How to Roast a Turkey

Maybe the best gift you can give this year is to learn how to roast a turkey for your loved ones. Just an idea.

It’s now November — the month of Thanksgiving, all!

Thanksgiving, despite its morally questionable beginnings, is my second-favorite holiday (after Halloween of course). I love giving thanks and being grateful for everyone and everything I have in my life. I have a good life, and I am glad for that. I’m lucky to have the friends I have who’ve encouraged us and helped us make this show for the last almost-two-years! I’m grateful to have a house and a job. I’m really grateful that I know how to read and write. I’m thankful for Chris. I’m thankful for you.

What are you thankful for? Tell me in the comments!

Aaa-anddd… all gooshiness and mushiness aside, I also really, truly appreciate the Thanksgiving feast. You know I’m not one for gluttony or waste, but there is something utterly luxurious and magical about a Thanksgiving table heaving under the weight of a giant roast turkey, all varieties of creamed vegetables, pies, relishes, rolls, and gravy boats sloshing about as if on a pirate ship.

That is why this month will obviously be dedicated to this most-excellent holiday as far as food is concerned.

Now let’s talk turkey*.

*Apologies for the terrible pun.

How to Roast a Turkey

Roasting a turkey isn’t any harder than roasting a chicken, but it requires a little more planning. Here are my guidelines:

DO get a turkey that’s big enough to serve everyone! Figure one pound per guest, then add a pound or two for leftovers if you like.

DO get a fresh turkey if possible. Turkeys labeled “fresh” are held under refrigeration at 26 degrees. While that is below the freezing point of water, it’s not cold enough to freeze the bird. Frozen turkeys are flash-frozen to -30 degrees then held at zero degrees. A frozen turkey may be drier than a fresh turkey, depending on how long it’s been frozen. And a frozen turkey will require up to 3 days in your refrigerator to thaw completely. For those reasons, I recommend sticking with a fresh turkey.

DO bring your turkey to room temperature before roasting by leaving it on the counter for one hour before cooking. A turkey that is still icy on the inside when it goes in the oven will prove to be a disaster later on, with an overcooked breast and undercooked thighs.

DO remember how much your turkey weighs. The cooking time depends on it! Estimate 12 minutes per pound.

DO allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving. This lets the bird “finish” cooking in its own residual heat. It also allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

DON’T rely on the pop-up timer that comes with most turkeys. They are unaccountable. Use a meat thermometer to check the bird’s temperature in the thigh when your timer goes off. Remove the turkey when the temperature reaches 170 degrees F. After resting, the final temperature should have risen to the proper 180 degrees.

DO remember to baste your turkey! I used a mixture of melted butter and sherry. Baste every 30 minutes with a brush or a turkey baster.

DON’T overstuff. If you choose to stuff the turkey itself, have the stuffing at room temperature or warmed, and spoon it lightly inside. Fill the turkey no more than 3/4 of the way.

DON’T use a disposable aluminum pan unless you are roasting a very small turkey. They are too flimsy and you risk dropping the turkey. Use a deep roasting pan, 4″ height is good.

DO RELAX! If your turkey ends up a little on the dry side, consider it a chance to highlight your mad gravy skillz. If your bird wasn’t completely thawed and the breast is done before the legs and thighs, go ahead and carve off the white meat and put the rest back in the oven for 30 more minutes while you start eating. Two courses of turkey: WIN!

Butter-Injected Turkey

4.0 from 2 reviews

How to Roast a Turkey
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
How to roast a butter-injected turkey
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 12-15 pound turkey
  • 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Tabasco sauce, a few dashes
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons each dried rosemary and sage
  • Extra melted butter or oil for basting
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey. Save them to make gravy.
  3. Allow the turkey to sit out at room temperature for one hour to make sure it’s completely thawed.
  4. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cool water. Rinse it good. Drain and pat dry with several paper towels.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper inside and out.
  6. Coarsely chop the apple, onion, two cloves of garlic, and the parsley stems. Put them inside the cavity.
  7. Combine the broth with the 4 tablespoons melted butter and Tabasco. Inject this mixture into the breast of the turkey. Insert the injector into the meat and depress the plunger slowly. Make an even pattern all over. Save a little of this for basting.
  8. Mince the rest of the garlic cloves with the parsley leaves and combine with the rosemary and sage. Use your fingers to separate the skin from the breast and push the herb mixture under the skin as far as you can.
  9. Truss the turkey if you want. It gives it a nicer finished look, but will also increase the cooking time.
  10. Put the turkey on a heavy rack in a deep roasting pan.
  11. Pour the rest of the injecting sauce over the turkey.
  12. Roast for 12 minutes per pound, basting with extra melted butter every 30 minutes.
  13. Remove when the temperature in the thigh registers 170 degrees.
  14. Allow to rest 30-40 minutes before carving.

 


Comments

  1. Brady Hamilton says:

    I’m counting the days until Thanksgiving. Gimme Turkey!!!
    One thing I like to do is brine my bird for 24 hours. It never fails that I have a moist, juicy bird. I also start off breast side down for the first hour to get the juices flowing down.
    You rock Hilah!!

    • Brilliant! I’ve always wanted to try that, Brady, but I never have enough room in my refrigerator to hold it!
      What do you put in your brine in case anyone else here wants to try it?

      • Brady Hamilton says:

        I usually put my ‘big ass’ bird in a cooler (in heavily iced water) in the garage and check on it every few hours to make sure its nice and cold. My brine recipe is as follows…
        1 gallon vegetable broth
        1 cup sea salt or kosher salt
        1/2 cup brown sugar
        1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
        1 tablespoon dried sage
        1 tablespoon dried thyme
        1 tablespoon dried savory
        Enough ice water to cover turkey

        • Oh, man! Double brilliant! I never would have thought of sticking in in a cooler. Doy!
          Brine sounds delish. I want to try this for Thanksgiving this year!

          • Three or four years ago, my husband and I saw an episode of Good Eats where he brined a turkey. I tried it with a turkey breast since Jake doesn’t like dark meat (with a few changes to the spices cuz I’m not a fan of sage) and it was FANTASTIC! The meat was extremely juicy and moist. I used a small cooler with a good seal and stashed it under the carport (it was about 40 degrees outside at the time).

            I am so with you on putting aromatics inside the bird. Every time I cook a whole chicken, I stuff its butt full of apples, oranges and onions.

          • Thanks, Beverly! After hearing from you and another reader about brining, I’m going to try it this year. May have to make another turkey video next year!
            Do you have a special turkey-only cool that you use?

  2. Laurence Burris says:

    You forgot the bourbon. Everything goes better with bourbon. ;-)

  3. Most of the folks in our house want white meat, so this year I’m just roasting a turkey breast. However, I may oven braise two or three legs, too, if I get ambitious.

  4. Jesse Rosales says:

    OMG HILAH TEACH ME YOUR WAYS HAHA O U DO SO THAT DONT MAKE SENSE HAHA OMG WELL THIS WILL BE MY FIRST THANKSGIVING THAT IM HAVING IN MY OWN PLACE I TOLD MY MOM I WANT TO HAVE THANKSGIVING DINNER IN MY PLACE AND MY GOSH EVER THING U MAKE I MAKE AND IT NEVER FAILS ME ITS GOOD THANK U SO MUCH HILAH FOR THE HELP HILAH U IS A BEAST IN THE KITCHEN

    • Hi Jesse!
      I’m so glad to hear you’ve tried all the recipes! :) That makes me very proud.
      Good luck doing your first Thanksgiving this year! The biggest thing with the turkey is to make sure it’s completely thawed before you put it in the oven. I’ll be posting some more Thanksgiving recipes this month that are pretty easy, too, so I hope you can try those. Have a great Thanksgiving!
      -hilah

      • Jesse Rosales says:

        And I will be waiting ever so patiently for all the other amazing dishes u got for the world to see haha
        omg that was u on project rant I now the hole the ketchup thief video of u haha makes me laugh extrea hard ever time I hear it haha gosh u are such an amazing person u are my idol haha wootwoot HILAH ROCKS

        • Hey Jesse! That’s awesome that you found me through Project Rant! I love working with those dudes.
          Have a great Thanksgiving!
          WootWoot!

  5. Hi there Hilah!

    Last year was my first year roasting a turkey and it came out great with just butter under the skin and some seasoning inside and out. This year I am thinking of trying stuffing the bird with the onions and apples as you suggested. Does stuffing the turkey with the apple, onion and garlic really make a difference? Or should I just skip it all together?

    • Hey Chris!
      The aromatics , as they’re called, make better pan juices for better gravy. The flavor they add to the turkey is mild, but the flavor they add to your gravy and turkey stock is really good! They also add a little more moisture to the meat.
      Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Pst! Hilah! Thanksgiving is the second Monday of October in Canada. Just an FYI. I think you refer to it as Columbus Day

  7. Dear Hilah,
    Your videos make me smile! And my hubs thanks you for teaching me how to cook. All my most common go-to meals are from Hilah Cooking. Under your guidance, I made my first turkey yesterday, it turned out pretty good!

    I wrote about it (and my adoration for Hilah Cooking): https://mrspenpen.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/turkey-roasting-for-the-first-timer/

    Thanks!!!
    MrsPen

    • Thanks, Peniel! You just put a big smile on my face. Thanks so much for sharing your cooking story on your blog. :) I hope y’all have a GREAT Thanksgiving!
      -hilah

  8. My first time hosting Thanksgiving and making a Turkey. My mom is sick with cancer so it was important to make this a meaningful day. Everyone loved the turkey! Thank you!
    P.S. I suck at cooking.

  9. Johnny Galvan says:

    Hilah

    What do you know about putting butter under the beast skin? cover turkey with butter And putting bacon on the turkey?

    Stuffing turkey with onion and half orange? And letting turkey rest for 2 hr.? Let me know, I am old

    fashion turkey cook? And can I cook old fashion stuffing on stove.

    • Hi Johnny!
      All of those methods are tasty! Butter under the skin and bacon on top both help keep the white meat from drying out, but I would just do either the injection method or the butter/bacon method (not both). Oranges and onions go great inside turkey, too! Let the turkey rest at room temperature 1-2 hours before cooking, and at least 30 minutes after cooking.
      I’ve never made stuffing on the stove, only in the oven. Here is how I do it: cornbread stuffing.
      Good luck and happy Thanksgiving!

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