We've Got the Secret to Roasting a Perfect Turkey

roasted turkey

If you’re in charge of roasting the festive turkey this year, there are two things to remember: 1) breathe, and 2) it’s not as difficult as you might think.

We dug into our class Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know to pull out all the best tips, including the secret to amazingly crispy, flavorful skin. (And let’s face it, isn’t that one of the biggest reasons to roast a turkey to begin with?) All you need to do is plan ahead — this is a multi-day endeavor —and take it step by step. Good luck!

Classic Roasted Turkey

Yield: serves 10-12


  • One 13- to 14-pound turkey, preferably fresh, with the cavity emptied and the bird rinsed and patted dry
  • Kosher or medium-grain salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups turkey or chicken broth, preferably low sodium if store-bought
  • Instructions

    Season It Up

    1. Combine 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. Start with the turkey breast side down, and season the back with plenty of salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little into the cavity as well before turning the bird breast side up and seasoning the front.

    2. Place the turkey on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or large platter and refrigerate, preferably uncovered, for 24 to 48 hours. (This dries out the skin, which is, surprisingly a good thing. The less moisture the skin contains, the more it will crisp up in the oven!)

    Heat the Oven

    1. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours before roasting. This will help it roast more evenly.

    2. Position a rack in the lowest part of the oven and heat to 450 F, or 425 F for convection. Discard any liquid that has pooled beneath the turkey.

    Let ‘er Roast

    1. Tuck the wings behind the neck and tie the legs together with kitchen string. This isn’t technically necessary, but the turkey will look nicer coming out of the oven if you dress it up this way first.

    2. Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan fitted with a large roasting rack. The bird should be breast side up. Rub butter over the entire turkey, then pour the broth into the bottom of the pan.

    3. Slide the pan into the oven. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 350 F, or 325 F for convection. Roast for 2 to 3 hours, rotating the pan after 1 hour. Use a spoon or baster to pour pan drippings over the turkey every 45 minutes or so while roasting.

    4. Cover the breast with foil during the last 45 minutes if it seems to be getting too dark.

    5. The turkey is done when the juices from the thigh run mostly clear with only a trace of pink, and a thermometer reads 170 F when inserted into the meaty part of the thigh. Take the temperature in a few different spots for accuracy.

    Give It a Rest

    1. When the turkey’s done, tilt the roasting rack so the juices pour from the cavity into the roasting pan.

    2. Transfer the bird to a large carving board by lifting it off the rack. You’ll need oven mitts for this hot-and-heavy lifting, and possibly a friend or two to help! Set the turkey in a warm spot to rest for a t least 20 minutes. If you have to make do with a drafty spot, loosely drape foil over the turkey.

    3. Carve, serve and go ahead and brag a little.

    Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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    3 Responses to “We've Got the Secret to Roasting a Perfect Turkey”

    1. Marion

      Thank I would like to save this.

    2. Donzie

      I am 65 yrs old , I watched Julia Childs when I was 14 and I cooked my turkeys the same way since. Preheat oven 425 ,season turkey to your liking, place in roasting pan with cover, cook at 425 first 15 min,then drop temp to 350 cook remaining time ,= 15 min per pound Ex= 20 lbs will take 5 hours . Never open oven , never baste, allow 20 min to rest before even taking cover off, then go and enjoy, my mother-in-law will have a sandwich 3 days later and it is still moist. I have passed on my knowledge to dozens of people who never cooked a turkey and always got comments. Even my 3 girls are now doing it for their new family’s.

    3. ginnysoule@gmail.com

      Only problem I see with using broth in bottom of pan while roasting is I usually use the fat for the gravy by making a roux. Can I just use what's left in the pan and make my gravy another way?