We love making turkey! I think it is my favorite meal of all time! The turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes, the crispy turkey skin, the gravy and cranberry sauce! I love it all. The Best Oven Roasted Turkey recipe is easy and a definite keeper!
I used to always make my turkey with stuffing inside. That was the way I was taught and that was just the way I did it for years. Then I discovered this easier and less time consuming method from a friend. No more getting up so early to get the turkey in the oven and I am well rested for the event. I hate being exhausted before dinner even starts!
Now I prepare all of the sides at my own pace, throughout the day and pace myself. I am not a spring chicken anymore! I make my stuffing separately and everyone loves it. They don’t care that the stuffing wasn’t made inside the turkey so why should I?
Now I make this recipe for The Best Oven Roasted Turkey every time there is a celebration of any kind! Actually, truth be told, I just don’t do turkey on holidays, mostly because I love the Leftover Turkey Dinner Muffins and Leftover Turkey Mashed Potato Stuffing Burgers I make with all of the leftovers! I soak both of them in gravy and just love every bite. Really.
The Best Oven Roasted Turkey
- 1 turkey approximately 15 lbs.
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, for basting (optional)
- 1/2-1 cup butter, softened or melted, enough to cover your bird olive oil or another vegetable oil will substitute
- 2-4 garlic cloves, cut in half
- 1 small onion, yellow or white, peeled and quartered
- 1 bunch celery tops and bottoms
- 1 large carrot
- parsley, fresh or dried
- rosemary, sage or thyme, fresh or dried
- salt -
- pepper -
- cooking spray
Generally if you are serving a crowd turkey dinner we recommend the following rough guidelines. 12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people 15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people 18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people This method, for a fabulous oven roasted turkey, requires your turkey to be completely thawed before cooking. If your turkey was frozen when you bought it, the turkey will need to thaw in your refrigerator, approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. Put the wrapped frozen turkey in a bag or a pan to prevent leaks and then place it in your refrigerator. So if you have a 15 pound turkey, it should take about 70 hours, or 3 days, to defrost. Remove the turkey from your refrigerator between 1 and 2 hours before baking to allow it to get as close to room temperature as possible.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Position your oven rack in the bottom third of your oven. We always put the uncooked turkey into our roasting pan and put it in the oven for a moment to make sure it fits before the oven gets too hot. Just to be sure. Next, prepare your roasting pan and rack. Spray the rack with cooking spray to help the turkey not stick to it. If you are not using a rack just spray the inside of your pan. Remove all packaging and the bag of giblets (heart, liver and gizzards) and neck. I ruined my first bird leaving the bag of giblets in! I still can not believe I did that! So check inside both the body and neck cavity. We usually discard the giblets and use the neck for soup. You can also use the giblets to boil with the turkey carcass if you are making soup. Also, you can use the giblets to make stock for your stuffing or gravy. Just chop up the heart and gizzard and put them into a small saucepan. Cover the giblets with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to simmer for an hour or so. We leave that up to you. Rinse the turkey inside and out with water. If you see some turkey feathers pull them out! Use paper towels to pat the entire turkey dry. Coat the inside of the large and smaller cavity with salt and pepper. Put a few sprigs of thyme, parsley or sage into the small cavity and cover the opening with the extra skin. If you are using dried spices add a tablespoon or so of your favorite. We encourage you to use a metal skewer to close it up completely, if necessary. Put your quartered onion, garlic, a couple carrot sticks and the tops of your bunch of celery into the largest cavity of the turkey. Add any fresh or dried thyme, parsley or sage to the large cavity if desired. We love thyme so we usually throw 1 tablespoon of dried thyme and 1 tablespoon of parsley in to the large cavity if we do not have any fresh. Cover the opening of the largest cavity with aluminum foil, metal skewers or kitchen string so that the vegetables do not fall out while the turkey is roasting.
Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Press the salt and pepper into the outside skin on the turkey. Smear a thick coating of room temperature butter, melted butter or olive oil all over the outside of the turkey. We prefer to use room temperature butter. Pour 1 1/2 cups of broth or water into the roasting pan. We prefer to use chicken broth. Before you put your turkey in the oven calculate roughly how long you think the turkey will need to cook. The rule of thumb is 14 or 15 minutes for every pound of turkey.
Put the turkey in the oven, breast side up, uncovered. For the first 20 minutes you need to brown the turkey at the high temperature. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees for the rest of your cooking time. At least once, every hour, remove the turkey from the oven, close the oven door, and baste or coat the turkey in juices all over. To baste, tilt the pan a little and use a turkey baster or spoon to catch juices and pour all over the outside of the turkey. Basting is not required but you will be glad you basted. The skin turns out beautifully. I love crispy skin. I can not help it.
Check the turkey's temperature in a few places where the meat is thickest. Perhaps the breast or thigh. In every case, the meat should be at least 160 degrees before you remove it from the oven. If any place is under that temperature, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Cover the breast meat with foil if necessary to keep it from overcooking or over browning. The turkey will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven and resting. If you don't have a meat thermometer pierce the breast with a knife. If the turkey juices run clear, and not pink, you should be alright. Once the turkey is cooked and you remove it from your oven, place it on a large, suitably sized cutting board and loosely cover or tent it with foil. We usually lift the entire turkey out of the pan on the rack and place it right on a large cutting board. The tented turkey should be allowed to stay there for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing. Make sure the turkey is breast side up before you carve it. Carving a turkey is just like carving a big chicken. Remove the wings first, then thighs, legs and breast meat. Slice, starting from the top of the turkey downwards, on an angle, through the breast. Keep slicing until you get to the bones. This will get a bit messy. You can use the carcass and bones to boil for soup later. Also the drippings in the pan, left behind after you remove the turkey, is perfect to make homemade gravy! Make the gravy while the turkey is resting, covered in tinfoil, on your cutting board.
If you have used a thick metal roasting pan, you can often put it directly on the stove top burner, if not, scrape off the drippings and put them into a large skillet. In a separate small bowl place a quarter cup of corn starch and just enough water to totally dissolve the cornstarch and the mixture is smooth. Heat the roasting pan or skillet on medium heat on your stove top. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the drippings, stirring constantly. Only use as much of the cornstarch mixture as you need to get your desired thickness. As you stir, the gravy will slowly thicken. Be patient. Add some salt and pepper, ground sage, thyme or other seasonings to taste. Keep tasting your gravy until you get it the way you like it!
We do not cook the stuffing or dressing in our turkeys anymore. We find the turkeys cook more evenly and actually taste better. We bake stuffing as a side dish and it tastes fabulous! Also don't forget about the leftovers. The leftover meat needs to be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Serve your turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and any other side dish you desire! Enjoy!