Mom’s Roast Turkey


Easy methods to cook dinner the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving? Roast it breast-side down! That is our tried-and-true methodology for Thanksgiving turkey and we share all the main points. From defrosting to lengthy to cook dinner the turkey, we have your Thanksgiving coated.

Pictures Credit score:
Elise Bauer

On the subject of vacation cooking, my father and I spend weeks deciding who’s making what for the feast. Divide and conquer, proper?

For 50 years my mom was in control of the turkey, however now that the dinner gathering has shifted to my home, the duty has fallen to me. Fortuitously, my mom has taught me properly!

Her turkey cooking methodology produces a roast turkey that is all the time completely performed. The breast isn’t dried out, however tender and filled with taste. There’s no have to brine or baste.

Video! Easy methods to Prepare dinner a Turkey

3 keys to good turkey

How does my mom do it? Listed below are her three keys to cooking an ideal turkey:

  • Prepare dinner the turkey breast-side down. Whereas the turkey roasts, the juices fall down in direction of the breast, leading to probably the most succulent meat. The breast can also be extra shielded from the warmth, which helps maintain it from getting too dried out.
  • Use a meat thermometer to take out any guess work of when the turkey is completed.
  • Prepare dinner the turkey stuffing individually, not within the cavity, which makes it simpler to cook dinner the turkey extra evenly.

Cooking a turkey breast facet down

The principle distinction between how my mom makes her turkey and everybody else is to cook dinner it breast facet down. By cooking the turkey this fashion, the juices from the cooking turkey fall into the breast whereas the turkey cooks, leading to them most succulent breast conceivable.

The thighs are extra uncovered to the warmth on this methodology as properly, which is nice since darkish meat takes longer to cook dinner than chicken.

For those who cook dinner the chook breast down, the turkey pores and skin over the breast is not going to brown properly. If you need browning on the breast, you’ll want to show the turkey over within the pan and to brown it in the previous couple of minutes of cooking. We hardly ever hassle with turning the turkey over, since we carve up the turkey within the kitchen earlier than bringing it out, and there may be loads of crispy turkey pores and skin on the remainder of the turkey.

Within the years since we first posted this recipe, we nonetheless cook dinner our turkeys breast-side down, they usually’re nonetheless great. If the turkey is sufficiently small, generally I’ll flip it over close to the top to get the breast facet browned, however often, like my mother, I’ll simply roast it the entire time breast-down.

Plan forward to defrost the turkey

Cooking a turkey is fairly easy, however you do have to plan forward, provided that it might probably take a number of hours to roast, and desires time (days if you might want to defrost) beforehand to lose the coolness from the fridge.

In case you are shopping for a frozen turkey, you’ll have to put it within the fridge to defrost. The turkey will want about 5 hours of defrosting time for each pound of turkey.

So when you’ve got a 15 pound turkey, it ought to take about 75 hours, or 3 days, to defrost within the fridge. A 20 pound turkey will take about 100 hours, or 4 days, to defrost.

In case your turkey remains to be partially frozen the day you propose to cook dinner it, clear out the basin of your sink, fill it with cool water and place the turkey in it. Change the water each half hour till the turkey is defrosted.

Use a meat thermometer

For those who don’t have a meat thermometer, please get one! Utilizing one will make your life so much simpler, in any other case there’s simply an excessive amount of guesswork.

I desire to make use of a distant thermometer, that manner you possibly can observe the progress of the turkey because it cooks, with out opening the oven door. However any on the spot learn thermometer will do. (I take advantage of two ChefAlarm distant thermometers, one inserted into the breast, one inserted right into a thigh.)

What Temperature To Prepare dinner a Turkey

165°F is the USDA really helpful temperature for cooked turkey. The turkey will proceed to cook dinner for a number of minutes after you’re taking it out of the oven, so take it out earlier than the meat reaches these goal temperatures.

I often take the the turkey out when the breast reaches 155°F to 160°F, and the thighs 155°F to 165°F. Whereas white breast meat can simply dry out if its temperature will get too excessive, thigh meat can deal with a better inside temperature with out drying out.

Breast-side up roast turkey, after the turkey has been turned over and broiled a couple of minutes to brown the breast

How Lengthy to Prepare dinner Your Turkey

Right here’s a fast approach to estimate how lengthy it takes to cook dinner the turkey, although observe that the precise cooking time will fluctuate relying on how chilly your turkey is to start out, and your particular person oven. So be sure that to test the turkey WELL BEFORE (at the very least an hour) you estimate it to be performed.

Multiply the burden of your turkey by 13 minutes per pound. So a

  • 10 pound turkey would take about 130 minutes or 2 hours 10 minutes
  • 12 pound turkey would take 156 minutes, or 2 hours 36 minutes
  • 14 pound turkey would take 182 minutes, or 3 hours 2 minutes
  • 16 pound turkey would take 208 minutes, or 3 hours 28 minutes
  • 18 pound turkey would take 234 minutes, or 3 hours 54 minutes
  • 20 pound turkey would take 260 minutes, or 4 hours 20 minutes

Once more, that is simply an estimate! In case your turkey isn’t near room temperature when it goes within the oven, it is going to take longer to cook dinner. Whether it is at room temp, it could take much less time to cook dinner. So test the temperature early.

To brine or to not brine the turkey

For those who comply with these directions for cooking the turkey breast-side down, and take away the turkey from the oven earlier than the thighs attain 165°F and the breast 160°F, there isn’t any have to brine the turkey! Your turkey might be completely succulent and scrumptious.

That stated, if you need to cook dinner your turkey in a extra typical method, breast facet up, brining will assist maintain the breast from drying out. See our strategies for each moist and dry turkey brines:

  • Best Turkey Brine
  • Easy methods to Dry Brine a Turkey

Turkey Hotlines

If you end up in a bind with how you can cook dinner your turkey, Butterball provides a phone hotlines throughout the vacation season at (800) 288-8372

By the way in which, right here’s a enjoyable article about among the loopy calls the hotline receives:

What to serve alongside your thanksgiving turkey

  • Turkey Stuffing served on the facet
  • Excellent Mashed Potatoes made with Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Cranberry Sauce with our with out mix-ins
  • Cranberry Relish with recent cranberries, apples, and orange
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with lemon juice and Parmesan
  • Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream
  • Apple Pie with the flakiest do-it-yourself crust

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Mom’s Roast Turkey Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Prepare dinner time: 4 hours

Deal with uncooked turkey the way in which you’d uncooked hen, with care. Use a separate chopping board and utensils to keep away from contaminating different meals.

Wash your fingers with cleaning soap and water after touching uncooked turkey and earlier than you contact anything within the kitchen. Wipe down surfaces with dampened paper towels.

Need assistance determining how large a turkey to get? Butterball has a turkey calculator that helps you determine simply what number of kilos you want. Typically, plan for:

9-12 lb turkey for 6-9 individuals
12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 individuals
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 individuals
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 individuals


  • 1 turkey, approx. 15 lbs (see Recipe Observe)
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Additional virgin olive oil or softened or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Celery tops
  • 1 to 2 carrots
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • A number of sprigs of recent rosemary, sage, and/or thyme


1 Defrost the turkey a number of days forward: In case you are beginning with a frozen turkey, you’ll need to permit a number of days to defrost the turkey. You will need to defrost it within the fridge in order that the turkey stays chilled throughout this course of.

Put the wrapped frozen turkey in a pan to stop leaks after which place it within the fridge. It should take about 5 hours of defrosting time for each pound of turkey. So when you’ve got a 15 pound turkey, it ought to take about 75 hours, or 3 days, to defrost.

If you might want to defrost it extra rapidly than that, you possibly can place it in a big tub of cool water, and maintain altering the water to maintain it chilly, till the turkey is defrosted.

2 Deliver the turkey to room temp earlier than roasting: Take away the turkey from the fridge 2 to 5 hours (relying on the scale of the chook) earlier than cooking to permit it to come back nearer to room temperature. The turkey will cook dinner extra rapidly and extra evenly that manner.

3 Take away giblets and rinse: If you end up able to cook dinner the turkey, take away it from its bundle. Often turkeys come packaged with the neck and giblets (coronary heart, gizzard, liver) in the principle cavity or the neck opening (be sure that to test each!)

Pull the giblets out; they’re usually wrapped in a small paper bundle.

If you need, you possibly can chop up the center and gizzard to make inventory for the stuffing or dressing (put the chopped coronary heart and gizzard right into a small saucepan, cowl with water, add salt, carry to simmer for an hour or so.)

You may both cook dinner the neck alongside the turkey, or use it to make turkey inventory. It’s also possible to use the entire giblets for making giblet gravy.

Rinse the turkey in and out with water. For those who see stray turkey feathers, pluck them out. Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry.

Many turkeys include a plastic tie holding the drumsticks collectively. Test the directions on the turkey bundle; it’s possible that you’ll not have to take away the tie except you might be cooking the turkey at a really excessive temperature.

Labeled turkey giblets set on parchment.Close up of a whole turkey with its legs tied for a turkey recipe.

3 Preheat the oven to 400 levels F.

4 Add the aromatics and truss the turkey: Slather the within of the cavity with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. Take a pair teaspoons of salt and rub everywhere in the inside the turkey. (Skip salt in case you are utilizing a brined turkey.)

Put half an onion, reduce into wedges, a number of sprigs of parsley, a chopped carrot or two, and a few leafy celery tops into the principle cavity of the turkey. These are aromatics that can taste the turkey from the within because it cooks.

Cowl the doorway to the principle cavity with aluminum foil, or shut it with steel skewers or kitchen string (not nylon string!), in order that the aromatics do not fall out if you are roasting the turkey.

Put just a few sprigs of parsley into the neck opening, cowl the opening with the encompassing turkey pores and skin, and shut the opening with skewers or string.

By the way in which, we do not cook dinner stuffing (or dressing as it’s recognized in lots of components of the nation) within the turkey anymore. Stuffing the turkey provides to the general cooking time, and never packing the turkey with stuffing will permit the turkey to cook dinner extra evenly. We do make our stuffing with inventory made out of the turkey giblets so the stuffing has loads of turkey taste.

We truss our turkey, although some individuals select not too. The purpose of trussing is to maintain the legs and wings near the physique so they do not unfold out whereas cooking.

To truss, make certain that the turkey’s legs are tied collectively, held near the physique, and tie a string across the turkey physique to carry the wings in shut. (Here is an excellent video on trussing: how you can truss a turkey.)

How to cook a turkey by stuffing aromatics in the cavity.Foil covered aromatics for a turkey recipe.The neck cavity stuffed with herbs to show how to cook a turkey.The neck cavity wrapped for a turkey recipe.

5 Season the surface of the turkey: Rub both softened butter or additional virgin olive oil everywhere in the exterior of the turkey. Sprinkle salt generously on all sides of the surface of the turkey (don’t add salt in case you are utilizing a brined turkey). Sprinkle pepper over the turkey as properly.

6 Place turkey breast-side down on the rack: Place the turkey BREAST DOWN on a rack over a sturdy roasting pan large enough to catch all of the drippings.

How have you learnt the turkey is breast facet down? The wings are up and the legs are down.

Observe which you can additionally place the turkey straight on an oven rack with a big roasting pan to catch the drippings on the rack beneath. That methodology helps create a convection-like atmosphere, serving to the warmth flow into extra evenly across the turkey.

Add a number of sprigs of recent (if attainable) thyme, sage, and/or rosemary to the surface of the turkey or tucked beneath the wings.

Observe that in case you are utilizing a distant thermometer (or two) to gauge the temperature of the turkey whereas it cooks, it is best to search out the proper place to insert the probe when the turkey is breast-side UP. So eyeball the place you assume the thermometer probe(s) ought to go first, earlier than inserting the turkey breast-side down within the pan. As soon as the turkey is breast-side down within the pan, insert the probes into the thickest and coldest components of the breast and/or thighs, ensuring the probe(s) isn’t touching the steel rack or pan. For those who solely have one distant thermometer, put it within the breast.

An uncooked turkey for a turkey recipe.How to cook a turkey by trussing and setting in a roasting pan.

7 Roast the turkey: Earlier than you place the turkey within the oven, do a tough calculation of how a lot total time it ought to take to cook dinner the turkey. Often they are saying to imagine 15 minutes for each pound of meat, however I’ve present in observe that it is often lower than that, extra like 13 minutes per pound.

Cooking time will fluctuate relying on the scale of the turkey, how lengthy it has been sitting at room temperature earlier than cooking, and the form and particulars of your particular oven. So give you a tough estimate for the general cooking time, after which be sure that to test how the turkey is doing properly earlier than it’s speculated to be performed!

Put the turkey within the oven at 400°F, uncovered. For the 15 lb turkey, begin the cooking at 400°F for the primary 20 minutes to brown it. Then cut back the warmth to 325°F for the following 1 to 2 hours, till the inner temperature of breast reaches about 140°F to 145°F or so. Then cut back the warmth additional to 225°F till performed, wherever from a half hour to an hour or extra.

Observe that the decrease oven temperature on the finish of cooking may also help you time if you need the turkey to be performed. If the turkey is cooking extra rapidly than you anticipate, decreasing the oven temp can prolong the cooking time. If the turkey is not cooking rapidly sufficient and also you’re able to eat, do not decrease the temperature to 225°F, or if you have already got, improve it once more to 325°F.

8 Brown the breast (elective): If you need the turkey pores and skin of the breast to be browned, when the turkey is near being performed (about 150°F for the breast), you will want to show the turkey over in order that the breast is on high, and put it in a 500°F oven or beneath the broiler for 4 to 5 minutes, simply sufficient time to brown the breast.

Observe that by browning the breast it’s possible you’ll find yourself over-cooking the turkey breast somewhat bit. We frequently do not flip the turkey over. Turning the turkey over could be a sizzling, messy job, so when you do it, the easiest way is to make use of clear oven mitts or clear kitchen towels (simply throw them within the laundry afterwards.)

roast turkey in pan ready to be carved

9 Test the turkey to make sure it is performed: Begin taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, inserted deep into the thickest a part of the turkey breast and thigh, an hour and a half earlier than the turkey must be performed.

You desire a ensuing temperature of 165°F for the chicken (breast) and 165°F to 170°F for the darkish meat (thighs and legs). The temperature of the chook will proceed to rise as soon as you’re taking it out of the oven, so take the turkey out of the oven when the temperature studying for the breast is 155°F to 160°F, and for the thigh is 160°F to 165°F. If you do not have a meat thermometer, spear the breast with a knife. The turkey juices must be clear, not pink.

If the thighs attain their goal temperature earlier than the breast, flip the turkey over and let the turkey end cooking breast facet up.

8 Relaxation the turkey and carve: When you take away the turkey from the oven, switch it to a chopping board, tent it with aluminum foil to maintain it heat, and let it relaxation for 15-30 minutes, relying on the scale of the turkey. Flip the turkey breast facet as much as carve it. (See Severe Eats video on Easy methods to Carve a Turkey.)

Making Turkey Gravy

Make the gravy whereas the turkey is resting coated on the carving board. You probably have used a thick steel roasting pan, you possibly can usually put it straight on the stovetop burner, if not, scrape off the drippings and put them right into a skillet. In case you are utilizing the roasting pan, use a steel spatula to scrape unfastened any dripping that may be caught to the underside of the pan.

1 Make a roux with the turkey fats: Use a steel spoon to ladle off among the extra fats from the pan (go away about 4 Tbsp or so of fats and drippings within the pan) and reserve for an additional use.

You should utilize both flour or cornstarch to make the gravy. (We discover we get higher outcomes with flour, so often make gravy with flour except serving a visitor who should eat gluten-free.)

If utilizing flour, warmth the fats and drippings within the pan till they’re bubbly. Sprinkle with 1/4 of flour everywhere in the fats and drippings.

Stir with a wire whisk to make a roux with the flour and fats. Let the flour brown a minute or so within the sizzling pan.

2 Add liquid to make the gravy: Slowly add 3 cups of water, inventory, or milk to the pan, whisking vigorously to do away with any lumps. Let the gravy simmer and thicken.

Add salt and pepper, floor sage, thyme or different seasonings to style.

See our gravy recipe for extra element and for directions on making gravy utilizing cornstarch.

Save Bones for Inventory

If you end up completed together with your turkey, save the bones from the carcass to make a scrumptious turkey soup.