Tips and Tricks for roasting the perfect Turkey.
Thanksgiving can feel overwhelming with all the sides to prepare, hosting family and preparing the main event: the perfectly cooked turkey. Hopefully it is not a one man show at your house and you have many hands helping out. If you are in charge of the turkey this year, I will walk you through all the steps from an easy dry brine to the tips and tricks for achieving crispy skin and juicy meat. It’s Turkey Time!
How many days do you need to thaw a Frozen Turkey?
Don’t wait too long to buy your turkey, it’s really important to plan ahead the time it takes to thaw your frozen turkey. It’s also a good idea to have something under your frozen bird in the fridge to catch any liquid that might leak out. Learn from my mistake…it’s easier to clean a sheet pan rather than disinfect and deep clean an entire fridge.
Depending on how big your turkey is, the thaw time can vary. Don’t forget to add one more day to your thaw time if you plan to brine or dry brine your bird. Here’s a cheatsheet:
- 4-12 pound turkey: 2 days
- 12-16 pound turkey: 3 days
- 16-20 pound turkey: 4 days
- 20-24 pound turkey: 5 days
Easy Dry Brine Recipe:
Dry Brine or wet Brine…or do you need to brine at all? Some turkeys come pre-brined…like Butterball brand. If you check the label on the packaging you can see if it has a water salt solution in the ingredient list and that will tell you if it needs added salt. Brining a turkey is so crucial for good flavor. We love the simplicity of this easy dry brine. It’s just three ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Mix together the salt, pepper and baking powder. Sprinkle and pat the mixture all over the entire thawed bird. Now is a good time to remove the neck and giblets that are in the inside cavity of the bird. Hang onto those, you can use them to make Make Ahead Gravy. The baking powder in this dry brine is the key to crisping up the skin during the roasting process. Move the turkey back into the fridge for another 24 hours for this mixture to do it’s magic.
Kitchen tools needed to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving:
Around this time of year, you will see disposable roasting pans in the grocery stores and regular non disposable roasting pans to use more than one time…don’t buy one, because you don’t need one. Roasting pans make it hard for air to circulate around the entire turkey. A regular aluminum sheet pan along with a V shaped roasting rack is all you need. The V roasting rack is a must. We like to add aluminum foil underneath to catch the drippings and to help with clean up. The foil doesn’t eliminate all clean up, but it can help. So…say no to the roasting pan, but say yes to the v roasting rack, instant read meat thermometer, trussing string (for tying the legs together and a baking stone or baking steel. Avoid using the cheap thermometer that comes in your turkey. It’s best to use a real thermometer.
How to Roast the perfect Turkey:
There’s a few tricks to getting the perfect juicy bird with crisp skin:
- Place a baking stone or baking steel on the lowest rack in your oven (also take out the second oven rack at this time). The baking stone is key to help cook your entire bird so it is ready all at the same time.
- Preheat your oven to a high heat: 500 F. Let your oven preheat at this temperature for 45 minutes.
- While the oven is preheating let your turkey sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This is a great time to rub an herb butter all over it and fill it with aromatics.
- Move the turkey into the oven on the v rack and on the sheet pan. Place the sheet pan directly onto the baking stone. The baking stone will send heat up from the bottom to help the whole turkey to finish cooking at the same time.
- Once the turkey is in the oven close the door and lower the temp to 325 F.
- After 30 minutes to 1 hour, it’s a good idea to add a piece of aluminum foil over the top like a tent over the bird. This can help prevent over browning the top of the turkey. You will take the foil off for the last 15-20 minutes.
- Roast until the breast meat registers at least 150 degrees F and the leg meat registers at 165 F on an instant read thermometer.
How long do you cook a Thanksgiving Turkey?
Depending on the size of your bird, the roasting time will vary. The most important thing to follow is the internal temperature of the turkey rather than following the time guide by the book. With an instant read meat thermometer the breast meat needs to register at least 150 degrees F and the leg meat registers at 165 F. Here’s a quick guide for the recommended length of time depending on the size of your turkey to let your bird roast in the oven. The times listed below help you estimate, but it’s most important to check the internal temperatures.
- 8-12 pound turkey – 3 1/2-4 hours
- 12-18 pound turkey – 4 1/4- 4 3/4 hours
- 18-22 pound turkey – 4 1/2 to 5 hours
- 22-24 pound turkey – 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
Fresh Herb Butter for turkey roasting:
Before you move your turkey into the oven to roast, mix up a fresh herb butter to rub all over the skin to give flavor to the skin and to the meat inside. For the herbs we are using oregano and thyme mixed together with one stick of softened salted butter. Once you have coated the outside of your bird with this mixture, gently move your hand up under the skin of the bird to add some of the herb butter under the skin. This is a little tricky, but if your bird is thawed, the skin will release from the meat pretty easily.
Aromatics for the inside cavity of your turkey:
While we are not fans of the bread kind of stuffing inside the bird. We are big fans of adding a bunch of aromatics to add flavor to the inside of the turkey. Here are the aromatics we love:
- onion, outside layer removed and cut in half
- carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- celery, cut into chunks
- lemon, cut in half
- garlic, cut in half with all cloves exposed
After roasting your turkey wait 30 minutes before carving…this is so important:
It’s important to let the bird rest so all the juices can return back into the meat of the bird. If you can wait longer than 30 minutes…like 45 minutes, even better. Here’s the good news, because the turkey needs 30 plus minutes to rest before you carve it, this is a great time to add something like a side dish to the oven that might need warming up.
Perfect Roasted Turkey
Crispy skin and juicy meat make for a perfect roasted turkey.
- 1 12-16 pound turkey frozen
For the Dry Brine:
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder *make sure it is fresh
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
For the Aromatics:
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 1 onion cut in half
- 2 carrots peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 stalks celery cut into chunks
- 1 head garlic cut in half cloves exposed *optional
For the Herb Butter:
- 1 stick salted butter room temperature
- 1 packet fresh herbs: oregano, thyme and rosemary chopped
- fresh herbs: sage and rosemary
- 1 small bag fresh cranberries
- fresh citrus fruit
- green leaf lettuce
Thaw your turkey:
If your turkey was purchased frozen, allow it to thaw in the fridge. Please see our guide for thawing the turkey depending on the size of the turkey.
Mix the salt, pepper and baking powder together. Sprinkle and pat the mixture all over the entire thawed bird. Now is a good time to remove the neck and giblets that are in the inside cavity of the bird. Hang onto those. We will use them to make gravy. The baking powder in this dry brine is the key to crisping up the skin during the roasting process. Move the turkey back into the fridge for another 24 hours for this mixture to do it’s magic.
Prepare your Oven:
Move your oven rack to the bottom and place a baking stone or baking steel on the bottom rack. Take out the second rack.
Preheat oven to 500 F. for 45 minutes.
While your oven is preheating, let your turkey sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Herb Butter & Aromatics:
In a glass bowl with a fork, combine the softened stick of salted butter with the chopped fresh herbs. Mix up the herb butter until it is combined well.
Rub the herb butter all over the turkey skin. Slide your fingers under the turkey skin and gently move the herb butter up under the skin. This can be a little tricky, but if your turkey is thawed well, the skin will loosen up and you can move the butter all over underneath the skin.
Add aromatics into the inside cavity of the turkey: lemon, garlic, onion, carrots and celery.
Roast the turkey:
Place turkey onto a V roasting rack on a aluminum sheet pan lined with foil. Move your turkey into the oven and place the sheet pan directly onto the baking stone. Close the oven door and reduce the oven temperature to 325.
See our guide for how long to roast your turkey, depending on the size. For a 12-16 pound turkey: roast for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
After one hour in the oven add a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the turkey to prevent it from over browning.
Your turkey will be done cooking when the instant read thermometer reads: 150 F for the breast meat and 165 F for the leg meat.
Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving into it. Enjoy!
This recipe is based on a 12-16 pound turkey, please adjust measurements and times to accommodate a larger or smaller bird.
Making This Recipe? Tag us on Instagram: @NoBiggie using the hashtag #NoBiggieRecipes, so we can see what you are making in the kitchen!
How to carve a roasted turkey?
If your turkey is still too hot to handle, you can use paper towels to create a barrier to help your hands. When you carve your turkey, the key is to try to keep the skin in place while you carve.
- Remove the legs and the thighs on both sides. Working one side at a time, gently cut through the skin between the breast and the drum stick. Gently but firmly pull the drumstick and the thigh away from the breast. Then pop the joint and then with your knife gently cut through the joint to separate the drumstick and thigh. Repeat this step on the other side.
- Take out the wishbone: To remove the breast meat start by removing the wishbone. Turn the turkey around so the other end is facing you. Cut through the skin of the neck cavity so you can see into the bird. Removing the wishbone makes it easier to remove the breast meat.
Gently cut with your knife around the wishbone and then reach in and pull the wishbone out trying to keep it whole, for someone to make a wish.
- Remove the breast meat: gently run your knife along the breast bone on one side. Use your knife to cut down along side the breast bone to cut the breast meat away from the bone. It should come off in one whole piece. When you get to the joint of the wing cut through it. Repeat this step for the other turkey breast.
- Remove the wings: cut through the first wing joint and the main carcass of the turkey.
- Plate it Up: Add it all the your serving plate: Start with the breast meat and cut it into 1/2 inch thick slices keeping the turkey skin intact for each slice. Repeat this process with the other turkey breast and add both to your serving dish. Spread the slices out a little for presentation. Separate the drumstick from the thigh. With your knife gently cut through the joint. You should not need to cut through the bone. Repeat this with the other drum stick. Add both drumsticks to your serving dish. Remove the thigh bones from the meat and then cut the thigh meat into slices and add it to your serving dish. Separate the winget from the drumette and add all as is to your serving dish.
- Garnish: Add fresh sage, cranberries and sliced citrus fruits.
Make Turkey Stock:
Hang onto all those bones, they make great turkey stock to make even more gravy for your leftovers.
How long does cooked leftover turkey last?
Your leftover turkey will last in the fridge for 3-4 days, or you can freeze it for up to 2 months. It’s important to move the cooked turkey into the fridge 2 hours after it is cooked to keep it food safe.
Turkey Shopping List:
- the turkey
- salted butter
- fresh herb packet
- baking powder (make sure yours is fresh!)
- sea salt & black pepper
- aromatics: onion, celery, carrots, lemon and garlic
- garnish: fresh lemon, cranberries, sage, clementines and green leaf
- Buy your bird early enough to thaw…Let it completely thaw. The thaw time will vary depending on the size of your bird. While it’s thawing out in the fridge, make sure it is on a sheet pan or in a bowl of some sort in the fridge to catch any liquids that might leak out while it’s thawing. Learn from my mistake, it’s easier to clean a bowl than deep clean and disinfect your entire fridge.
- Add an additional day to the thaw time for the brine time.
- Make sure you have the kitchen items needed for success: instant read meat thermometer (we love this one from ThermoWorks), V roasting rack, sheet pan, trussing string, baking stone or baking steel.
- Cover in herb butter
- Add aromatics
- After roasting in the oven, allow it 30+ minutes to rest at room temperature before carving your turkey. This is key to prevent all the juices from spilling out all over when you cut into it. It really needs this time for all the juices to return back into the bird.
What to serve with your perfect roasted turkey?
Here are all of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes all in one spot. Along with our best holiday cooking tips and tricks for success.
Don’t forget about your turkey leftovers…here are 25+ Delicious Ways to use your Turkey Leftovers.