recipe

Roast Turkey: the classic Thanksgiving recipe for making a juicy, moist roast turkey

Total time: 20 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 12 people
By Cookist
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Ingredients
Turkey
10 to 14 lb
unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup
Lemon zest
2 tsp
medium yellow onion, cut into quarters
1
garlic, smashed
8 cloves
fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch
thyme leaves
1 tbsp
Fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Roast turkey is the perfect holiday recipe to serve as main dish, it's just the showstopper you want on your table this season. This is an easy, fool-proof recipe to make the classic Thanksgiving dish being served during the holidays. It feeds a lot of people, making it the perfect meal for when the extended family comes over.

Many may be intimidated by such a big bird. And with good reason, as it’s often left dry and tasteless. But don’t worry, you don't have to brine, or cook upside down the turkey, or even use an expensive roasting pan. It cooks in the oven for a few hours until the skin is crisp and golden brown. Moreover, thanks to a delicious herbed butter, this roast turkey is full of flavor, juicy and moist on the inside without drying out.

The turkey used in this recipe was 10-14 lb, which is just the right amount for 12 people. It’s also an easy size for a standard oven and if you want to stuff it. You can also make it ahead of time, which certainly makes Thanksgiving preparations easier.

Oven-Roasted Turkey Ingredients

Whole turkey – You can use fresh turkey or thaw a frozen one ahead of time. To make sure you can feed a crowd, look for a turkey at around 12-20 lb. It's best to calculate 1.5 pounds per person.

Butter – use unsalted butter, it will add moisture and flavor to the turkey, and helps the skin brown evenly.

Herbs – use a selection of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley. You can also add sage if you prefer.

Onion and garlic – add them to the cavity of the bird. This will add flavor to the meat and can be used to make the gravy.

Lemon – a citrus flavor pairs well with turkey.

Salt and pepper – use standard seasonings to enhance the flavor this delicious oven-roasted turkey.

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How To Prepare A Turkey For Roasting

How to thaw the turkey 

When planning your Thanksgiving dinner, make sure to carve out enough time for the thawing process if you're using a frozen turkey. A rule of thumb is to allow one day for every 4-5 pounds (1.8-2.2 kg) of turkey. In short, thawing times for a whole turkey range from 2 to 3 days.

You will also need enough space in your fridge, as the turkey will be thawed in the fridge. Make sure to place the bird on a baking sheet or pan, in this way the liquids do not leak into the refrigerator while the turkey is thawing.

If you've cut back to the last minute and don't have time to thaw a whole turkey properly, follow this shortcut. Put the turkey in an airtight bag and soak it in cold water for at least 30 minutes per pound (or 500 gr). Change the water occasionally to keep it fresh at all times. Depending on the size of the bird, it may take up to 3-4 hours to bring the turkey to room temperature.

Can you wash the turkey? 

There’s no need to wash your turkey. In fact, it’s advised not to as you can spread salmonella and other germs to the rest of your kitchen. What you can do it to dry with a clean kitchen towel, or use paper towels.

Airing out turkey

Before starting, make sure the turkey is at room temperature, otherwise let it rest for an hour or so. this step helps the skin to dry slightly, facilitating an even butter spreading.

Cleaning the turkey

When you prepare your turkey for roasting, make sure to remove giblets and feathers, if there are any. Next, pat-dry the outside with paper towels and place the wings under the turkey as much as you can.

Can You Brine Turkey?

If you buy a good quality turkey, no brining would be necessary. However, if you’re using a wild turkey, you will need to add a brining step and it need to be brined at least the day before.

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How To Roast a Turkey

Roasting a turkey is easier than you might thinks. You just need patience and plan ahead with preparation. Preheat your oven to 350°F. When the bird is at room temperature and clean, you can start with preparations.

Seasoning and buttering turkey

Start by seasoning the inner cavity and surface of the turkey with salt and pepper. Mix butter, thyme, lemon zest and rosemary in a bowl. Gently the bird lift the skin without tearing it. Using a spatula, gently spread about 1/3 of this herb-buttery mixture under the skin of the turkey.

When you have finished, spread the rest of the butter on the outside of the turkey, making sure not to cover the underside that will be in contact with the pan. To make your turkey flavorful, stuff its cavity with onion, garlic and parsley.

Roasting

Now it's time to roast. Before opening the oven, tie the legs of the turkey with kitchen twine – it's not a must but is ideal if you're looking for an impressive final presentation. Place your turkey in the oven and bake it for 2 and a half hours to 3 and a half hours.

Towards the end of cooking, check with a probe or instant-read thermometer to see if the turkey is cooked. Insert the thermometer into the thickest middle part of the bird without touching the bone. If the turkey's internal temperature is around 165°F and the thigh temperature around 175°F, it means it is ready. Make sure the temperature is not higher otherwise the turkey will not be moist but dry on the inside. To prevent this, cover the turkey with aluminum foil when it starts to brown.

Let the turkey rest

Once the turkey is cooked, cover it with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. This will allow the juice to redistribute throughout the meat and make the turkey nice and juicy. Finally, you can carve your Thanksgiving turkey and serve it.

Save the drippings from the roasting tin to make your own turkey gravy and serve it alongside the main dish.

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At What Temperature Should A Turkey Roast?

Cook the turkey at 350°F. Don’t be tempted to increase the temperature, this will only cause the bird to burn before it’s cooked through. Start checking if after 1 hour and 45 minutes.

How Long Does It Take To Cook A Turkey?

The cooking time depends on the size of your turkey. It usually takes about 13 minutes per pound at 350°F for an unstuffed turkey and 15 minutes for stuffed turkey.

If you roast turkey at 350°F you should follow this timing chart:

  • 8-12 pounds: 2h30 – 3h (6-8 servings)
  • 12-14 pounds: 2h45 – 3h30 (8-10 servings)
  • 14-18 pounds: 3h30 – 4h (10-12 servings)
  • 18-20 pounds: 4h – 4h15 (12-14 servings)
  • 20-24 pounds: 4h15 – 4h45 (14-18 servings).

If you roast turkey at 325°F you should follow this timing chart:

  • 8-12 pounds: 2h45 – 3h15 (6-8 servings)
  • 12-14 pounds: 3h – 3h45 (8-10 servings)
  • 14-18 pounds: 3h45 – 4h15 (10-12 servings)
  • 18-20 pounds: 4h15 – 4h30 (12-14 servings)
  • 20-24 pounds: 4h30 – 5h (14-18 servings).

Can you Make Thanksgiving Turkey Ahead Of Time?

You can keep the seasoned turkey in the fridge overnight, a day before the meal. Before serving, let it rest for about 45-60 minutes, then bake it.

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Can you Stuff Roast Turkey?

If you want to stuff your turkey, make sure not to cook the stuffing inside the turkey. These two have different cooking times, so you might have a perfectly cooked stuffing but a raw turkey, or a perfectly cooked turkey but overcooked stuffing that will make the inside of the bird dry.

What you can do is to fill the cavity with ingredients which can give flavor to the meat, such as onions, apples, citrus, celery, and carrots.

Tips For Making Perfect Roast Turkey

The general rule of thumb is 1–1½ pounds of turkey per person.

Don’t cook the stuffing inside the turkey (it carries a risk of food poisoning). Rather cook it and serve it separately before presenting it on the table.

Make sure not to overcook the bird if you want a moist turkey.

What To Serve With Roasted Turkey

Serve your roasted turkey with some delicious sides like the classic you make during Thanksgiving like sautéed brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, baked creamed corn and garlic butter potatoes.

If you love gravy with your roasted turkey, try also the classic turkey gravy.

How To Store Roasted Turkey

Store leftover turkey in the fridge for up to 3 days. Keep it in an airtight container.

What To Make With Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers

Thanksgiving usually means lots of turkey leftovers. Use it in a salad, a casserole, or as stuffing for a Thanksgiving sandwich, or a tortilla.

Instructions

Before starting, make sure your turkey is at room temperature, otherwise let it rest for an hour. Remove giblets and feathers, if there are any. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Pat-dry the outside with paper towels and place the wings under the turkey.

Season with salt and pepper the inner cavity and surface of the turkey. Mix butter, thyme, lemon zest and rosemary in a bowl. Gently the bird lift the skin without tearing it. Using a spatula, rub about 1/3 of the butter mixture under the skin of the turkey.

Next, stuff its cavity with onion, garlic and parsley.

Spread the rest of the butter on the outside of the turkey, making sure not to cover the underside.

Tie the legs of the turkey with kitchen twine if you're looking for an impressive final presentation.

Place your turkey in a large baking pan. Bake the turkey for 2 and a half hours to 3 and a half hours. Towards the end of cooking, check with a probe or instant-read thermometer if the turkey is cooked. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird without touching the bone. If its internal temperature is around 165°F, it means it's ready. To prevent the turkey from drying out, cover the turkey with aluminum foil when it starts to brown.

Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven, then cover it with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. This will allow the juice to redistribute throughout the meat and make the turkey nice and juicy.

You can serve your roast turkey. When you carve it, start from the thighs.

Go on slice the breast and other pieces.

Serve and enjoy!

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