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How to Roast a Thanksgiving Turkey

Woman with turkey. Thanksgiving holiday dinner.

Thanksgiving Day has arrived. You’re up early, to put the bird in the oven for an early afternoon feast. While it is roasting in the oven, you hope to go back to bed for a little more shut eye, before a day filled with family, friends, food, fun and football.

Tip: Plan on 1 pound of turkey per person.

Getting the bird from refrigerator to the oven, is a relatively easy, yet weighty task.

Here are the steps:

  • If you have not yet done so, remove the turkey from its original packaging and wash it. See Washing Turkeys.
  • If your plan is to stuff the bird just before putting it in the oven, now is the time to do so.
  • Turn the oven on and set it at 325 ° F. Place the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up.
  • Brush cooking oil on the turkey. We prefer to use a light coating cooking oil spray, on both sides of the bird.
  • Do not add water. The turkey will produce its own juices, the basis for a rich and flavorful gravy.
  • Cover the turkey with heavy duty aluminum foil. Crimp the aluminum foil all around the roasting pan.
  • Place the turkey in the middle rack of the oven. Now, the wait is on!
  • See the chart below for the approximate turkey roasting time. These are approximate times, as each oven is different, and altitude can be a factor, too.
  • Basting while the turkey is cooking is optional. Some say it’s important, while others find it unnecessary. Basting will not penetrate the skin, but can keep the skin from totally drying out.
  • About 1/2 hour before you think it should be done, remove the aluminum foil,. This allows the skin to become crisp and golden in color, creating a picture perfect turkey.
  • The turkey is done when the internal temperature is 180 -185 degrees F. Stuffing temperatures should reach a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Test for doneness, by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone.
  • Remove from the oven about a half hour before serving.

Approximate Turkey Roasting Timetable

Turkey Weight:

Roasting Time, Unstuffed:

Roasting Time, Stuffed:

6 to 8 pounds

2  1/4 - 3 1/4

3 - 3 1/2

8 to 12 pounds

3 - 4

3 1/2 - 4 1/2

12 to 16 pounds

3 1/2 - 4 1/2

4 1/2 - 5 1/2

16 to 20 pounds

4 - 5

5 1/2 - 6 1/2

20 to 24 pounds

4 1/2 - 5 1/2

6 1/2 - 7

24 to 28 pounds

5 – 6 1/2

7 – 8 1/2






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