Perfect Roast Turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving table and I’m going to show you how to achieve the perfect roast turkey. The turkey is brined to retain as much moisture in the meat, then roasted to crispy, juicy perfection.
We are in the midst of the holiday season and it’s time for everyones favorite bird. A roast chicken dinner is my favorite meal, so I make it a lot in the cooler weather . I have very specific steps I like to follow and I follow the same steps when I roast a turkey.
Brining the turkey
It all starts the day before the roasting of the turkey (or chicken), I like to brine my turkeys and chickens. Brining helps add moisture to the meat as well as flavor the meat so the bird is tasty throughout. Turkey can be on the dry side and brining really prevents it drying out in the roasting process.
Depending on how long I have to prepare the meal, I like to brine about 24 hours in advance. If brining is not for you, or you just don’t have time or the space, you can skip this step. Depending on the size of your turkey (or chicken), you will need a large receptacle. For my 13 pound turkey, I used an 18 quart plastic container available at any restaurant supply store and lots of room in the fridge.
Prepare the turkey for roasting
I like to tie the legs together with cooking twine. It’s also a good idea to get the wings tucked in. To do this, I cut a slit in the skin next to the wing and tuck in the wings under the skin (this can be seen in the picture above). This will prevent the ends of the wings getting overcooked or even burning.
What the turkey sits on to roast is also very important, I like to place a roasting rack into a roasting pan. This serves 2 purposes, it allows the heat to distribute all around the turkey for more even cooking and I like to add vegetables and broth to the bottom of the pan so my gravy is made while the turkey cooks. You can read more about making easy, flavorful gravy in my rosemary roasted chicken with delicious gravy recipe.
Based on the FDA recommended oven temperature of 325°F/160°C, a fresh turkey should be roasted for 15 minutes per pound. This is a 13 pound turkey so it should be roasted for 3 hours and 25 minutes. Not all ovens are calibrated correctly so it is important to use a meat thermometer for accurate doneness, see below.
Making sure your turkey is cooked is the most important part of the job. Inserting a meat thermometer into the turkey between the leg and the wing is the most accurate way to tell when it’s cooked. The temperature should read 165°F/74°C. The turkey will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven, so don’t let it read higher than that.
Give the Bird a Rest
Once you remove the turkey from the oven, cover lightly with foil and allow to rest at least 20 minutes before slicing or all the juices will run out. If you’ve ever cut into any roast meat as soon as it comes out of the oven and you see the juices running all over the cutting board, those are the juices that keep the meat moist and you just lost them.
Use this resting time to prepare your side dishes. Happy turkey day!
Make sure you check out the fabulous turkey side dishes below.
Perfect Roast Turkey
The turkey is brined to retain as much moisture in the meat, then roasted to crispy, juicy perfection.
- 1-13 pound fresh turkey cleaned * see note
- 4 cloves of garlic peeled
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup salt
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves fresh or dry
- 3 sprigs fresh herbs of your choosing
- 4 ounces unsalted butter melted
- Salt and pepper
Fill a large stockpot 1/2 full of water. Add the garlic, sugar, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and herbs. Heat over high heat until it comes to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Leave the brine to cool completely.
Fill to 3/4 full of ice water and submerge the turkey completely in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
Preheat oven to 325° F/166°C.
Remove the turkey from the brine and dry. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and leave on counter for 1 hour before roasting, this will ensure even and faster cooking.
Brush the skin of the turkey with the melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also sprinkle with any freshly chopped herbs if you like.
Roast the turkey for 3 hours and 25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted reaches 165°F/74°C.
Remove the turkey from the oven and cover lightly with foil. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.