Roasting a turkey is often the most stressful part of cooking a Thanksgiving feast. There’s the questions of cooking time and temperature, the quest for crispy skin and the question of to stuff or not to stuff. Here are some steps to help you eliminate the head-scratching and easy solutions that will make cooking a turkey as stress-free!
Plan Ahead and Season Well
If you bought a frozen bird, make sure it's completely defrosted before roasting it. To do so, defrost in the fridge for a few days before cooking. Once defrosted, or if you bought a fresh bird, take the turkey out of the refrigerator 45 minutes to 1 hour before roasting. This technique will allow the turkey to come to (almost) room temperature, helping it cook more evenly and quickly. When you’re ready to roast, rub salt, pepper and olive oil or melted butter all over the bird to encourage a crispy, golden skin.
Use a Roasting Rack
Roasting racks help air to circulate around the bird in the oven, which makes for more even cooking and crispier skin. Place aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of the roasting pan to help enhance the flavour of the turkey.
Pour some chicken stock (or turkey stock if you have it) in the bottom of the roasting pan. Throw in the turkey giblets, organs and neck (all taken out of the plastic bag they usually come in) along with the aromatic vegetables (see: previous step). This quick step will help you create a tasty gravy to serve with your turkey.
Start High, Keep it Low
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Once the turkey goes into the oven, reduce the heat to 325ºF. The bird will brown evenly all around at this temperature. If the breast is getting too brown, tent with foil for the last 30 to 45 minutes of roasting.
Don't Truss, Don't Stuff
There's no need to truss your bird, because un-trussed turkeys cook more evenly. And stuffing the bird can increase cook times, leading to dryer meat. Cook stuffing in a separate dish and moisten with turkey gravy at the table, if desired.
Calculate Roasting Times
Generally, you should plan for 15 minutes per pound when roasting a turkey. For instance, if you have a 15-pound turkey, you should expect it to take approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes in the oven.
Every 45 minutes, transfer the liquid at the bottom of the roasting pan over the breast of the bird using a turkey baster or large metal serving spoon. This will keep your turkey moist during roasting. When basting, remove the whole roasting pan from the oven and shut the oven door immediately to help maintain heat.
Use a Thermometer
The best way to know when your bird is cooked is by taking the temperature of the meat. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh; it should register 165ºF.
Stress the Rest
One of the most important parts of successfully roasting a turkey is giving it ample time to rest outside of the oven. Whole, your turkey will stay hot for a few hours after cooking, so don’t be apprehensive – it won’t be cold at the table! Resting allows the juices to settle and will make for incredibly moist meat. Rest the turkey for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably 1 to 2 hours.
Carve with Care
Carving a turkey is just like carving a roast chicken, only much bigger. You want to begin by deconstructing the turkey. Don’t slice the meat on the bird, cut off the large pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, etc.) and slice the meat portion of the larger pieces on a cutting board. Pre-slicing makes it easy for guests to help themselves and avoids mess at the table.