Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I imagine many of you are frantically getting your homes ready for guests to arrive tomorrow while simultaneously cooking. If you have the privilege of roasting the turkey and you’ve never done this, you might be feeling a bit stressed out about how to do this because when it comes down to it, you do not want to serve dry flavorless slices of the most important main dish of the day.
There is no need to panic or even stress about this. It’s actually very simple and once you’ve mastered this, you will be able to roast a turkey with confidence for years to come.
The first thing you need to do is brine the turkey. As in, today. Usually I like a 2 day brine, a one day brine will do, and 8 hours is better than nothing. Here is the link to my brine recipe which if you read the comments has been a very successful brine for many people .
When it comes time to roast the turkey I use Butterball Turkey’s method which can also be used using a turkey roasting bag which I have done with great success. But I’ve also roasted a turkey without the bag with great success. The key to not overcooking a turkey is to use a meat thermometer to pull the turkey out on time because oven and roasting times will always vary. Make sure to stuff the cavity with aromatics (read below) and season with salt and pepper.
Another important step is to make sure you don’t roast the turkey from the fridge straight to the oven. The turkey needs time to come to room temperature. I let mine sit on the counter-top for 2 hours. Another important step, make sure to check back on the turkey while it’s roasting to make sure it’s not browning too dark towards the end. About 2/3 of the way through, loosely cover the turkey with foil over the breast and legs. Lastly, pull the turkey out when the temperature reaches 165 degrees F. in the center of the breast. Allow the turkey to rest about 20-30 minutes before serving.
Here is my recipe guide for roasting.
I follow the Butterball roasting method. What I do is rinse the brine off and pat the turkey dry and set it on a rimmed cookie sheet. I stuff the cavity with fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), a lemon cut in half, an onion cut in half, and an apple cut in quarters. Then I rub the turkey with olive oil, lightly season with kosher salt and pepper. I let the turkey rest for 2 hours on the counter so it can come to room temperature before roasting at 325 degrees. Here are the cooking times I would use.
Weight Cook Time
4½-7 lbs. 2-2½ hrs.
7-9 lbs. 2½-3 hrs.
9-18 lbs. 3-3½ hrs.
18-22 lbs. 3½-4 hrs.
22-24 lbs. 4-4½ hrs.
24-30 lbs. 4½-5 hrs.
After the turkey has been roasting about 2/3 of the time through, I loosely tent the breast and drumsticks with the foil to prevent overcooking and over-browning. I pull the turkey out when my thermometer reaches 165 degrees F in the center breast and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes on the counter (still tented) before serving. While it’s resting, I usually try to bake or cook a side dish with stuffing. And that’s it!
- Alice's perfect brine (recipe here)
- one thawed whole turkey
- lemon cut in half
- apple cut in half
- onion cut in half
- 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- 8 large stems thyme
- handful fresh sage
- olive oil
- kosher salt and pepper
- Brine the turkey 1-2 days before roasting or at least 8 hours in advance.
- Rinse the turkey off and pat dry. Set the turkey in a roasting pan and stuff the cavity with the lemon, apple, onion, and fresh herbs.
- Rub the outside of the turkey with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Allow the turkey to rest in the pan for 2 hours before roasting.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Roast the turkey according to the cooking times below.
- Weight Cook Time
- ½-7 lbs. 2-2½ hrs.
- -9 lbs. 2½-3 hrs.
- -18 lbs. 3-3½ hrs.
- -22 lbs. 3½-4 hrs.
- -24 lbs. 4-4½ hrs.
- -30 lbs. 4½-5 hrs.
- After the turkey has been roasting about ⅔ of the time through, loosely cover the breast and drumsticks with the foil to prevent overcooking and over-browning.
- Pull the turkey out when my thermometer reaches 165 degrees F in the center breast and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes on the counter (still tented) before serving.
- Tip: While it’s resting, bake or cook a side dish like stuffing. And that's it!