Turkey Roasting 101

Roast turkey is a Thanksgiving must! Check out all our tips on how to roast a turkey. From purchasing the right pan to carving a roast turkey, you'll find great information and tips here.

Learning how to roast a turkey isn't easy. There's a fine line between a bird that's properly cooked and one that's unsafe for guests to eat. We have important tips and pro secrets about how to roast a turkey so this Thanksgiving is easier—and tastier—than ever.

Selecting a Turkey Roasting Pan

You may not use a roasting pan every day, but it's a valuable piece of kitchen equipment to have on hand for your holiday turkey roast recipe. The proper pan ensures that your turkey cooks up moist and golden brown. The pan should just hold the turkey with no part of the bird extending beyond the pan, or the meat juices will drip into the oven. On the other hand, if the pan is too large for the turkey, the juices in the pan will burn.

When buying a turkey roasting pan, look for:

  • Shallow depth
  • Heavy weight
  • Good heat-conducting qualities
  • Handles (especially helpful when pulling the hot pan from the oven)
  • A rack or trivet to hold the bird out of the drippings and to allow the heat to reach the underside of the bird
  • The right fit

If you aren't looking to invest in a roasting pan, you can use your broiler pan. Place a wire rack in the bottom of the broiler pan to keep the turkey out of the drippings.

Lightweight, disposable aluminum roasting pans should not be used for cooking turkey; those pans are simply not heavy enough to support the weight of the bird. It could spill or break, causing serious burns, when you try to remove it from the oven.

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    Roasting a Turkey

    Prep your oven by placing the rack in the lowest position and preheating to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. To enhance browning, brush with oil. Then insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the center of an inside thigh muscle so the bulb doesn't touch bone.   Cover the turkey loosely with foil, leaving space between the bird and the foil. Press the foil over the drumsticks and neck. Roast turkey using the timings below as a guide. When bird has been in the oven for two-thirds of the time listed, cut skin or string between drumsticks. Remove foil the last 30 to 45 minutes. The turkey is done when the thigh meat is 180 degrees F and the stuffing is at least 165 degrees F.   To check temperatures, pull the bird out of the oven, then insert the thermometer into the thickest portion, not touching bone or the pan. The temperature should register in about 15 seconds.   After removing the bird from the oven, the temperature of the meat will rise about 5 degrees. The drumsticks should move very easily in their sockets, and their thickest parts should feel soft when pressed. The juices from the thigh should run clear when pierced deeply with a long-tine fork. Cover loosely with foil, and let stand 20 minutes to facilitate carving. Release legs from leg clamp, if present. To avoid burns or splatters, do not remove clamp until bird has cooled slightly. Remove stuffing before carving.   Timing Guides for Whole, Stuffed Turkeys in a 325 Degree F Oven:

    • For 8- to 12-pound turkey, roast 3 to 3-3/4 hours.
    • For 12- to 14-pound turkey, roast 3-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours.
    • For 14- to 18-pound turkey, roast 4 to 5 hours.
    • For 18- to 20-pound turkey, roast 4-1/2 to 5-1/4 hours.
    • For 20- to 24-pound turkey, roast 4-3/4 to 5-3/4 hours.

    For unstuffed turkeys of the same weight, reduce the total cooking time by 15 to 45 minutes.

    Get Our Best Roast Turkey Recipes now!

    Before Carving Turkey

    After the roast turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand 15 to 20 minutes before carving. This allows the flesh firm up so it's easier to slice and gives the juices time to evenly redistribute throughout the meat.

    Cover the bird with foil to keep it warm. Then place bird on a carving board, remove stuffing, and use a sharp carving knife or an electric knife for slicing.

    Learn How to Carve a Turkey with our easy-to-follow step-by-step guide.


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