Whether you’re new to hosting the extended family Christmas dinner or just keen to see what all the fuss is about, we’ve got all you need to know on how to produce a mouth-watering turkey, roasted to moist, decadent perfection. You’ll be gourmet chef of the year with these simple, easy to follow recommendations for roasting your turkey this festive season. If you’re already a wizz at the ol’ roast turkey, click through to check out the gorgeous Honey and Rosemary Brined Turkey with Herb Riesling Gravy we have for your inspiration.
We’re currently taking pre-orders on the best humanly raised, free-range turkeys available, so if this guide inspires your appetite and creativity, click through to secure one for your festive celebrations, as numbers are limited!
Thanks to Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn for this comprehensive guide, reproduced here for you with minor amendments for our metric system.
In order to keep things really simple and straightforward in this ‘how to’, we are taking a completely no-frills approach — though there are lots of places along the way where you can add some spice, extra flavor, or personal touches.
Consider this a recipe template and feel free to play with it as much or as little as you like; the goal here is simply to give you a foolproof way to get that turkey roasted and onto plates with as little stress as possible. This method will work with any turkey: big or small, brined or not, free-range or otherwise. Cooking times will vary, but the basic technique will be the same.
How To Cook a Turkey
1 turkey, any size
2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, water, or other liquid
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, for basting (optional)
Roasting pan (or an alternative roasting dish)
Roasting rack (or something to lift the turkey off the pan)
Turkey baster, brush, or ladle (optional, if basting)
- Prepare the turkey for roasting: Thirty minutes to an hour before roasting, take the turkey out of the fridge. Remove any packaging and the bag of giblets (check in the body cavity and in the neck cavity). Set the turkey breast-side up on the roasting rack and let it sit while the oven preheats. This takes the chill off the meat, which helps the meat cook faster and more evenly. It also gives the skin time to dry out, which promotes browning and crisping. (Note: Your turkey will likely still feel cool to the touch after sitting at room temperature — that’s fine and you can continue on with roasting.)
- Preheat the oven to 230°C: Position an oven rack in the bottom third of your oven and preheat the oven to 230°C. Unless it is brined (see here for info) in which case do nothing here, rub it with some salt and pepper before putting it in the oven. We recommend leaving your turkey un-stuffed, both because it’s easier and because the turkey will cook more evenly.
- Add liquid to the roasting pan: When ready to roast, pour two cups of broth or water into the roasting pan.
- Place the turkey in the oven and turn down the heat: Place the turkey in the oven and turn down the heat to 180°C. We recommend roasting turkeys breast-side up. Some people like starting the turkey breast-side down to shield the breast meat, but the idea of flipping a hot, sputtering turkey is not our idea of a good time. Instead, we prefer to simply shield the breast meat with foil toward the end of cooking if it starts getting too browned.
- Roast the turkey: The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 30 minutes per 500g. However, some factors like brining the bird and cooking with an empty (un-stuffed) cavity will contribute to much faster cooking. Plan on the 30 minute per 500g rule, but start checking the temperature of your turkey about halfway through the scheduled cooking time to gauge how fast it’s cooking.
- Baste the turkey every 45 minutes: Every 45 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven, close the oven door (don’t let that heat out!), and baste the turkey all over. To baste, tilt the pan and use a turkey baster or spoon to scoop up the pan liquids and drizzle them on top of the turkey. Basting with pan juices cools the surface of the turkey and slows down cooking, which in turn keeps the breast meat cooking at close to the same rate as the legs and thighs. In the last 45 minutes or so of cooking, you can also baste the turkey with melted butter or oil. This helps crisp up the skin and turn it a beautiful deep golden brown.
- Check the turkey’s temperature: Begin checking the turkey’s temperature about halfway through the estimated cooking time. Check the temperature in three places: the breast, outer thigh, and inside thigh (see photos above). In every case, the meat should be at least 75°C when the turkey has finished cooking. If any place is under that temperature, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Shield the breast meat with foil if needed to keep it from overcooking.
- Rest the turkey before carving: Grab one side of the roasting rack with an oven mitt and tilt the whole pan so the liquids inside the turkey cavity run out into the pan. (These juices are used to make the gravy.) Then, lift the whole turkey (still on the rack) and transfer it to a cutting board. Tent the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives time for the meat to firm up and the juices to be re-absorbed into the muscle tissue, making the turkey easier to slice and taste juicier.
- Carve the turkey: Carve the turkey the same way you would carve a chicken: remove the wings first, then the thighs, then the breast meat. Once you have the meat off, you can separate the thighs into thighs and drumsticks and carve the breast meat into individual slices.
- Don’t forget about the leftovers: One final note! Once you’ve sat down at the table, don’t forget about the turkey back on the counter. The leftover meat needs to be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, after which the risk of something nasty taking up residence starts to increase exponentially. Be safe!
- Ways to Add Flavor to Your Turkey: Rub your turkey with butter or oil for a richer flavor and browner skin, rub minced herbs or ground spices into (or beneath) the skin for more flavor, place a few halved lemons or garlic cloves inside the cavity of the turkey.