Roasting sounds fancy, but there’s really nothing to it. Whether you’re brushing up on your skills or preparing your first holiday meal on your own, just follow the steps to learn how to roast a turkey to golden brown, juicy perfection.

What You’ll Need

 
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Herbs
  • Turkey
  • Roasting Rack
  • Roasting Pan
  • Meat Thermometer
 

Step 1: Preheat and Prep

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. with a rack in the lower third. Remove the plastic packaging from the thawed turkey. Remove the clip holding the turkey legs together, if desired. Take out the bag of giblets—the liver, heart and gizzard—from the small neck cavity of the turkey, and remove the neck from the large body cavity. Put them aside and use to make gravy, stuffing or soup, or discard. Remove the turkey from the brine, if it’s been brined.  

Step 2: Dry, Oil and Season

Pat the inside and outside of the bird dry with several layers of paper towels. Brush the outside of the turkey with vegetable oil, then season the outside of the bird and inside of both the large cavity and the neck cavity with salt and pepper, if the turkey is unbrined. Skip the salt and season only with pepper, if the turkey is brined. TIP Stuff the large cavity with halved lemons, oranges and herbs, if you’re not baking the stuffing in the bird. This will help infuse the turkey with additional flavor.  

Step 3: Stuff and Truss

Spoon the prepared stuffing into the body cavity of the turkey, if desired. Don’t pack it in—the stuffing will expand during baking and an overstuffed bird will take longer to cook. Retie the legs together with kitchen twine, if desired. TIP Make sure both the turkey and the stuffing hit a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF., for safety. You can also bake the stuffing in a baking dish.  

Step 4: Prep the Pan

Place a roasting rack in a roasting pan. To prevent the turkey skin from fusing with the rack during the long roasting time, coat the rack with a nonstick spray—even if the rack is nonstick. Then cradle the turkey on the rack, breast side up. TIP No rack? Make a large ring out of crunched aluminum foil or scatter large chunks of aromatic vegetables like onions and celery on the bottom of the pan. Both will keep the bird elevated so heat circulates evenly.  

Step 5: Ready, Set, Roast

Slide the roasting pan into the preheated oven. Determine how long to roast the turkey based on its weight—see the roasting chart below. Rotate the pan every 2 hr. to ensure even browning. TIP Once the turkey is in the oven, thoroughly wash countertops, cutting boards, and equipment with warm soapy water before proceeding with additional meal preparation.  

Step 6: Check for Color

After 2 hr. of roasting, check the turkey for color. When the skin starts to brown—after 2 to 2½ hr. of roasting—loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil to keep it from getting too dark.  

Step 7: Temp the Turkey

Use a meat thermometer to check the turkey’s internal temperature after roasting for the minimum time as determined by its weight. If the turkey is stuffed, make sure to check the temperature of the stuffing too. Both the turkey and the stuffing must be at least 165°F. for safety. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. TIP Resting allows the juices to redistribute through the meat, making it more moist and flavorful. The turkey can rest for up to 1 hr. and still stay hot, giving you time to work on other parts of the menu.  

Roasting Guide

Turkey Weight                                       Unstuffed                                        Stuffed

8 to 12 lb.  (3.6 kg -  5.5 kg)                 2¾ to 3 hr.                                     3 to 3½ hr.

12 to 14 lb.  (3.6 kg - 6.4 kg)                3 to 3¾ hr.                                     3½ to 4 hr.

14 to 18 lb.  (6.4 kg - 8.2 kg)                3¾ to 4¼ hr.                                  4 to 4¼ hr.

18 to 20 lb.  (8.2 kg -  9.1 kg)               4¼ to 4½ hr.                                  4¼ to 4¾ hr.

20 to 24 lb.  (9.1 kg - 11 kg)                  4½ to 5 hr.                                   4¾ to 5¼ hr.

Times above assume a 325°F. oven temperature and are approximate based on recommendations of the USDA. Always use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.