How to Roast the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey {Plus an Easy Turkey Stock Recipe}

1When I was working during my brief career as a chef, I had the privilege of working with some very genius culinary artists. From them, I learned a tip here and trick there about how to roast the perfect Thanksgiving turkey (usually around Thanksgiving time, I wonder why?). After analyzing and pulling each of those bits of wisdom together, here is the resulting turkey roasting method that I have settled upon.

Now, the method detailed below is not the only method out there, neither is it necessarily the absolute best (although my taste buds do think it’s up there). But, no one will argue that, after following these directions, an awfully delicious turkey results!

Day Before

  1. Remove the turkey from any wrapping or trussing (i.e. string or wire).
  2. Pull out the giblets and neck; if desired, reserve these for turkey stock to use for the gravy.
  3. Cut/break/yank the wings off at the first joint. Toss with the reserved giblets and neck for stock (or throw away). I learned that this part of the wing is removed because it has hardly any meat on it and it tends to often burn before the rest of the bird has cooked.
  4. Rinse the bird within and without and pat dry with a clean wash cloth or hand towel.
  5. Generously salt the bird all over the entire exterior. You can use any kind of salt (table salt, real salt, Celtic salt, etc.). Inspired by the yummy flavor profile the beef brisket that my husband’s aunt makes, I used garlic salt, onion salt, and celery salt (the same salts she uses for her brisket).
  6. Place the turkey breast-side up in a large roasting pan with a roasting rack (or a wire cooling rack) on the bottom.
  7. Pop, uncovered, into the refrigerator and leave overnight. You’re purposely drying out the skin because this will help the skin to crisp.
  8. If desired, prepare turkey stock to use for the gravy (see the printable turkey stock recipe I like to use below).
  9. Set out 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter to soften overnight.

Day Of

  1. About 3 hours (give or take, depends on the turkey’s size) prior to roasting the turkey, pull the turkey from the refrigerator and set on the counter top to warm to room temperature.
  2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees (not 350 yet) Fahrenheit.
  3. Using your hands, rub 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the softened butter all over the entire exterior of the turkey. This is also a good time to fill the cavity with any flavoring foods. I just like to cut a whole bulb of garlic (love garlic!) in half and stuff it in the cavity. Other good options include a halved onion, quartered lemons, sliced oranges, or fresh herbs.
  4. Make sure the turkey is on the roasting rack (or cooling rack) upside down (that’s breast side down). This will ensure that the juices in the turkey make their way into the breast to make them nice and moist.
  5. Pop the turkey in the oven and allow to roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes (this initiates the crispy skin).
  6. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook the turkey for approximately the recommended time as determined utilizing the formula below (I say approximately because ovens vary; also keep in mind that you may have to rotate the pan halfway through if your oven heats unevenly).

    Turkeys Total Wight (In Pounds) / 6 = # of Hours to Roast at 350 Degrees Fahrenheith

    Times are approximate (exact time will depend upon your oven, altitude, humidity, etc.) If your turkey’s weight has a decimal point in it (for example, 17.4 pounds), round up the weight  to the next pound (our example would be rounded to 18 pounds) before doing this formula.

  7. About 2/3 of the way while the turkey is roasting, remove it from the oven (for example, say you’re roasting it for 4 hours; remove it from the oven about 2-1/2 hours in). Then, using thick, clean washcloths or hand towels, CAREFULLY (it will be HOT!) flip the turkey over so that it is breast-side up. Carefully (perhaps use a fork, as the turkey will obviously still be HOT!) rub the last 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter over the top of the bird (it should just melt over it). This is also a good time to sprinkle on any additional herbs or spices. I sprinkled some oregano over the top.
  8. Return to the oven for the remaining time.

  9. During the last hour or so, check the turkey several times for doneness. To do this, carefully poke it with a fork and press some of the juices out. If the juices run clear or yellow (as opposed to pink or red), the turkey is probably done. Another method is to wiggle one of the legs. If it pulls away easily, it is most likely done. But the best method is to check with a thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, being careful not to touch the bone. If the thermometer reads between 170 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, turkey’s done.
  10. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for about 30 minutes before carving. This step is very important! Cutting into any meat (turkey or otherwise) before it has had a chance to rest will result in excess steam escaping, causing the moisture in the meat to be reduced.


And there you have it! A multi-chef-inspired turkey roasting method that is guaranteed to produce an absolutely delicious, crispy-skinned turkey. Bon apetit! Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, too!

Top Image Credit: Free Digital Photos


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