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Roast Turkey picture

Roast Turkey

Turkey doesn't have to be complicated, and this turkey recipe breaks down the roasting process into simple, concise steps. Read through everything in advance to make sure you allow enough time for prepping, roasting and resting.

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  • 1 12- to 14-pound turkey, at room temperature (remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 3 cups water
  • 1 recipe stuffing (if using)
  • For an unstuffed turkey:
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • a few sprigs fresh parsley and/or thyme
  • Special equipment:
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Roasting pan (can be disposable)
  • Rack that fits inside pan to hold turkey

Serves 10 to 12

Note:  Be sure you have all the right equipment to make your turkey roasting easy and efficient.  Check out the Kitchen Store on Amazon - we have a section just for Thanksgiving. See also our helpful guides, "Turkey Tips and Techniques" and "Turkey FAQs".

  1. Preheat the oven to 500F, with rack positioned in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Remove the neck or giblet package that is sometimes tucked in the neck or body cavity.  Set aside for use in making gravy or discard.
  3. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold running water and pat dry.  
  4. Season the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper.
  5. If you are stuffing the turkey (see separate recipe for stuffing), place some stuffing in the neck cavity and stretch the neck skin over the stuffing; secure it with toothpicks or metal skewers. Spoon more stuffing into the body cavity so that it is about 3/4 full (you need to leave room for expansion during cooking.)
  6. If you are not stuffing the turkey, place the onion, celery and sprigs of parsley and/or thyme into the body cavity.
  7. Rub the softened butter or oil all over the outside of the turkey and season well with salt and pepper.
  8. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up.
  9. Tuck the wing tips back behind the turkey. Tie the legs together with cotton kitchen string, or use the plastic leg holder that comes with many turkeys to secure the legs.  If you stuffed the turkey and there is a gap where you can see the stuffing, cover it with a little piece of aluminum foil so the stuffing remains inside and doesn't dry out.
  10. Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan so the drippings don't burn.
  11. Roast for the turkey for 30 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 350F and rotate the turkey 180 degrees.
  12. Monitor the turkey every 30 minutes.  If the top is getting very brown, lay a piece of aluminum foil directly on top of the turkey.
  13. If the water is evaporating from the roasting pan, add 1 to 2 cups more.
  14. When the turkey has been in the oven for a total of 2 hours, remove it and check for doneness. Insert an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast, without touching bone. The turkey should be removed when the breast meat reaches an internal temperature of 155F to 160F, and/or the thigh meet reaches 165F. If the temperature is lower, return the bird to the oven and continue roasting, checking for doneness every 20 to 30 minutes.
  15. Once the turkey is cooked, take it out of the roasting pan and place it on a cutting board. If the turkey is stuffed, remove the stuffing and place it in a baking dish to be reheated prior to serving  (Note:  Stuffing must reach 165F to be safe from bacteria.)
  16. Tent the bird loosely with foil and let it rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 before carving.
  17. Serve the turkey on warm plates with hot gravy (see separate recipe.)

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