Now, there are many ways to cook a turkey but our favorite, by far, is a simple roast. Here’s how we do it with an 18-pound turkey.
Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 325°F. Place turkey breast side up in a shallow roasting pan, on a rack if you have one. If you’re using a disposable aluminum roasting pan, place that on top of a cookie sheet for extra support.
Using fingers, gently loosen skin covering turkey breast and thighs.
Season the Turkey
In a small bowl, combine some simple seasonings. You probably already have these on hand: 1 tablespoon garlic salt, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper or cayenne. Rub the dry seasoning mixture all over turkey.
Now tuck the wings underneath the back of the turkey. If it looks like your turkey is going to sunbathe in the oven you’ve done it right. At this point you could truss (tie) together your turkey legs with twine or butcher’s string to create a more compact shape. Some say this helps the turkey cook more evenly. Our bird actually came this way. (If you’re short on time, skip the trussing step!)
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over your turkey.
At this point, insert an ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is in thickest part of inside thigh muscle and does not touch bone. This is our favorite way to ensure the turkey is cooked. The pop-up timers aren’t always accurate and a regular meat thermometer takes time to insert and remove—which can influence (delay) your cooking time.
Roast the Turkey
Now, you’re ready for the oven! Roast the turkey uncovered in a 325°F oven for 2 hours. (Note: Roasting the turkey uncovered at the start of the bake time will increase the browning, so keep an eye on it.) It’s always best to start at a low temperature like this with a longer cook time; not only will your turkey will stay more moist at this temperature, but the lower heat also makes it easier to control if the skin crisps or darkens more quickly in spots. If you’ve trussed the turkey, you can remove trussing at this point to allow the inside of the thighs to cook thoroughly and evenly.
Roast for an additional 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes OR until thermometer reads 165°F and legs move easily when lifted or twisted. Once your thermometer reads 165°F, you can remove the turkey from the oven. Tent with aluminum foil and let stand 15 minutes before carving to let the juices evenly redistribute.
Brushing the skin with butter or juices every 30 minutes during baking will help to provide a moist and beautifully brown turkey. You can also use an oil-based mixture (1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons chopped herbs, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper) to brush on the turkey. If the skin is browning up too quickly at any point, cover the turkey loosely with foil to prevent the browned areas from burning.
If your turkey has reached the desired doneness the skin isn’t getting crispy enough for your liking, you can always finish with a quick burst of higher heat (or a minute or two under the broiler) at the end without drying out the meat. Just be sure to watch it very closely because turkey can easily go from perfectly browned to overdone.
Note: The instructions above are for an 18-pound turkey. Follow this chart for roasting instructions based on the size of your turkey.
| Whole Turkey (not stuffed)
||Oven Temp. 325ºF
| 8-12 lbs
|| 2.75-3 hrs
| 12-14 lbs
|| 3-3.75 hrs
| 14-18 lbs
|| 3.75-4.25 hrs
| 18-20 lbs
|| 4.25-4.5 hrs
| 20-24 lbs
|| 4.5-5 hrs