The Two Simple Steps to Make Roast Turkey
To make the perfect roast turkey simply put it in the oven and take it out of the oven. Yes, those are the two simple steps. Intrigued? Read on…
So many people make huge deal made about roasting a turkey with a million tips and tricks for making the perfect turkey. There does not need to be so much stress, sweat and tears.
There are literally two steps to making a roast turkey. Put it in the oven and take it out of the oven. Everything else is just a matter of time.
The Key to Moist Roast Turkey
By understanding exactly how to use heat, you can easily make the perfectly moist roast turkey. In the excellent mini-series on Netflix called ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Samin Nosrat explains exactly how to do so.
The key to a moist turkey is having the bird at a uniform temperature. This means that it is not cold on the inside and warm on the outside because then, of course, the outside will cook and dry out before the inside is done.
If you have bought a frozen turkey you need to start defrosting it in the fridge a few days before. Below is a chart on thawing time by weight.
Turkey Thawing Time
|Turkey Size||Thaw in Refrigerator||Thaw in Cold Water|
|4 to 12 lbs.||1 to 3 days||2 to 6 hours|
|12 to 16 lbs.||3 to 4 days||6 to 8 hours|
|16 to 20 lbs.||4 to 5 days||8 to 10 hours|
|20 to 24 lbs.||5 to 6 days||10 to 12 hours|
Once your turkey is defrosted (or if you bought a fresh bird) and the big day has arrived, you need to take the turkey out of the fridge half an hour before you plan to roast it. Remember, you don’t want the outside to cook before the inside, so allowing it warm a little before you put it in the oven is essential.
Do not leave it out for much longer than half an hour or bacteria will begin to breed. No one wants to be sick on the holidays.
Also, while we’re on the topic of food safety, don’t wash the turkey before you put it in the oven. Any bacteria that’s on it will be killed in the hot oven but if there is bacteria in the water that splashes onto your kitchen surfaces, this can make people sick.
Once the turkey is cooked and out of the oven. The meat should be refrigerated within two hours.
Don’t Forget the Giblets
The giblets are often placed in a bag inside the cavity. Don’t forget to take them out! I know at least one family story where there was a melted plastic bag discovered in the turkey after it was cooked. Melted plastic is not a good…
Place the turkey on a roasting pan and pour chicken broth into the bottom. This prevents the meat juices sticking to the pan and makes cleaning so much easier. No one wants to be stuck scrubbing pans!
The liquid from the roasting pan also makes a delicious gravy so hang on to it.
Don’t stuff the turkey
I don’t recommend stuffing the turkey for a few reasons. The first is that the air will circulate better if the cavity is empty. So, the inside of the turkey will be at a closer temperature to the outside of the turkey and it will all cook at the same time. This lessens the risk of it drying out.
The second reason is that stuffing is bread based. Bread contains gluten which is not good for PCOS. If you’re going to go to the effort of making gluten-free stuffing, cook it separately to ensure it comes out right.
The third reason is that we’re trying to keep everything as simple as possible. Stuffing the turkey isn’t necessary so skip it.
Many turkeys are already brined to extend their shelf life which is great news for us because it’s one less thing to do. Check if your turkey is already brined.
If it is not brined, it’s not completely necessary. The idea is that the turkey absorbs more moisture and flavoring. But, if it’s cooking correctly then this isn’t something you need to worry about.
Heat and Ovens
So here’s the key thing to understand about heat and ovens -the back of the oven is hotter than the front. Sure, there are convection ovens which redistribute the heat more evenly but the closer to the door where it can escape, the less heat there will be.
Therefore, put the turkey in the oven with the breast towards the door and the legs towards the back. The breast cooks faster so by putting it closer to the door, it will have less heat and the whole turkey will cook more uniformly.
Below is a chart on turkey roasting time by size.
Turkey Roasting Time by Size
|4 to 6 lbs. (breast)||1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours||Not usually applicable|
|6 to 8 lbs. (breast)||2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours||3 to 3 1/2 hours|
|8 to 12 lbs.||2 3/4 to 3 hours||3 to 3 1/2 hours|
|12 to 14 lbs.||3 to 3 3/4 hours||3 1/2 to 4 hours|
|14 to 18 lbs.||3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours||4 to 4 1/4 hours|
|18 to 20 lbs.||4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours||4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours|
|20 to 24 lbs.||4 1/2 to 5 hours||4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours|
Fiddling around with boiling hot juices is not for me. If the breast is towards the door, the bird should be fine and basting unnecessary. If you really want to do it make sure you’re wearing long sleeves and there are no distractions. You can spoon the juices over the breast or use a baster.
How you know when the roast turkey is cooked
You can tell the turkey is done when a meat thermometer registers 165 °F. Make sure it is not touching the bone. I personally find the pop up timers very convenient. Once it has popped out you know the turkey is cooked.
Now, once you have taken the turkey out of the oven, you just need to give it some time. The resting period is extremely important and should be factored into the cooking time when you’re planning your dinner.
While the turkey rests all the juices are absorbed into the meat. This makes the meat juicier and also prevents a mess of juices spilling everywhere when you carve the turkey. The turkey will initially be too hot to carve anyway, so allowing it rest will save you potentially burning yourself.
Carving the roast turkey
In my opinion this is the hard part! Carving the turkey can be messy, so do it in the kitchen not in front of your guests. I love the video on Spruce Eats which shows exactly how to carve a turkey and present it beautifully.
Enjoy your dinner! If you’re wondering what to have for dessert check out The Best Healthy Pumpkin Pie.
Roast Turkey in Two Simple Steps
- Roasting pan
- 10 lb turkey giblets removed
- 300 ml chicken stock
- Defrost the turkey in the refrigerator if using a frozen turkey. See chart above for defrost times by weight.
- Remove defrosted or fresh turkey from the refrigerator half an hour before cooking. Place turkey on a roasting pan. Ensure the cavity is empty. Some turkeys come with the giblets inside.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Pour the chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan. This makes cleaning easier because the meat juices don't stick the pan and also provides the liquid for delicious gravy.
- Place the turkey in the oven with the breast towards the door. This is absolutely key to having the turkey cook uniformly.
- Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the turkey and on your oven. See chart above.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This time can be extended up to an hour.
- Ensure leftovers are refrigerated within 2 hours.