.

Everyone who has ever roasted a turkey has an opinion on how to do it. Here’s a simple, foolproof method, step by step.

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Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

How to Roast a Turkey

There are breast-side-down devotees, deep-fry fanatics and those who swear that the highest of heats is the only way to go. They all are right — every one of those methods can produce a delicious, moist bird. But sometimes the simplest way, especially if you’ve never roasted a turkey before, is the best of all.

Pick Your Bird

Don’t be intimidated by a turkey. One that’s not huge (in the 10-to-12-pound range) is basically just like a big chicken. The markets are full of fresh, organic turkeys these days. If you get one of these and have never before cooked a turkey that wasn’t “self-basting,” you may worry about it being dry. In this case, brining can be a good insurance policy. Frozen turkey? Plan ahead for safe thawing, allowing at least 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey.

Prep Your Bird

Brush

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Roast and Carve

Roast at 325 degrees F for 1 hour and 45 minutes, then turn up the heat to 425 degrees F for the last 45 minutes of cooking, until juices run clear when you cut between leg and thigh. Rest the turkey, covered with aluminum foil, about 20 minutes before carving.

Prefer a stuffed bird? Fill the cavity loosely with prepared stuffing instead of aromatics, immediately before putting the turkey in the oven. A good rule of thumb is to use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey — don’t overstuff!

Allow a bit more time for roasting: The stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 in the deepest part, to be safe. Let the bird rest, with stuffing in place, about 20 minutes, then remove stuffing to a serving bowl and carve the turkey. Now that you know how to roast a perfect bird, try these turkey recipes.

How to roast a turkey

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 3 to 4 hours in the oven. But an 8-pounder will likely only need 2 hours 45 minute. The cook time 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 fifty perfect more time in the oven than a fully thawed turkey. Find out exactly how long yours needs with our turkey cook time chart.

Bring the turkey to room temperature.

While the oven is preheating, bring your bird to room temperature. This ensures even cooking.

Use a roasting rack.

Though you don’t technically need one, a roasting racks allows the air to circulate around the bottom of your turkey in the oven, which means that soggy skin is way less of a risk.

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, then we drop the temp to 350º so that it doesn’t burn.

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.

Still need to plan your sides? We’ve got everything you need to complete your Thanksgiving menu.

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.

Follow our Test Kitchen experts’ step-by-step guide to a perfectly roasted bird.

How to roast a turkey

How to roast a turkey

Dry turkey is a holiday host’s worst nightmare: No matter how much gravy you pour over it, it’s never as satisfying as a succulent, expertly roasted Thanksgiving turkey — and no one wants that for their big Thanksgiving dinner. That’s why our Test Kitchen pros have cooked up countless turkeys (even intentionally drying some out for the sake of research!) to find exactly how to prepare a turkey perfectly. After safely defrosting your turkey, follow their simple step-by-step recipe below, plus some tips and tricks to keep in mind.

Here’s a tip to get you started: Stop stuffing that bird! The Test Kitchen prefers stuffing recipes baked outside of the bird, in a deep casserole dish, as the safest (and tastiest!) option. Not only does this ensure that the stuffing avoids contact with raw turkey, but the final product is a deliciously moist, crisp-topped creation that your guests won’t be able to get enough of!

By Paula Deen

How to roast a turkey

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 195 minutes
  • Servings: 18

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (12-14-lb) turkey, thawed if frozen
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh herbs, chopped, such as thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (14 1/2-oz) can chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper inside turkey cavity. Place onion, garlic, herb sprigs and bay leaves insides cavity. Place turkey breast-side up on rack in large roasting pan. Brush with half of butter; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and remaining salt. Truss, if desired.

Tent turkey with foil, roast 2 hours, 30 minutes. Remove foil, brush with remaining butter. Increase oven temperature to 425 °F. Roast turkey until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh away from bone registers 180 °F, about 45 minutes, tenting with foil during last 15 minutes of cooking time, if browning too quickly. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, skim and discard fat from pan juices. Place roasting pan with 1 1/2 cups juices over medium heat. Add broth, chopped thyme, and remaining pepper, stirring up browned bits from bottom of the pan. Simmer 3 minutes.

Stir together cornstarch and 1/3 cup water. Strain gravy into small pot over low heat, gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Simmer stirring, until thickened, 2 minutes.

How to roast a turkey

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
487 Calories
29g Fat
2g Carbs
55g Protein

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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 487
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 38%
Saturated Fat 12g 58%
Cholesterol 284mg 95%
Sodium 721mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 55g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 22mg 2%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 637mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Dark meat lovers will be thrilled with this tasty and easy turkey thighs recipe. The thighs, part of the bird’s meaty legs are ideal for a small holiday dinner for which a whole turkey can be too much. Bone-in turkey thighs are also a great alternative to chicken thighs. Roasting turkey thighs is also an excellent way to cook this dark meat for other recipes, such as casseroles and salads. The meat is tender, moist, and flavorful; it’s not prone to drying out as easily as white meat does.

Thyme and sage, the traditional turkey herbs present in our recipe, can be replaced or added to by other flavorful ingredients—marjoram, savory, rosemary, and parsley are good substitutions, too. Use our recipe as a template and mix and match the suggestions in our recipe variations section to flavor the thighs to your liking.

The easy preparation frees up your time to make side dishes; much of the time cooking this recipe is hands-off, as the oven does most of the work. Serve the thighs with other recipes that can be cooked at the same temperature, like a corn casserole or a baked pasta. Other delicious sides that can pair with the thighs include roasted or mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, balsamic Brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce.

For this recipe, a meat thermometer is a good tool to have at hand to ensure the meat is thoroughly and safely cooked, which occurs when the thickest part of the thigh meat reaches 165 F. This recipe will double easily if you are serving more guests or want to freeze leftovers.

Ingredients

3 (1-pound) bone-in skin-on turkey thighs

1/4 cup butter , softened

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic , minced

1 teaspoon dried sage leaves

1/2 cup turkey broth or chicken broth

Steps to Make It

Gather the ingredients.

How to roast a turkey

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Never rinse the turkey before cooking it because the bacteria on the meat’s surface will aerosolize and spread around your kitchen. A good pat dry is a reliable procedure and enough for the seasonings to adhere to the skin.

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In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and sage and mix well.

How to roast a turkey

Loosen the skin from the meat and rub the butter mixture into the meat. Smooth the skin back over and rub the remaining butter mixture on the skin.

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Place the thighs in a roasting pan and pour the broth around the turkey.

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Roast the turkey thighs for 60 to 70 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 165 F when inserted in the meat away from the bone.

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Remove the pan from the oven, cover tightly with foil or the pan lid, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy.

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Variations

Use our recipe as a guide for cooking the thighs, but have fun making your own mixture of seasonings. Here are a few ideas:

  • Citrus: Place the thighs in a zip-close bag, add the juice and zest of two lemons along with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey. Marinate for 30 minutes before using the herb butter. Add lemon slices to the bottom of the roasting pan plus the marinade juices and place the thighs on top before roasting.
  • Herb: Use a small handful of finely chopped cilantro, Italian parsley, and basil instead of the thyme and sage. Mix with the butter, rub on the thighs, and roast.
  • Mustard: Mix 1/4 cup Dijon mustard with 2 tablespoons of honey, along with the butter and other ingredients, except the thyme and sage. Cover the thighs with the mixture and roast.
  • Bacon: Follow the recipe as is but wrap each thigh in two to three bacon strips. Cook until the meat has reached a safe temperature and the bacon has crisped up.
  • If you want to crisp up the skin on the stovetop midway before placing the thighs in the oven, follow the recipe up to step 6, and then place the thighs skin-down in a very hot cast-iron skillet. Allow the skin to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Turn the thighs, add the broth, cover, and cook for 20 minutes over medium-high.
  • Place the skillet in the oven, giving the turkey enough time to cook thoroughly, about 20 to 30 minutes at 350 F. (To cook the thighs completely on the stove, uncover them after 20 minutes and turn them. Cover again for another 20 minutes and check the inner temperature of the meat.)
  • If needed, give them an additional 10 to 15 minutes. In both cases, let the thighs rest for 10 minutes, covered, before serving.

How to Store and Freeze Turkey Thighs

Turkey thigh meat will keep for three to four days, well wrapped and covered, in the refrigerator.

For longer storage, wrap it well in foil or plastic wrap and then transfer it to an airtight container or zip-close freezer bag for up to three months. This works especially well if you want to save the turkey (bones and all) for making stock, soups, or other dishes.

If you know you are going to freeze and reheat some turkey, take the extra step and make some gravy, which can also be frozen. This way you can be sure that even your reheated turkey stays nice and moist and doesn’t get tough or dry out.

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Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey, and this 5-ingredient recipe couldn’t be simpler. If you know an 8 to 10 lb.turkey is about the size you need, the next step is determining how long to cook 10-pound turkey. Whether your bird is stuffed or unstuffed, we’ve got the cooking times for your Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t forget to let it stand before carving.

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Recipe Summary

Ingredients

Pat turkey dry on the inside and out with paper towels. If desired, season body cavity with salt. Spoon stuffing (if using) loosely into neck and body cavities. Skewer neck skin of turkey to back.

Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the band of skin across the tail. If there is no band of skin, tie the drumsticks securely to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back.

Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush with oil. If desired, insert a meat thermometer into the center of an inside thigh muscle. The thermometer should not touch bone. Cover turkey loosely with foil.

Roast in a 325°F oven for 2-1/4 hours. Remove foil; cut band of skin or string between drumsticks so thighs cook evenly. Continue roasting for 30 to 45 minutes more (1 to 1-1/4 hours if stuffed), or until the thermometer registers 180°F; and the center of the stuffing (if using) is 165°F. (The juices should run clear and drumsticks should move easily in their sockets.)

Remove turkey from oven. Cover with foil; let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Transfer turkey to a cutting board. Carve turkey. Makes 12 to 14 servings.