How to Roast A Turkey In the Oven — How long and how to prepare it
Learning how to roasting a turkey in the oven is actually incredibly easy when you get the hang of it. These tips will help you roast your bird to perfection. Here you'll learn how long to roast a turkey, and the best way to prepare it.
First things first: thaw your bird completely before putting it in the oven... but do NOT thaw it at room temperature. Thaw it in the fridge for a few days — up to four or five, depending on the size of your turkey.
400°F (204°C) is the perfect temperature for cooking a whole bird. You'll get crispy skin without compromising tenderness.
Depending on the size of your bird, it should take anywhere from 2-6 hours to roast at 400°F (204°C). I highly recommend a meat thermometer, one that stays in the turkey while it cooks and lets you set an alarm for when it reaches the proper temperature. This keeps you from continually opening the oven door, which will greatly increase your cooking time.
Basting the bird won't give you crispier skin. In fact, you'll get limp, soggy skin and it only marginally affects the flavor.
Some argue that rubbing the entire bird with fat, inside and out, doesn't affect the flavor, but I disagree. It depends on the fat, though - olive oil won't give you a flavor boost, but butter mixed with a heaping dose of salt and herbs will yield a tasty dish indeed.
Stuffing some butter (mixed with salt and herbs) under the skin will help flavor the meat, but don’t go overboard. Too much fat will just make the meat greasy.
They (whoever "they" are) say that you're supposed to cook a whole turkey to the internal temperature of 180°F (82°C), but I find that 160°F (77°C) yields a perfectly moist bird that's still cooked completely through. Make sure to measure in the thickest part of the breast.
Also, remember that the bird will carry-over cook for 20-45 minutes after you take it out of the oven, so you want to cook it to about 145°F (63°C) to 150°F (66°C), then let it come up to temperature as it rests, covered lightly with foil.
The thighs and other dark meat will take longer to cook, especially if you roast the bird breast-side up. You can butterfly your turkey or roast it in separate pieces for more even cooking. I’ve also had great luck removing the legs and thighs once the breasts are done, and roasting the thighs and legs longer on their own. You’ll still need to let them rest for 20 minutes or so once you pull them from the oven.
It doesn’t matter if you roast your turkey breast up, breast down, flipped over halfway through, or hanging from the rafters — no position will make the breast more moist IF YOU DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO THE TEMPERATURE.
Don’t put stuffing or dressing inside your turkey. This can lead to all sorts of holiday misery — namely salmonella. If you insist on stuffing your bird, remove the stuffing as soon as the meat is done and cook the stuffing to 160°F (77°C) in a pot on the stove.
Let your bird rest for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven. A good 20 minute nap will let everything settle and keep the moisture where it belongs: in the meat.
The easiest way to guarantee that pieces of breast will be moist is to let them soak in the bird's juices for a few minutes after they've been cut. This includes the fatty runoff from what you've rubbed over the surface or stuffed under the skin.
You want the entire bird to roast evenly and have crispy skin all over, so consider elevating it off the surface of the roasting pan. A good-sized roasting rack will do the trick, which allows air to circulate under the bird, crisping it all the way around.
Get two decent thermometers: one for measuring the turkey, and one for measuring your oven’s temperature. ‘Nuff said.
Don’t waste the juices in the bottom of the pan! Reduce in a saucepan with some white wine and fresh sage, add a little cornstarch, and you’ve got an amazing gravy.