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How to Make a Traditionally Roasted Turkey
If you’re looking at traditionally roasting a turkey, you’re probably receiving guests. In which case, you want a stress-free plan that guarantees a tender, juicy and classy looking bird. I hear you!
I’ve been using this method for the past 15 years and have always had success with it. Here in southern Germany, turkeys are hard to come by. You can’t just go out to the grocery store and buy one. I buy mine from a local farm and they only sell turkeys that have lived full lives – I have never been able to get a bird smaller than 26 pounds! There were a few times I was worried it wouldn’t fit in my oven! So this recipe has been tested on even the biggest bird – and worked – every…single…time! That’s why I’m sharing it with you!
Even if you’re a first-timer, I promise you will succeed if you follow this method.
Step 1: Prepping the Turkey
- If your turkey is frozen, be sure to allow for enough time for it to thaw! You can let it thaw in the refrigerator, which will take up to three days (for a 14-pound turkey). Alternatively, you can thaw it in a sink of cold water, which will take at least 3 hours.
- Prepare the stuffing if you’re using it.
- Get all of your equipment set out before unwrapping the turkey (s. Step 2.)
- Place an extra thermometer in your oven to ensure your thermostat is correct. You’ll have serious timing issues if it’s off by 50° and you don’t know it. (Ask me how I know this.)
- Unwrap the turkey and remove the giblets from the neck and main cavities if there are any.
- Rinse and dry the turkey inside and out.
- Salt the neck- and main cavities.
Step 2: Stuffing and Trussing the Turkey
For a 14 lb turkey you will need:
- 8 Cups of Stuffing
- peanut oil, butter or ghee, for basting
- 1 cup each roughly chopped carrots, celery and onions
- a heavy bowl to put the turkey in while stuffing
- skewers 8″ – 10″ long
- 4.5″ turkey lacers
- white cotton butcher’s twine
- a roasting pan 2 inches deep and just large enough to hold the turkey easily
- a rack for the roasting pan
- an instant read thermometer
- a baster, or basting brush
- aluminum foil
Note: the stuffing should be at room temperature for accurate cooking times.
- Stuff the neck cavity first, setting the turkey bottom-down in the big bowl. Pack it in rather loosely as it will swell during roasting.
- Pull the neck skin up and over the stuffing and secure it to the backbone with a skewer.
- Turn the turkey around in the bowl, breast down to fill the main cavity. Again, remember the stuffing will swell during roasting, so pack it loosely.
- If you’re worried the stuffing might fall out, you can press it into the cavity with a crumpled up piece of aluminum foil. Alternatively, use the turkey lacers to “sew” up the cavity.
If you’re struggling with “turkey bondage” try this: secure the legs by pushing a skewer through the bottom parts of both legs and tie the string around that. The same thing goes for the wings – use the skewers to pin the wings to the bird so they don’t dry out.
Step 3: Roast the bird
- Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).
- Rub it all over with fresh peanut oil, butter or ghee.
- Set it in the roasting pan – breast up.
- Place the turkey on the lower third level of the oven.
- After the first 30 minutes, baste with oil/butter/ghee.
- Then baste with the accumulated pan juices every 30 to 40 minutes until it’s done.
Note: Make sure the turkey doesn’t start getting too brown. If it does, just cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
Scatter the chopped vegetables into the juices in the pan 1.5 hours before the end of the roasting time. This will make for a more flavorful gravy.
Estimated Roasting Times at 325°F (160°C):
A chubby turkey will take a little longer per pound than the longer thinner kind. An unstuffed turkey will take 20 to 30 minutes less roasting time overall. Plan for a 15 minute resting period so the juices can retreat back into the flesh before carving.
12 to 16 pounds (5 to 7 Kg) – about 4 hours to roast
16 to 20 pounds (7 to 9 Kg) – about 5 hours to roast
20 to 26 pounds (9 to 12 Kg) – about 6 hours to roast
When is it perfectly cooked?
Despite timing charts and thermometers…if there are no brown juices and fat accumulated in the bottom of the roasting pan, the turkey is not done. You should have at least 1 cup of juice.
Check the temperature: insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat near the armpit area, testing several areas and both sides. It should read between 162°F (72°C) and 170°F (77°C)
The thickest part of the legs should feel tender when pressed, and they should move slightly in their sockets.
One Last Tip
I’ve learned the hard way that a turkey can get pretty cold after resting and carving. Use a chafing dish to keep it warm. Cold turkey does have its time and place – but not at your dinner party!
Drop me a line in the comments below letting me know how your turkey turned out. Were you happy with the results? Would you do something differently next time?