Simple roast turkey is an easy way to cook the perfect bird for Thanksgiving. And by that we mean the best, most juiciest roast turkey imaginable. A failproof technique, even for beginner cooks.
Simple roast turkey. It sounds sorta too good to be true, yes? And yet we’re here to assure you, from our own experience as well as that of the venerable Barbara Kafka, that it is possible. And easy. And juicy. And quite possibly the best damn turkey you’ve ever experienced. Without further ado, here’s how to cook the perfect turkey. Originally published August 4, 1995.–Renee Schettler Rossi
What Size Turkey To Buy
We go out of our way to seek out a 12- to 14-pound turkey not only because that’s what fits readily in our roasting pan but because it cooks in a modest amount of time. Turkeys that are larger tend to cook more unevenly because by the time the dark meat is properly cooked, the leaner white meat tends to become dried out. When we need to feed a crowd, we simply snuggle a couple 12- to 14-pounders side by side in the roasting pan, turning them to face the short side of the pan. That said, no matter what size your hen, you’ll get superior results if you blast it at high heat, as in the recipe below, than if you use a lower temperature. Check out the handy roasting chart below for approximate roasting times for a variety of weights.
Simple Roast Turkey Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 2 H, 30 M
- Serves 10 to 15
- 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
- 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.
Here are more roasting tips from Barbara.