ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How To Make The Best Roast Turkey

Updated on March 25, 2012

Add A Perfect Roast Turkey To The Thanksgiving Dinner Menu!

For many cooks, learning how to cook a turkey is the scariest kitchen challenge they can imagine - especially if they have never done it before! And even those who have taken on that giant bird sometimes find the result disappointing.

The fact that there are so many contradictory tips out there doesn't help - How long to cook a turkey? Do I need to baste it? How often should I baste it? Should I stuff the turkey or cook the stuffing separately?

Here are some answers to these questions that might surprise new-comers to the mysterious art of cooking a turkey:

  • How long does it take? Cooking time should be less than 3 hours for a 14 to 16 pound turkey. You want to cook it hot and fast to maintain juiciness.
  • How often should I baste? NEVER! There is no need to baste a turkey if you follow this recipe! All basting does is drain heat from the oven every time you open the door, and that just increases cooking time without improving the crustiness of the skin or the juiciness of the meat.
  • Should I stuff the turkey? No. All that stuffing inside the bird just increases the cooking time, and all those delicious juices get sucked out of the meat and end up in the stuffing, where they just aren't needed.
  • Fresh or Frozen? That's enough for a topic of its own...

Scared Of Cooking A Turkey?

How scary is the idea of cooking a turkey?

See results

These Are NOT The Right Turkey Choices!

Choose the right turkey

Choosing the right turkey for your holiday meal is half the battle! For this recipe, it is imperative that you avoid pre-flavored turkeys!

That means not a Kosher turkey (they are salt-cured) and not a Butterball turkey (they are "flavor injected"). These pre-flavored birds already contain a good amount of salt, so brining them will result in a turkey that is way too salty!

As for fresh or frozen, there is no real difference for this recipe. Many folks argue that a fresh turkey is juicier and more tender than a frozen one, but the brining process we will be using will make even the cheapest frozen turkey moist and delicious!

If you do go for a frozen turkey, be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator as per the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging. Never defrost a chicken on the counter-top - unless you want to poison your guests with salmonella!

Have you cooked a turkey before?

How does your holiday turkey usually turn out?

See results

What is brining? Why brine the bird? Won't it taste salty?

If you've never done it before, the idea of brining turkey may seem counter-intuitive. How could soaking a turkey in salt water overnight possibly be a good idea?

If you're wondering how to cook a turkey that's always juicy, brining is the key!

Brining is a very simple concept that has been around for centuries. It has long been used to make pickles, and is often a key step in cheese making. In the case of brining meat, salt and water are used increase the amount of water held in the cells of the meat, resulting in juiciness!

Osmosis in Action
Osmosis in Action

Brining works by way of osmosis and protein degradation inside the cells of the meat. Since the water outside has a higher salt concentration, the process of osmosis pulls the salt into the cells in an effort to achieve equilibrium.


For this recipe, you will need the following:

  • A Vessel to Soak the Turkey
  • A Stew Pot
  • A Roasting Pan
  • A V-rack
  • Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
  • A Meat Thermometer


  • A 14 to 16 pound Turkey (fresh, or frozen and defrosted - not Kosher Turkey or Butterball Turkey)
  • Canola Oil


  • 1 gallon Vegetable Stock (Homemade Vegetable Stock is Best!)
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 5 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon Peppercorns
  • 5 pound Bag of Ice


  • 1 Large Onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 Cooking Apple (Fiji, Granny Smith, e.g.), cut into quarters
  • 3 Stalks Celery
  • 3 Carrots
  • 5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 5 Sage Leaves



The brining takes several hours, and I like to do it the afternoon before the big day...

  1. In a large stew pot, add the Vegetable Stock, Kosher Salt, Brown Sugar, Garlic and Peppercorns. Bring to a boil over High heat and stir until the Salt and Sugar are dissolved. Turn off the heat and let the Brine cool for several hours.
  2. Once the Brine has cooled, remove the Turkey from its wrapping - remove the giblets from the cavity. Save them for the Best Turkey Giblet Gravy.
  3. Rinse the Turkey thoroughly under cold running water.
  4. Place the Turkey inside the Soaking Vessel and pour the Brine over top. Add enough Ice to bring up the level of the liquid until the Turkey is completely submerged. Give the whole thing a good stir to distribute the ice and ensure that the cavity of the Turkey is full of Brine (so it doesn't float).
  5. Place a lid on the Soaking Vessel and put it in a cool place - if you have room in the fridge, that is best. If not, you can place the Vessel outside or in the garage if it's cold outside (below 45 degrees F), or in the basement if its cool down there. If none of these options are available, see the section at the end for an alternate method that uses a cooler and a roasting bag.
  6. Let the Turkey sit in the brine for about 6 hours, but no longer than 7 hours. About halfway through the brining, give the whole works another good stirring.
  7. Remove the Turkey from the Brine and rinse it thoroughly, inside and out, in the sink. If you don't rinse it, the salt on the outside will make the Turkey taste overly salty!
  8. Discard the Brine Solution.
  9. Wrap the Turkey thoroughly in plastic cling wrap or inside an oven roasting bag and place it BREAST-SIDE DOWN in the fridge overnight. I've found that placing it breast-side down in the fridge helps to make the breast meat even more juicy and tender!

Keep That Oven Door Closed!

Please note that if you open the oven during cooking you will dramatically increase the total cooking time.

Every time you open the oven, the internal temperature drops by about 10 degrees. In reality, I find that I do need to open the door while making Thanksgiving dinner - there's more to be cooked than just the bird! I also cook the stuffing and other side dishes at the same time, so my cooking time suffers a bit. If left alone in the oven, the turkey would probably be done in 2 1/2 hours instead of 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

That's why the Meat Thermometer is essential for telling when the bird is finished. Without one, you'll never know how long to cook a turkey!


The cooking process I use may be quite different from what you're used to - cooking a 14-16 pound bird only takes about 3 hours!

When I was a kid, my Mom would wake up at the crack of dawn to start cooking the turkey and spend the whole day opening and closing the oven to baste and baste and baste. Those days are over!

This recipe cooks the bird hot and fast, and there is no need for basting! The high heat makes the skin crispy, and the brining makes sure that the meat will be tender.

I know this will be hard for some of you to believe, but try it once and you'll see the light...

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Remove the Turkey from the fridge and unwrap it. I like to give it one last rinse in the sink, then thoroughly pat it dry with paper towels to ensure a crispy skin.
  3. Place the Turkey on a V-Rack inside a Roasting Pan, breast-side up. The V-Rack's design will ensure that the bottom of the Turkey roasts instead of soaks!
  4. Fill the cavity of the Turkey with the aromatics - don't try to be fancy, just jam it all in there! It will be thrown out after cooking, so don't be fussy about it.
  5. Tear off a large piece of Aluminum Foil and fold it diagonally to form a triangle. Place the triangle over the breast of the Turkey so that it completely covers the breast meat. Once you have the desired shape, carefully remove the foil and set it aside. (We're doing this now because the turkey will be piping hot later and you'll burn yourself if you try to shape the foil cover later!)
  6. Rub the entire outside of the Turkey with Canola Oil.
  7. Place a Meat Thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to hit any bones. Do not rely on that built-in pop-up thingy when cooking a turkey - they are calibrated way too high, and your Turkey will be overcooked if you rely on it instead of a proper Meat Thermometer!
  8. Place the Roasting Pan on the bottom rack of the 500 degree oven and cook for 30 minutes, undisturbed.
  9. After 30 minutes, remove the Turkey from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375. Place the prepared foil cover over the breast and return the Turkey to the oven. The foil will prevent the breast meat from overcooking.
  10. Keep an eye on the Thermometer and remove the Turkey when it reads 160 degrees. Just to be safe, I also like to use my Instant Read Thermometer in a few spots to make sure the bird is completely cooked!
  11. Let the Turkey rest about 20 minutes, loosely covered with foil.

Alton Brown Explains The Logic Behind This Recipe!

The Method Behind The Madness

  • Why cook the turkey at such high heat?
  • Why no basting?
  • What's with that foil shield?

These questions and more are answered in this video From Food Network's "Good Eats"


This will be a very juicy bird, so be prepared! Cover your work surface with towels under a cutting board and have some extras on hand for clean-up.

I like to first remove the breasts with a chefs knife, then carve them across the grain with an electric knife before serving. The drumsticks and thighs should pull off easily with minimal cutting.

Everything You Need For Brining Your Turkey

Alternate Brining Vessel - The Cooler!

If you live someplace where it's too warm to let your turkey brine outside, or you just don't want to leave your bird out there for the critters to get into, here is an alternative.

You will need a large cooler (a disposable Styrofoam one will do, so long as it's big enough to hold the bird and the brine) and a Brining Bag or Roasting Bag large enough to hold the bird and the liquid.

You don't want to brine the bird directly in the cooler - raw poultry can contain nasty little things that can make you sick, and it's easier to use a bag inside the cooler than to try to sanitize it after you've finished.

Place the bird in the bag, then put the bag in the cooler. Carefully pour the Brine Solution into the bag, then cover with enough ice so that the Turkey is completely submerged. Close up the bag, cover the cooler and proceed as above!

A Great Side Dish

You've got the Turkey and the Gravy, how about some Delicious Garlic Mashed Potatoes to make the meal complete...

You Need Some Gravy!

Now that you know how to cook a turkey, it's time to make The Best Turkey Giblet Gravy!

The Best Stuffing Ever!

Add some Sage Sausage and Apple Stuffing for a complete Thanksgiving Dinner Menu!

"Good Eats" Inspired This Recipe!

This recipe was inspired by one I saw on Food TV. I've modified it a bit over the years, and here is the original brining method from Alton Brown on "Good Eats":

Brining A Turkey on "Good Eats"


Submit a Comment

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from United States

    LOL Brainy Bunny - This hub has been around for almost 2 years and you're the first one to catch that typo :D

  • Brainy Bunny profile image

    Brainy Bunny 

    6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

    Sounds like a good recipe. But I must say, the thought of a 126-pound turkey scares the pants off me!

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from United States

    @juxtapose - I am so glad you were able to make a great roast turkey for your holiday dinner!

    I have been using this recipe for years, and it seems to turn out better every time - this year I made a 21 pound turkey and used homemade vegetable stock for the brine. I had read that successfully brining such a large bird was nearly impossible, but I let it soak for 14 hours and it came out moist and flavorful by following this technique!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I am writing this from Perth, Australia on Christmas Day 2010.

    I need to let you know that I followed your turkey brining recipe to make a roast turkey yesterday and it was TRULY AMAZING.

    I have never cooked a turkey before and when I saw your recipe I almost gave up straight away. But I am so glad I persisted and the result was an incredibly succulent and moist turkey.

    IT was so good I had family and friends who have eaten many turkeys in their time say that it was by far the best ever.

    So thank you for the excellent recipe and I will definitely be making it again next year.

    Kind Regards

    Jake Delaney

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from United States

    Steveo - Check out my stuffing recipe, too! It's even more moist and tasty then the "in-the-bird" option!

  • SteveoMc profile image


    8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

    I'll be a monkey's uncle! I always knew that cooking a turkey all night and all day was wrong. My mother in law used to cook the turkey for 17 hours. Everyone would look at the poor cooked off the bone thing and gush, "Look how tender it is!" And the aroma was incredible. But I always thought, "If I wanted pulled pork, I would start with a big pork roast." Thanks for the roasting tips. I might have to give it a try before the holidays this year. I will have a lot of trouble giving up the stuffing though since my peeps likes that a lot.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Sounds like a good way to cook a turkey. Thanks.

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    Thanks for the information on roasting a turkey.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)