How to Roast a Turkey in 7 Easy Steps

These seven easy steps will show you how to roast a turkey — it’s an easy, delicious oven roasted holiday turkey recipe! I’ve added a few additional turkey roasting tips at the end, too (such as how long to thaw a frozen turkey). 

Before the tips, a quip about being thankful: 

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.”  ~ E.P. Powell

Whether you’re roasting a turkey for the first or zillionth time, remember to be grateful — and don’t let the stress of cooking Thanksgiving dinner distract from your feelings of gratitude. For more info on holiday dinners and roasting turkeys, click on Turkey! A Cook’s ‘How To’ Survival Guide to the Holidays by Jeannie James. and, read on for seven easy steps to roasting a holiday turkey… 

How to a Turkey in 7 Easy Steps 

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F). If you don’t have a turkey roasting pan, click the image for info.

Step 2: Stuff your turkey lightly just before it goes into the oven. As most holiday turkey recipes state, never stuff your bird the day or night before it goes into the oven! If you want to prepare your stuffing or dressing early, put it in a separate covered dish. If you want to cook the stuffing outside the turkey, simply put that dish in the oven during the last half hour of roasting time. This is an easy way to roast a turkey with dressing or stuffing.

Step 3: Put the clean turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow baking pan.

Step 4: Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the inner thigh, just above (but not touching) the thigh bone).

Step 5: Roast uncovered or loosely covered with foil. To cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey and save energy, only open your oven door to baste the turkey once an hour. Opening the oven more often will change the length of the cooking time.

Step 6: When the meat thermometer reads 77 C (170 F) for an unstuffed turkey or 82 C (180 F) for a stuffed turkey, take it out or it won’t be a perfect Thanksgiving turkey! (See below to learn how long this will take).

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Step 7: Let the turkey stand for 15 or 20 minutes to let the juices to set. Plus, this makes carving easier.

Voila! That’s how to roast a turkey in seven easy steps.

“How to Roast a Turkey” Questions and Answers

How long should you cook an unstuffed turkey?

  • 1½ to 3¼ hours for 4-8 pounds
  • 2¾ to 3 hours for 8-12 pounds
  • 3 to 3¾ hours for 12-14 pounds
  • 3¾ to 4¼ hours for 14-18 pounds
  • 4¼ to 4½ for 18-20 pounds
  • 4½ to 5 hours for 20-24 pounds

How long should you cook a stuffed turkey?

  • Less than 2 hours for 4-8 pounds
  • 3 to 3½  hours for 8-12 pounds
  • 3½ to 4 hours for 12-14 pounds
  • 4 to 4¼ hours for 14-18 pounds
  • 4¼ to 4¾  hours for 18-20 pounds
  • 4¾ to 5¼ hours for 20-24 pounds

Voila! That’s how long to roast a turkey, courtesy of the USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service.  If you don’t have a turkey roaster, click the image — you’ll need one!

If you need more turkey tips, read 9 Ways to Make a Thanksgiving Holiday Dinner Easy. And here are some extra holiday turkey recipe tips for you…

More Questions and Answers About Roasting Turkeys

How big a turkey should you buy? Allow one pound of turkey per dinner guest.

Should you buy a fresh pre-stuffed turkey? No! If there was harmful bacteria in the stuffing, it could multiply and cause food poisoning. This, by the way, is why you shouldn’t stuff your turkey until you’re ready to roast it.

Can you buy a frozen pre-stuffed turkey? Yes, as long as it as the government’s seal of approval (the USDA or the Canada Food Inspection seal). Don’t thaw your frozen pre-stuffed turkey before you cook it – and follow the package instructions closely when you’re roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey in the fridge?

  • 1 to 3 days for 4-12 pounds
  • 3 to 4 days for 12 to 16 pounds
  • 4 to 5 days for 16 to 20 pounds
  • 5 to 6 days for 20 to 24 pounds

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey in cold water?

  • 2 to 6 hours for 4-12 pounds
  • 6 to 8 hours for 12 to 16 pounds
  • 8 to 10 hours for 16 to 20 pounds
  • 10 to 12 hours for 20 to 24 pounds

If you have any questions or thoughts on how to roast a turkey, please share them below! And if you’re ready to start holiday gift shopping, read 5 Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas.

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