If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, the wonderful — yet sometimes dreaded — task of preparing and cooking the turkey is in your hands.
Roasting is one of the simplest, most popular ways to cook a turkey. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a pro, you can’t go wrong using these no-fuss steps to making a perfectly roasted turkey for Thanksgiving Day!
How to roast a whole turkey
Step 1: Thaw the turkey
Make sure the turkey is fully thawed. You have to plan ahead for this — you can’t thaw a turkey quickly! You can thaw it in the fridge for a few days (a good rule of thumb is 24 hours per four pounds) or place it in cold water until thawed. If you go this route, change the water every 30-45 minutes for safety reasons. Once you’re sure your turkey is thawed, carefully drain the juices out, and pat dry. You are now ready to roast!
Step 2: Prep the turkey
After rinsing and patting dry, let the turkey sit in the roasting pan on a roasting rack at room temperature for 1-2 hours, breast side up. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub your turkey with butter or oil and seasonings. The butter or oil will help create the crisp, brown skin everyone loves!
If you’re not sure what to season your turkey with, here are a few favorite rubs, but feel free to use what you have on hand, including fresh herbs:
Start all of these with salt and pepper, and then add:
Garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, and dried sage
Seasoned salt, garlic powder, basil, poultry seasoning, and paprika
Onion powder, garlic powder, Old Bay, paprika, and oregano
Ground bay leaves, parsley, dry mustard, and paprika
Coriander, cumin, thyme, and cayenne
Step 3: Place turkey in oven
If you’re going to stuff the turkey, do so immediately before placing it in the oven, not beforehand. Once the oven is preheated, place the turkey in the roasting pan in the oven on the lowest rack. Immediately lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tip: Line the inside of your roasting pan with tinfoil for easy clean up!
Step 4: Check the temperature
After your turkeys been cooking for an hour and a half, check the temperature. When it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thigh, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast, your turkey is done. If your turkey is stuffed, the stuffing has to reach 165 degrees also. If the skin seems to be getting too brown, cover it with aluminum foil and continue cooking.
Tip: A 9-18 pound unstuffed turkey takes about 3.5 hours to cook, so plan accordingly. We recommend always allowing an additional 30 minutes to an hour more time than you think you’ll need… just in case!
Step 5: Basting the turkey
If you’re basting your turkey, do so every 30 minutes, but it’s not necessary for a brown skin. The key to a moist turkey isn’t the basting — it’s ensuring that you don’t overcook it!
Step 6: Rest and carve the turkey
Once it’s fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This will keep all the juices from pouring out when you cut it. “Tent” your turkey with aluminum foil while it rests to keep it from drying out and to make it easier to carve. For instructions on how to carve a turkey, see this step-by-step tutorial.