Nov 25, 2013
How to Roast a Turkey

With Thanksgiving only a few days away we want to share our tips and suggestions on how to roast the perfect turkey. Here’s the breakdown…

Skip the brine. One of the first questions we get when it comes to roasting a turkey is whether or not we recommend brining. Although brining does result in moist meat, we actually prefer to roast an unbrined turkey, and here’s why…. The process of brining comes down to osmosis and the shifting of water and salt between the meat and the brining liquid. The meat starts by having more water than salt, so the salt from the brine naturally moves into the meat in attempts to reach equilibrium. As this occurs, the salt attaches to the muscle fibers, pushing the proteins apart, and allowing room for more water and more salt to get into the meat. The average brined turkey has 10% more water and salt than an unbrined bird. Not only does this mean that the juiciness of the meat is mainly just salty tap water, but the pan juices from brined turkeys are generally too salty to use to make homemade gravy. So, season your turkey well, and roast it without brining, then use all the delicious pan juices to create a delicious gravy to soak and moisten the breast meat before serving.


Prepare your turkey. Approximately one hour before roasting, remove the turkey from the fridge. Remove packaging, the giblets and neck from the body cavity and allow the meat to temper. Tempering brings the meat to room temperature, allowing it to cook more evenly and preventing the meat from being “shocked” when placed in the hot oven. If you were to shock it, it would take longer to come to temperature and thus increase the potential of dry meat. Removing the packaging allows the surface of the meat to dry, increasing browning and crisping while roasting. The packaging can be removed a day ahead to get a really crispy skin. At the very least, pat the skin dry with a kitchen towel before seasoning.

We also recommend removing the wishbone prior to cooking. Removing this little bone will allow you to carve your roasted turkey with ease. To remove the wishbone, lift the neck skin of your turkey and follow the outline of the bone with the tip of your knife, cutting along the edges of the bone to remove it.

Note: If frozen, thaw your turkey completely. In the refrigerator, this will take approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. So, be sure to thaw your bird several days in advance.


Liberally salt your turkey. This includes sprinkling a generous amount of salt inside your bird. We recommend roasting your turkey without stuffing, which allows it to cook more evenly.


Truss your turkey. Trussing ensures that the legs and wings are tucked in close to the body of the turkey, allowing all of the meat to cook evenly without drying out. Cut a piece of kitchen twine approximately 4’ long (it’s better to have more than enough length here). Position your turkey breast side up with the legs towards you. Fold the twine in half and place the looped end around the the end of the turkey where the neck was. On both sides, use your thumbs to tuck the wings under the twine as you move towards the legs of the bird. Cross the string under the front of the breast, and tie a single overhand knot so you can pull the string tightly to secure the wings against the bird. Keeping the tension on the twine, loop the twine around the legs, pulling them together and tying a final knot around the base or ankles of the turkey legs, ensuring that they are all tight and snug against the body of the turkey.


Roast your turkey. Preheat your oven to 450°F and lower the oven racks to the bottom position. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack. Roast for 30 minutes at 450°, lower the temperature to 350° and continue to roast until a meat thermometer reads 165°F (be sure to check several places in the turkey as the dark and light meat will cook differently.) Below is a chart of approximate roasting times by weight. These cooking times will vary depending on factors including how many other items are in your oven at the same time, whether your turkey is stuffed, how well your roasting pan retains heat, etc. So, you can use this as a base line, but be sure to also use your thermometer to check the internal temperature of your bird to ensure it is cooked properly.



10 lbs.

2 ¼ hours

12 lbs.

2 ½ hours

14 lbs.

3 hours

16 lbs.

3 ½ hours

18 lbs.

4 hours

Rest your turkey. Just as it’s important to temper your turkey before you place it in the oven, it’s also just as important to let the turkey rest after removing it from the oven. Remove turkey from oven and tent with tin foil. Allow it to rest for 30 minutes. This allows the juices to be redistributed and absorbed into the meat, resulting in a tender, moist turkey. During this time, carry over cooking will also occur. On average, the internal temperature of the meat will rise 5° F after being removed from the oven. During this resting time (at least 30 minutes) your oven is free to reheat all the rest of your Thanksgiving fixings. This lets you spend more time with your guests and family as the turkey is resting and the other items are slowly reheating. (Don’t forget to warm your plates too.)

Carve your turkey. Where to start when it comes to carving? We suggest that you start by carving off each breast entirely and slicing them thinly once off the bone, this will be much easier since you removed the wishbone before roasting. From there you can slice the rest of the meat directly off of the turkey. Don’t forget to save those pan drippings to make a delicious, homemade gravy. Now, the only thing left to do is sit down, relax and enjoy a beautiful meal with family and friends!


Cheers and happy holidays from the Haven’s Kitchen Family!