Perfect Roast Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey
photo credit LadyDragonfly

Two years ago, Juan and I hosted Thanksgiving at our place for the first time.

Since I had never roasted a turkey, I went to the source of many good things in my life…the Internet.

I decided on a recipe that looked easy and sensible. No deep frying, brining for days or stuffing it with a duck and chicken a la Turducken.

The resulting bird was so good that my mom asked us to make it when she hosted Thanksgiving the following year. I was a little concerned that perhaps the deliciousness had been a fluke or Thanksgiving miracle (I certainly did pray for it to be good), but once again it was amazing.

So good in fact, that I’ve heard rumors that my grandmother refers to it whenever the subject of turkey comes up.

So, as you might guess…we are making it again this year.

The following recipe is the magical one I found on Simply Recipes, with my own commentary.

Perfect Roast Turkey

  • 1 turkey, approx. 15 lbs. (Check out this Plan Perfect Portions calculator from Butterball if you aren’t sure how big of a bird to buy.)
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme

1. Bring the thawed turkey to room temperature. Remove the neck & giblets. (Don’t be like me and assume your bird didn’t have any just because the package says “may not contain”. Get in there and really look, otherwise you might have a surprise come carving time.)

2. Preheat the oven to 400F.

3. Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pluck off any remaining little feather bits. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

4. Rub the inside of the turkey with the lemon juice and a small handfull of salt.

5. Stuff the turkey with the onion, celery and carrots. You can add some tinfoil at the opening to keep the veggies from coming out.

6. Truss that bird. (I’ve always found this step rather complicated. So, tonight I went to the internet and found this video. I’m going to give it a try this Thanksgiving.)

7. Rub the outside of the turkey with melted butter or olive oil. Sprinkle it with a lot of salt and a little pepper.

Now for the most important part…

8. Put the turkey in a roasting pan BREAST-SIDE DOWN. This is the secret to why this turkey turns out so well. As the turkey cooks, all of the juices will run down into the breast meat, making it wonderfully flavorful and moist.

9. Place sprigs of fresh rosemary & thyme around the turkey.

10. Put the turkey in the preheated oven. Since this is an unstuffed turkey, plan for 15 minutes of cooking time per pound. The following method involves reducing the oven temperature over time.

For a 15lb turkey (you will want to adjust for a larger/smaller bird):

First, 30 minutes @ 400F

Then, 2 hours @350F

Finally, 1-1 1/2 hours @ 225F

11. When you are about 1 hour away from when you think the turkey should be done, insert a meat thermometer deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh.

Remove the bird when the thigh is 170F and the breast is 160F or when the juices run clear when you cut into the turkey breast (if you don’t have a thermometer).

The temperature of the bird will continue to rise even after you take it out of the oven. By removing it a little early, you can achieve the desired temperature of 175F for dark meat and 165F for the white meat without overcooking it.

12. Let the turkey rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn it breast-side up to carve it.


3 thoughts on “Perfect Roast Turkey

  1. Looking forward to another very delicious turkey! and learning how to correctly truss that bird. ~Mum

  2. Hi,
    I like to do a different recipe each year. I have made it upside down but not with the temperature stages.
    At the top in says to preheat oven to 400, the it says to cook on 425 for 30 minutes. Is this a typo or are there two different ways to cook it? Thanks

    • Hi Verna,
      That was a typo! Thank you so much for catching it. :) I’ve adjusted the post to correct the mistake. It should be 400F for the first 30 minutes.

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