Simple Roast Turkey

Many Thanksgivings at my house have proved the high-heat method to be ideal. A 15-pound turkey at room temperature takes two hours to roast. However, it may take several hours for the turkey to reach room temperature. While the turkey is sitting out, cover it loosely with a towel, otherwise the skin will dry out. I prefer a 15-pound turkey as it isn’t too heavy for me to handle. It usually gives lots of good leftovers and is generally available.–Barbara Kafka

LC If You Want To Lose A Few Pounds Note

We were referring to your turkey losing a few pounds, not you. But now that we have your attention, let us explain. We tend to request a 12- to 14-pound bird simply because that’s what we’re used to and that’s the size that fits readily in our roasting pan and even, if we need to feed a crowd, will fit side by side in the oven with another 12- to 14-pounder. No matter what size your hen, you can blast it at high heat. Just check out the handy roasting chart below for rough roasting times.

Simple Roast Turkey Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 2 H, 30 M
  • Serves 10 to 15

Ingredients

  • One 15-pound turkey, thawed, if necessary, and at room temperature, wing tips removed, reserving giblets and neck for gravy, and the liver for stuffing
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup water, or turkey or chicken stock, homemade or canned
  • Basic giblet gravy, optional

Directions

  • 1. Place oven rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F (260°C). [Editor's Note: If you haven't scrubbed that volcanic-looking burnt-on apple pie filling from the floor of the oven yet, now would be a good time to do so.]
  • 2. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat it dry. Sprinkle the outside with pepper. If stuffing the bird, stuff both cavities, securing the openings with long metal skewers. Do not truss the turkey.
  • 3. Place the turkey in an 18-by-13-by-2-inch roasting pan, breast side up. Put it in the oven legs first. After 20 minutes, wiggle the turkey around with a sturdy spatula to keep from it from sticking to the pan. Roast until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, about 2 hours. Remove the turkey to a large platter. Let sit 20 minutes before carving.
  • 4. Pour off the excess fat from the juices in the roasting pan so you are left with just a slick of pan juices. Place the pan on top of the stove, setting it over 2 burners, if necessary. Add the water or stock and bring to a boll while scraping the bottom of the pan vigorously with a wooden spoon, loosening all the crisp burnt-on bits, which will add intensity to the gravy. Let reduce by half. Serve the jus on the side in a sauce-boat or add it to a giblet gravy.

    Turkey Cooking Chart

    Here are more roasting tips from Barbara.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Karen Depp

Aug 04, 1995

Holy Incinerators, Batman! This method of roasting turkey is spectacularly effective. Two hours! If you’re a fan of deep-fried turkey, this is as close as you will come without setting your garage on fire. It is sooooo good. My only concerns are these: feet first? The result of that was burnt legs! BUT I will make this again—really, really soon—and this time around I will change the orientation of the pan after the first 20 minutes. My oven can accommodate a pan going in with the turkey sitting sidewise and that is how I usually do it. I will also add some of the usual stuff to the cavity of the turkey, like garlic, celery, onion, and some other things. And with your own personal treatment with spices and herbs, it will be fantastic! Go ahead, oven at 500°F, I dare you! Ready, set (the timer, that is, under 2 hours for an almost 11 pounder) and set the table! Turkey done.

Testers Choice
Jill R.

Aug 04, 1995

This recipe is a definite keeper. To be able to roast a turkey in about 2 hours, even if stuffed, is wonderful. I have a similar recipe for oven-blasted chicken, so I was familiar with this concept. I found the timing in the recipe to be pretty spot on; my bird weighed in at 10 1/2 pounds and it was done in 1 hour, 15 minutes—even though the pop-up timer never popped. To be certain, I double checked the internal temperature of the bird (it was 172°F) as well as wiggled the leg joint to see how loose it was. After resting, the bird carved beautifully and the breast was still very moist, even though I didn’t brine it like I normally do. One thing I did find was that the skin and outer layer of meat on the legs was really too dry and tough to eat; however, the rest of the leg meat was fine. One of the things I would do the next time is to wrap the ends of the legs with foil to prevent them from becoming over cooked. I would also consider rotating the pan after the first 20 minutes so the breast is toward the back of the oven for the next 20 minutes, and then rotate the bird again so the legs would be to the rear for the remaining cooking time.

Testers Choice
Trudy Ngo-Brown

Aug 04, 1995

This was my first time to use a high-heat method. The past few years, I’ve used an electric roaster for my turkey. I’ve preferred this method because it frees my oven and produces consistently moist meat. I didn’t think I would ever go back to cooking turkey in the oven, but this technique may have changed my mind. I was nervous to keep a turkey out a room temperature for so long, so I only let it sit for about 20 minutes to get the chill off. I used a 15-pound turkey, stuffing the cavity with a few stalks of celery, an onion, some garlic cloves, and a few sprigs rosemary. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get to 165°F, and the heat created beautifully crisp—but not burnt—skin. It was so pretty! Meat was moist, too, though on the bland side. I would do more than just pepper next time, maybe making an herb butter to slide underneath the skin as I usually do. Now…what to do with the leftovers??

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Aug 04, 1995

I've always been leery to roast a turkey in the oven, as in the past mine would always come out dry and tasteless. So for quite a few years now we've smoked them. Though last Thanksgiving, I was in a predicament. My younger daughter's teacher asked if I could bring a turkey to their feast. I decided to try this recipe as it seemed fast—something I could quickly do after dropping off the girls at school. I came back home, put the bird in the oven, and still made it on time for the classroom feast. What the heck was I doing wrong all those years before trying this recipe?! Seriously! Can a whole roasted turkey recipe be any easier or produce a juicier, tastier, more gorgeous turkey? The skin had the most amazing dark golden color, was perfectly crisp, and even the white meat was packed with flavor and natural juices. It was a hit with all the kids, teachers and parents. It received countless praises and only bones were left. This is a recipe to keep in the repertoire and wow your family and guests.

Comments
Comments
  1. B. S. says:

    I’ve been doing this myself for more years than I will admit to (I’m only 29, you know ;), and I’m so glad to see someone as respected as Barbara Kafka espousing the same technique.

  2. Camilla says:

    Mmm turkey, my favorit food ever! I stuff my bird with green apples, onion, and plums (I´m from Sweden ;) ). After cooking I mix the “stuffing” whith the meatjuice in a blender and make it the gravy (plus spices and cream). Best ever! Can´t wait for Christmas day!

  3. Patricia says:

    Why no salt?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Patricia, this method producing such a wonderful turkey that you may find you don’t need salt. I just confirmed this with Karen, one of our testers, who didn’t miss it one bit. You can always season to taste after cooking.

    • Beth Price says:

      I did a bit more research on your question, Patricia, because I was curious as well. According to Barbara Kafka, “salt can cause the skin to cook unevenly by drawing out juices in a random pattern.”

      • Jenni Field says:

        I believe I would salt the cavities and then toss some salt under the skin, in that case. Love the high heat method. I usually go high-low at 500 and then down to 325, but it’s very cool to see that you can take it all the way home at 500. I would think that carryover cooking would be extreme, though, and would consider taking the bird out of the oven a good 15 or even 20F (for big birds) before the meat tests as done. I’m thinking it would coast home while resting. =)

        • Beth Price says:

          Let us know, Jenni. And thinking of Thanksgiving, we know you have some wonderful desserts in store. What are you making?

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