Make your turkey the centerpiece it deserves to be this holiday.
Turkey is one of the highlights of a Thanksgiving feast, but preparing one will require you to plan ahead. The right cooking techniques can be the difference between a moist, juicy turkey and a bird that's dry or bland. Read on to learn how to roast turkey and have it ready to serve by the time your guests arrive.
It can take a long time for a frozen turkey to thaw, which is why it's best to buy your turkey early. Look for a turkey that's free of flat spots and has a well-rounded breast. If you're buying your bird at the supermarket, make sure that its packaging is intact and free of tears and holes.
Pre-stuffed turkeys can be a safety risk and should be avoided. If you buy a turkey from the butcher, ask for a hen turkey rather than a tom turkey. Hen turkeys have smaller bones, meaning they have more available meat.
Ideally, you should buy a whole turkey with a weight that totals between 1 to 1 ½ pounds of turkey for each guest that you're serving. This doesn’t mean each guest is expected to eat this much turkey, but guides what size to buy to make sure there’s enough to go around.
When you're calculating what you need, it's best to round up to ensure that you have more than enough to feed everyone (and have enough for leftovers). If you're serving a large group, you may want to cook two smaller turkeys rather than one larger one.
To roast a turkey, you'll need a large Roasting Pan with a roasting rack, kitchen twine, and a meat thermometer to measure the bird's internal temperature.
While cooking times can vary based on the size of the bird, these steps will help you prepare the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
Step 1: Prepping
Remove the neck and giblets from inside the cavity of the turkey and save for gravy, if you like. Pat the turkey very dry with paper towels.
Step 2: Seasoning
Not only will seasoning enhance the flavor of your turkey, but it can actually make the meat juicer. Sprinkle the inside with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings of your choosing. Add a little more salt and pepper to the outside of the bird. If you’re planning on dry or wet brining your bird, now is the time to do so.
Step 3: Tucking and Trussing
In order to make sure your turkey sits flat as it roasts, you'll need to keep its wings and legs out of the way. Pull the wings forward and tuck them beneath the breast of the turkey, or simply snip the wings tips off and save them for stock. Secure the legs by crossing and tying the end of the drumsticks together with twine.
Step 4: Roasting
Preheat your oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, transfer your turkey to a large roasting pan, like the Carbon Steel Roasting Pan. Cook the turkey for 15 to 20 minutes per pound of meat, or until the bird has an internal temperature of 165 °F. You’ll need to check the temperature in multiple spots, especially in the thickest part of the breast and the thigh (avoiding the bone).
Step 5: Basting
After around 30 minutes, open your oven and remove the turkey for basting. Use a bulb baster to scoop up the liquids from the bottom of the roasting pan and pour them onto the turkey. Return the turkey to the oven and repeat this process every 30 minutes or until the turkey is done.
Step 6: Resting
Once your turkey has finished cooking, you should allow it to rest 30 to 40 minutes before you start carving the bird. Resting gives the turkey time to reabsorb and redistribute its juices, which makes the meat more tender.
If you want to take the flavor of your turkey to the next level, keep these tips in mind as you cook!
How to Season and Brine
Brining and seasoning will give you juicier and more flavorful meat. In addition to salt and pepper, traditional seasonings like thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, and sage bring out the turkey's natural flavors.
A dry brine will result in meat that’s more tender, juicier, and with crispier skin. This simply requires you to dry your bird thoroughly, salt it generously, and store it in the fridge uncovered for a few days before cooking. A rule of thumb for dry brining is 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ⅔ tsp. Morton kosher salt per pound of turkey.
When Should You Thaw a Frozen Turkey?
Thawing a turkey can take a long time, which is why you'll want to make sure you start to thaw your bird at the right time. You should plan for at least one day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey in the refrigerator.
Best Temperature for Roast Turkeys
Your turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F. It's generally recommended to roast your turkey at a temperature of 325 to 350F, though a lower temperature—Chef Tom Colicchio slow roasts turkey starting at 250F—can yield a juicier bird. Use a meat thermometer throughout the cooking process to check your turkey's temperature and make sure that it's fully cooked.
Turkey is often overlooked and taken for granted on a Thanksgiving dinner table, but it doesn’t have to be. Achieving a perfectly cooked bird that’s crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside may seem complicated, but it comes together easily with the right tools and recipe.
Our Carbon Steel Roasting Pan with rack was designed in partnership with Chef Tom Colicchio, and he provided the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Chef Colicchio slathers the bird in an herb compound butter and lets it air dry in the fridge for two days. It’s then roasted low and slow for up to five hours for the juiciest, most flavorful turkey you’ve ever had.