Roasting a whole turkey does not need to be complicated. For a super moist and delicious turkey, you only need 5 ingredients and a little patience!
When it comes to roasting a whole turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, there are many people who are greatly intimidated by it. But, I assure you, Dear Reader, it’s as easy as pie!
Maybe I should have chosen a different simile, because I cannot make pie at all! Well, it’s not that I can’t make a pie, I just really struggle with making a pie crust from scratch.
If you search for turkey recipes on the internet, you’ll find a million of them. It seems that they all come with a different list of ingredients, but you really don’t need to fuss with it. Simple, basic, and home style is the best way to go!
Nobody likes dry turkey meat!
There are two things you must remember when roasting a turkey if you want to keep the meat moist and seasoned, yet not under-cooked! Those two things are tenting and basting.
Tenting is the process by which you cover the turkey with aluminum foil. It’s really that simple. It locks in the moisture, preventing it from escaping and evaporating. It also prevents the turkey from getting too browned or even burning.
You won’t need to tent the turkey the entire time. I like to roast the turkey in an open pan until I’m satisfied with the colour of the baked skin. Once I have the turkey browned, I will tent it until it has finished cooking all the way through.
Basting is the process by which you use the juices in the bottom of the pan to moisten or wet the turkey while it’s cooking. Basting will help with the browning of the skin as well as re-introduce moisture back into the meat.
Can I stuff the turkey?
The simple answer is yes. If you have a favourite stuffing recipe that you want to use, you can omit the onions from the recipe below and stuff the turkey before you begin the cooking process.
It is very important that you keep in mind that adding stuffing to the turkey will extend the cooking time. For my 20 pound turkey to be completely cooked, it took 5 hours. If I were to add stuffing, I would guess at least another 45-60 minutes.
You should test your turkey with a meat thermometer before declaring it ready to eat. Insert the thermometer into the center of the breast meat. The temperature should be between 165 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If you use a meat thermometer, you’ll never have to second guess yourself.
Can I add more flavour enhancers to the cavity?
Yes, you certainly can! This particular recipe is for a basic roasted turkey. It has great flavour as it is, but you can certainly add more to it if you like. Consider adding roughly chopped carrot and celery – maybe even a clove or two of garlic.
You can add fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, summer savoury, etc. Just be sure that the flavour you’re building will pair well with the rest of the meal. I would never add garlic to my turkey, because it’s too pungent and I wouldn’t want it to take over the flavour of the meat.
Keep in mind that more flavours will come into play if you plan on serving the turkey with cranberry sauce or gravy too.
Before you get to the recipe, I want to make mention that I always use salted butter even though I salt the turkey itself. If you are using unsalted butter, use about 1/4 teaspoon more when seasoning the turkey.
When seasoning, be sure to season the cavity too, not just the top of the bird. I like to measure out the salt and pepper and stir it together. Then, I place the bird onto a large platter and rub the salt and pepper mixture all around the outside of the bird, while reserving just less than half of it to distribute inside the cavity.
Enjoy, Dear Reader! I’m sure once you’ve tried this simple and easy recipe, you’ll claim it for your own and use it for every turkey-roasting occasion. Think of the turkey as a really big chicken; there’s no reason to be nervous about it at all!
Roasted Whole Turkey
- Large roasting pan with rack – roughly 18" x 13" x 4"
- Butcher's twine (string)
- Turkey baster
- 20 pound turkey, thawed, giblets removed, and washed well under cold running water
- 2 large white onions, peeled and halved
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup salted butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Measure out the salt and pepper. Stir together in a small bowl.
- Wash turkey and roughly pat dry with paper towel. Rub the entire surface of the turkey with just over half of the salt and pepper mixture. Distribute the remaining salt and pepper inside the cavity.
- Place the turkey onto the rack in the roasting pan.
- Tuck the wing tips under the breast meat. This will prevent them from burning. (Use force; sometimes they're a bit stiff.)
- Add the onions to the cavity of the turkey. (If you are adding anything else, please do so now. If you are stuffing the turkey, please do so at this point.)
- Using butcher's twine, tie the two legs together in a cross-over fashion.
- Place the turkey in the oven uncovered. Roast for 1 hour.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and place all of the butter into the bottom of the pan. Return to oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and use turkey baster to baste the entire surface of the turkey. Return to oven. Baste every 30 minutes.
- At the 3 hour mark, pay attention to the skin on the turkey. If it has browned enough, tent the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Do not press the foil onto the bird – the skin will stick to the foil.
- Return to oven and continue roasting; baste every 30 minutes.
- Once the turkey has been roasting for 4 hours and 30 minutes, check the temperature of the breast meat using a meat thermometer. The temperature should be between 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is not, return to the oven to continue cooking.
- After the turkey is fully cooked, remove from the oven. Keep covered with the foil and allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes before carving.