- A roasting pan, ideally with a rack
- Some turkey/chicken stock and a spoon for basting
- A meat thermometer
- Aluminum Foil
The shape and design of the roasting pan is important.
You want good air flow around the turkey to get a good browning and crispy skin. A roasting pan should be 2 to 3 inches deep to hold the vegetables and drippings without spilling. The resting rack or a bed of vegetables should be used to elevate the turkey near the top edge of the pan to allow air to circulate around it.
seasonings & aromatics
Many chefs prefer to add fresh herbs, as well as salt and pepper to the inside cavity of the turkey and the skin to infuse flavor. Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage are perfect compliments to a turkey.
Season your bird liberally with salt and pepper, inside and out. On the bottom of your pan, place chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic cloves. You'll need enough chopped veggies to cover the bottom of your roasting pan. Add turkey/chicken stock or water to the bottom to keep the veggies from sticking.
Do not stuff your turkey with dressing. This will extend the cook time significantly and possibly dry out the white meat.
getting a crispy skin
The crispy, golden skin of a well-roasted turkey is one of those delights for which there are no words to define. There are a few ways to achieve this, but one thing is constant – the turkey must be roasted, not cooked in a covered pan or in a bag. Here are some tips for achieving a crispy skin:
- Start your oven hot at 425 degrees
- Brush/rub the skin with butter or oil before roasting. Season well with salt & pepper (more about seasonings above).
- Roast the turkey at a high temp for about 30 - 45 minutes (until the skin starts to get a golden hue). Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.
- If the skin starts to dry too much or you are worried about over-cooking the breast meat, tent those areas of the bird with aluminum foil. You may or may not need to this -- there are a lot of variables in ovens, cook time, etc. that may or may not cause this.
- For basting: it is important to baste the bird, but not too often as every time you open the oven the oven takes time to “recover” back to the desired temperature. You can baste simply by spooning stock over the turkey from a saucepan. Another option is to fill a squirt bottle with stock or a mixture of butter + water. Use this to squirt the turkey as needed. Keep the spray bottle in a pot of warm water.
In general, expect to cook a turkey at 350 degrees for approximately 10 to 12 minutes per pound. This depends on a lot of variables, including brine, initial temperature, and if you cover the pan. Every oven is also different.
The turkey is done cooking when the internal temperature of the breast and the thickest part of the thigh have reached 150 - 155 degrees. When you remove the turkey from the oven, loosely tent the bird in foil and wait 30 minutes before carving. The turkey will continue to cook when removed from the heat. This is called “carryover cooking.” The turkey will rise in temperature approximately 7 degrees.
For exceptionally large turkeys (over 24 pounds), we suggest starting your turkey very hot and then cooking at a slower, lower heat such as 325. This allows for a more thorough, even cooking. This will increase the cook time by about 2 minutes per pound. Alternatively, you could cover the entire pan in aluminum foil, add some apple cider or liquid to the bottom of the pan, and cook at a higher temperature like 375 for some time. As the bird nears completion, uncover it and reduce the temperature down to about 325. Wet heat, such as the steam created under the foil, cooks faster than dry heat and will help penetrate deep into that bird.
1. At least an hour before roasting, remove your turkey from the refrigerator (and brine, if applicable) and rinse with cold water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and season with salt (pulls moisture from the skin). If you have extra time, you can start this step as early as the day before. After patting dry, place the turkey on a tray/plate uncovered in your refrigerator overnight. This extended time, uncovered and pat dry, will help the skin dry out and you’ll get an even crispier skin.
2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
3. Add your aromatics & herbs to the skin, cavity and bottom of your roasting pan.
4. Toss 3 to 4 quartered onions, garlic cloves, carrots, roasting potatoes, and other root vegetables in oil and season with salt, then add to the bottom of the roasting pan. These veggies may be eaten later, but more importantly, they will help flavor the pan drippings which can be used to make gravy. For really large birds, wait to add potatoes and carrots until halfway through roasting to keep them from drying out.
5. Place the bird on a rack in the roasting pan, breast side up. Pour a pint of stock in the roasting pan with the vegetables.
6. (Optional) Slice the skin along the breastbone and pour melted butter under and over the skin. Pin the skin back together. Or, cover the bird with a butter-soaked cheesecloth or just rub butter into skin. Add herbs, salt and pepper.
7. Place your chilled but not completely refrigerated turkey into the hot oven (450 degrees). Roast, uncovered, for about 30-45 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure the skin doesn’t burn. You are trying to crisp the skin and lock in the moisture. The turkey should be roughly centered in the oven to get even air flow around the bird. You may need to remove a rack from your oven to achieve this.
8. Once the skin has browned a little, reduce the oven heat to 325 or 350 (lower temperature for larger birds). If the skin is browning too quickly, apply a tented layer of aluminum foil over the breasts.
9. Roast your turkey for approximately 10 to 12 minutes per lb (total time, including the original 30 minutes.) So, for 20 lb turkey should take between 3.5 to 4 hours. A 15 lb turkey only needs 2.5 - 3 hours.
10. After an hour, check to see if the roasting pan has some drippings. Using a baster or spoon, suck up the juices and squirt over the turkey. Continue roasting, checking about every half hour through the window on the oven. You’re looking at the skin, especially breast meat, wing tips and drums. If they're starting to get too brown or even burnt looking, protect with foil.
11. After 2 to 2.5 hours, start watching the internal temperature (this depends on size of the turkey). A remote thermometer with a probe in the bird will make this much easier. The remote probe thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The breasts do cook faster than the legs, so you might want to tent them in foil once the leg starts reading 145.
12. You will want to remove the turkey from the oven when the internal temperature of the breast and thickest part of the thigh reaches about 155 degrees.
13. Let the bird rest (tented with foil) for 30 minutes before carving as it will continue to cook. This will also help keep the turkey moist as the juices will be retained in the meat while it rests.