With the holidays coming up, it’s time to talk turkey and learn how to roast a turkey! Whether you’re a turkey roastin’ newbie or a veteran with many birds under his/her belt, these tips today will either get you started or serve as a refresher!
Turkey is almost always the standard dish at any Thanksgiving celebration, but it also carries over into many Christmas dinner traditions too. We celebrate our Thanksgiving in October in Canada and yes, turkey was on the menu. My American friends have their Thanksgiving in November so you’ll be set to prep a delicious meal.
In our family, turkey is only served a few times a year – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter (sometimes). The first time I made a turkey was overwhelmed and a little grossed out stuffing the bird. Thankfully, with practice, my turkey isn’t as dry as it used to be and having my hand in the turkey doesn’t even phase me.
This year, let’s all enjoy a succulent turkey that cooks beautifully with no stress.
How to Roast a Turkey
Thaw safely and properly ahead of time. The biggest issue many have when roasting a turkey is either getting it too dry and overcooked or undercooked in the middle. To cook a bird properly, first you need to understand how important it is for the turkey to be completely thawed before going into the oven. If it’s still frozen, you will end up with either a bird that is undercooked inside or over done and dry in parts.
To safely thaw your turkey, place it in the refrigerator for the number of days indicated on the chart below:
- 4-12 pound turkey 2-3 days
- 12-16 pound turkey 3-4 days
- 16-20 pound turkey 4-5 days
- 20-24 pound turkey 5-6 days
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To safely cook your turkey to temperature (165 degrees F internally), these are approximate cook times. Remember to check the inside of your bird with a meat thermometer.
Coat your bird in butter. Do not use margarine. Use softened butter to coat the outside of bird as well as under the skin. As the bird cooks, this will melt and drip down along with the fats and juices to create a delicious flavour and help make the skin crispy.
Use a wire rack in your roasting pan. One big thing is to allow those juices to drip from the bird without having the bird sit in the drippings. You want the skin to crisp, and adding a wire rack into your large roasting pan will make this easier.
Cook covered for the bulk of cook time. Aluminum foil is your friend when learning how to roast a turkey. Not only can you line your roasting pan to keep it cleaner in the cooking process, you can build a tent around it so it keeps the moisture in during cooking. You will uncover later to crisp the skin.
Baste hourly. It may be a lot of work, but the end result is worth opening that oven approximately ever 1-1 ½ hours to baste your turkey. A turkey baster or large ladle or spoon will make this easy to manage. You may also want to use a fork to hold up the skin so you can pour some of those drippings under the skin and directly onto the turkey.
Cook uncovered for last hour of cook time. Everyone asks about how to roast a turkey, but mostly they want to know how to get that delicious crispy skin. After your final basting, remove the aluminum foil tent you had in place and allow your turkey to cook uncovered for the last hour. This will crisp the skin and make it perfect for slicing and serving.
Knowing how to roast a turkey is simple. Add your favorite spices, some real butter (no margarine), cover and baste regularly. Cooking according to the safety instructions above will keep your bird moist, delicious and safe for everyone to enjoy this holiday season.
Got leftover turkey? Try these Thanksgiving Sliders or Leftover Turkey Soup.
Do you have any turkey roasting tips?
Wanda Tracey says
These are really great tips.Thanks for sharing the information and cooking chart.I am always worried about over cooking my turkey.
Ashley Sanche says
As a newbie turkey roaster I LOVE this post!! Thank you for sharing 🙂 I will definitely be bookmarking this for later!
kathy downey says
Nothing better than a deliciouly roasted turkey!
Melinda L. says
Great tips! I would add… have lots of patience with roasting a turkey because it is worth it!
Donna Nicholls says
Years back I discovered that by covering my turkey with cheesecloth after I have covered the bird with butter, Including under breast skin, is the most moist and evenly browned turkey I’ve ever made. I, carefully using my hands separate the skin from the meat. I’m just forming a large pocket to get butter in between. Season well and instead of foil I use cheesecloth. I cover the turkey much in the way you would cover a baby. But, only the top. I make sure the wings and legs are covered as well. Bake and baste until done. I remove and let set for about 15 minutes before pulling cloth off. Hasn’t let me down yet and I don’t know why or how but, skin is all evenly browned and, yes skin is crisp without the turkey being dry. Mine have actually been very moist with even white meat being juicy. Yes, it’s cooked thoughly!
My daughters also cook their turkeys this way and so far it hasn’t failed them. I saw Martha Stewart do this. Do, if yours fails we can blame Martha.