Making a turkey might seem daunting but it is not as intimidating as it sounds. If you have ever roasted a whole chicken, you will be able to roast a whole turkey with ease. If you have never roasted a whole chicken, fear not. Roasting a bird is easy. Once you get the basics down, you can add enhancements that will take your turkey game to the next level. Words like basting, brining, free range, defrosting, and the turkey math might make the process daunting – but I assure you it is much easier than it seems.
Step 1: Choose the bird
- The first step in cooking a turkey is choosing the right bird. I recommend getting a fresh (unfrozen -so you do not have to defrost the bird), free-range, organic turkey from your local grocery store or Whole Foods.
- Size matters – you need to determine how many people you will be feeding and how many leftovers you would like to have. See the chart below as a guide:
Step 2: Brine or do not brine – personal choice
- First, what does it mean to brine a turkey? Brining is simply a way of conditioning the turkey before roasting it so that it stays extra moist. It is usually done a day before you intend to cook the bird. Martha Stewart has a great turkey brine recipe.
- Second, it is an optional step. If you do not brine your turkey, you will not be compromising the quality and taste of your turkey.
Step 3: Wash the bird and prepare for roast
- Whether or not you have decided to brine the turkey, you must rinse the turkey and remove the neck and giblet. Dispose or use to make a stock.
- If you have chosen to brine the turkey beforehand, then now is the time to apply the brine. If your chose not to brine, begin to prepare the turkey.
Step 4: Prepare the turkey
- Place the turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Tuck the wings under the turkey. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt and a moderate amount of pepper inside the cavity of the turkey and all over the bird. Truss the turkey – i.e. tie the legs together (this is to further assure moistness). Fill the cavity with 2 lemon halves, tied bunches of thyme and rosemary, and about 3 bay leaves (and feel free to add other herbs). Rub softened butter all over turkey and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Step 4: Place in oven and cook
- Place the turkey in the roasting pan on the lowest rack in your oven and cook at 325 degrees F for about 15 minutes per pound of turkey. See cook schedule below:
Step 5: Baste the turkey
- Every hour or so, you can baste the turkey. This means you suck up the juice produced by the roasting turkey and infuse it back onto the roasting turkey.
Step 6: Take out of oven and test temperature:
- Take the turkey out of the oven and place on stovetop. Place thermometer into the thigh of the turkey until it reads at least 165 degrees F. If it less than 165 F, place back into oven for about 10 minutes on same temperature until it reaches 165 F.
Step 6: Let the turkey cool
- Let the turkey cool for at least 30 minutes before carving.
Step 7: Carve and enjoy
- Carve the turkey and enjoy your roasted turkey