Learning how to cook a turkey is an absolute must as the family chef come the holidays. In no time at all, you're going to learn the step by step process on how to cook a turkey in the oven that everyone around your table loves!
To be honest, I haven't cooked a turkey for the past few holiday meals once my husband learned how to master deep frying a turkey. But this year, I'm taking back the turkey and using my traditional oven method my mother taught me.
One of the best benefits of cooking a turkey is the aroma of the holidays filling your home and kitchen. It just isn't the same without the smell of a turkey dinner roasting in the oven for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Here on the blog, I share my favourite baking from scratch recipes from my grandparents collection with you. Baking, canning and cooking large roast family holiday meals are my favourite things to do in the kitchen.
I’m here to help you make this happen, from recipes, tutorials, reviews and printables. Somewhere we’ve lost our way when it comes to being barefoot in the Kitchen.
Holiday meals, Sunday roast dinners, spending quality time together surrounded by a homemade from scratch meal especially with local homegrown ingredients is something we often don’t do enough of anymore.
I’m a big believer in the power of eating together. May you find inspiration from this recipe, and the rest of our holiday recipes. It truly is a special gift to share a warm meal together.
Even more dishes for the holidays.
& you can't forget the baking.
Honestly making a family holiday dinner is something to be proud of! It's not easy, but it can be done well. Read my tips for a stress free holiday meal.
HOW TO COOK A TURKEY
No matter the occasion, learning how to cook a turkey is and doing it well can easily be accomplished by even the beginner cook.
This is a straight forward recipe for cooking a turkey in the oven, just follow the step by step guide and print off the recipe to put on the fridge now.
PIN FOR LATER
STEP ONE: HOW LONG TO DEFROST TURKEY
Depending on the weight of the turkey, defrosting a frozen turkey can take anywhere from 1 to 6 days in the refrigerator and 2-12 hours in cold water to defrost in time for preparing for the oven.
If you’ve found yourself completely strapped for time and somehow forgot to defrost your turkey it really isn’t the end of the world. My friend Victoria has a great tutorial on how to cook a turkey frozen here.
Here’s a general rule of thumb for defrosting your turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every four pounds of turkey. Depending on the size of your turkey you may choose to use the cold water method instead.
A frozen turkey will take half it’s weight in time to defrost in cold water in the sink. Ex. a 12 pound turkey will take 2-6 hours and a 20 pound turkey will take aprox. 10 hours.
For food safe reasons its very important to not leave your turkey on the counter to defrost at room temperature or submerge in hot water.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food so use precaution when handling raw meat.
STEP TWO: HOW LONG TO COOK IT FOR?
The second most important question that’s often asked about cooking a turkey is how long to cook it for and at what temperature. Any unfortunately like anything this can be debatable but I’m here to offer what I’ve found to work the best.
It’s recommended to cook a turkey in the oven at 325 to 350 degrees. Higher temperatures may cause the bird to dry out but it’s also preferable to ensure the interior of the turkey is cooked to a safe temperature.
The general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound depending on if it is stuffed or unstuffed.
10-18 pound turkey will take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to roast unstuffed.
18-22 pound turkey will take 3 1/2 to 4 hours to roast unstuffed.
16 pound turkey will take 4- 4 1/2 hours to roast unstuffed.
24-30 pound bird will take 4 1/2 – 5 hours to roast unstuffed.
If stuffing your turkey add half an hour of extra cooking time.
When the turkey has reached a 165 degree internal temperature ( in the thickest part of the thigh, wing and breast) the turkey is cooked.
USING A MEAT THERMOMETER FOR BEST RESULTS
I highly recommend this INSTANT READ thermometer, I love it because you don’t have to open the door to check the turkey all the time and letting the heat escape from the oven. Just simply set it and forget it and listen for the chirp!
Pre-heat the oven to 350 and move the middle rack down to the bottom one-third of the oven.
Once you’ve determined when to defrost your turkey and how long it will take to roast in the oven then you’ll be ready to actually prepare and roast the turkey.
Be ready ahead of time and create a schedule for your meal plan to help ensure all your side dishes and dessert are ready when the turkey is. I honestly think this is the biggest fear that most of us have in the kitchen when it comes to cooking a large meal.
Will everything be done at the right time? How can I make sure I don’t burn anything? I’ve got you covered my friend. Check out this post here for more help planning a stress free holiday meal.
STEP THREE: HOW TO PREPARE TURKEY FOR ROASTING?
When turkey has defrosted or is fresh and removed from the fridge, it’s time to prepare the turkey for roasting in the oven.
Start by removing all the packaging from the outside and place turkey breast side up onto a V rack in a roasting pan. Using a V rack will ensure that the turkey is crispy all the way around. It’s also a good idea to choose a good solid roasting pan with handles like this one here.
I can’t help but love this Viking Roasting Pan and am quickly adding it to my Wishlist!
Coat the turkey in melted butter or oil, tuck the wings and massage with a dry seasoning brine, such as a mix of salt and pepper and herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme.
Check the inside cavity to make sure there aren’t any gizzards or the neck tucked inside in a plastic bag before putting into the oven!
If you plan on stuffing your turkey, now is the time to fill the cavity with your stuffing.
Set the thermometer and place sensor in the thickest part of the thigh for the best reading.
Place roasting pan on the rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake uncovered according to the recommended time for the weight of the bird.
STEP FOUR: HOW TO CHECK TURKEY FOR OPTIMAL ROASTING?
You’ll know the turkey is done when the thickest part of the thigh, wing and breast has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. It’s important that this heat is obtained for maximum food safety.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, an old trick is to slice into the thickest part of the bird and see if the juices run out clear or pink. If the juices are clear the turkey has finished cooking.
STEP FIVE: HOW TO CARVE A TURKEY
Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature at least 10-15 minutes before carving.
Remove the stuffing from the bird and remove the legs by cutting between the thigh and the body. Separate the thigh and drumstick at the joints on both legs.
To remove the turkey breasts from the body, place the knife parallel to the cutting board above the wing join. Slice inwards to meet the body frame.
Cut down following the rib cage to separate the meat from the body. On a cutting board slice against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices. Repeat with the other side.
Pull the wing away from the body and cut through the joint to remove it. Repeat with other wing.
Slice meat away from the drumstick, thigh and wing. Repeat with second drumstick, thigh and wing. Arrange on a warm platter in a presentable way to showcase the roast for the meal!
PRINT THIS RECIPE AND STICK IT TO YOUR FRIDGE
- Large Roasting Pan
- Meat Thermometer
- oven mitts
- 1 Turkey 5-30 Pounds depending on guest number
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil or Melted Butter
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Pepper
- 3 Rosemary Springs
- 3 Sage Springs
- 3 Thyme Springs
- Determine the defrosting Time Week before the meal
- Defrost the turkey
- Dry the room temperature turkey by patting dry with paper towel
- Rub and massage the bird with saturated fat such as oil or butter.
- Season with Salt and Pepper and or optional herbs
- Remove any gizzards, and stuff the turkey
- Place on bottom third rack in preheated 350 oven uncovered for set cooking time based on weight
- When turkey has reached an internal temperature, checked with a thermometer in the three thickest areas of the bird, of 165 the roast turkey is completed
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature from 10 -20 minutes before carving.
- Using carving tips in post for the most presentable turkey spread on a serving plate
- Take a picture and enjoy your roast turkey!