Best Recipe for Roasting a Turkey

The Best Recipe for Roasting a Turkey is actually quite simple. There’s just a little technique involved to create a crispy skin with succulent, juicy meat. 

whole roasted Thanksgiving turkey on white plate

When writing this recipe, I remembered my mom hosting my family for Thanksgiving. All the grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were coming to dinner. I was about 13 years old at the time and couldn’t resist taking a pinch of the turkey that my mom had been slowly cooking since early the morning before. 

My mom used an old method of cooking the bird. You put the turkey in the oven the day before at high heat for an hour or so and then turn the oven completely off, letting the turkey sit inside of the stove until the morning. To this day, I remember how amazing that pinch was! 

I’ve worked at recreating and improving on that old recipe for roasting a turkey to perfection. I share the results of the best recipe for roasting a turkey.

To learn more about all steps of turkey preparations, check out Brine and Cook a Turkey Perfectly Every Time.

sliced roasted turkey for Thanksgiving on white platter

6 Tips for the Perfect Roasted Turkey:  Moist Turkey with Crispy Skin

Here are 6 quick tips for the best Thanksgiving turkey. Click each tip to see the details.

How do you roast a turkey and keep it moist? Brine it of course! 

The secret to keeping your turkey moist is to brine the turkey by using a dry brine or wet brine. I prefer the dry brine.  Refrigerate the dry brined turkey uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before cooking it. 

The salt in the dry brine will naturally draw the juices out of the meat and then reabsorb into the turkey, creating a barrier in the inner layer of the meat. 

By doing this, you will be interlocking the juices, creating not only a moist turkey but also one full of flavor and a crispy skin.

Turkey skin needs to be completely dry so that the oil and butter will adhere evenly to the skin for proper cooking. If the moisture is not removed from the skin, the skin will remain moist and steam as opposed to roast, thereby not allowing the skin to crisp. No matter if you deep fry a turkey, smoke a turkey, or roast a turkey, the turkey must be dry.

To maintain a crispy skin, the skin needs to be completely dry before putting oil or butter on the skin to roast. I love the flavor of butter, but often the skin can cook unevenly using butter, so another option is to oil the skin with vegetable oil before roasting ensuring a beautiful golden skin. 

Allow the turkey to roast uncovered for as long as possible. Depending on the size of the turkey, your cooking time may be so long that the turkey begins to brown too much. If that is the case, place an aluminum foil tent over the turkey until the turkey is cooked through. 

By roasting the turkey at 425 degrees during the first 45 minutes of cooking, you are ensuring a crispy skin and speeding up the cooking time. Lowering the temperature to 350 to finish off the cooking process will help keep it moist and the skin crispy. 

Don’t overcook your roasted turkey! The best way to monitor the temperature of the roasting turkey is with a meat thermometer. When the turkey registers 160 to 165 degrees in the meatiest part of the breast. The turkey will continue to cook while resting and the temperature will rise to about 180 degrees.

Allowing the turkey to rest before carving ensures the even distribution of moisture throughout the turkey. This tip is crucial to the meat remaining moist upon carving.  

horizontal photo of whole roasted turkey with herbs and cranberry side

Most Commonly Asked Questions and Answers about Roasting a Turkey

Do you roast a turkey covered or uncovered? 

Roast a turkey uncovered. However, if it begins to brown too darkly, you can tent a piece of tin foil over the turkey for the remainder of the cooking time. The loose foil will allow the turkey to completely cook and will give you a magnificent end product without too much browning. 

Is turkey done at 165 degrees or 180? 

The turkey is done when the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees. It will continue to cook while resting. 

sliced roasted turkey on white platter
This roast turkey is so moist with crispy skin!

What temperature do you roast turkey? 

Cook a turkey at 450 degrees for the first 45 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. 

Do you put water in the bottom of the roasting pan when cooking a turkey? 

Put at least a cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan while cooking a turkey. This will keep the drippings from burning the bottom of the pan and smoking up the house.

Should I baste my turkey?

Basting meat as it cooks is an ancient way of layering flavors and enhancing the texture, not to mention how it creates a shine on the food making the presentation astounding. Basting your turkey with butter or fat during the cooking process will ensure a crisp and well-browned skin. 

What ingredients do you need to roast the perfect turkey?

For the dry rub, you will need Kosher salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. The basting recipe consists of melted butter, olive oil, and minced garlic. 

Can you believe it is just that easy?

Turkey is fantastic just about any way you choose to prepare it. Check out these other methods:

How to Fry a Whole Turkey

How to Smoke the Perfect Turkey

Scroll below the recipe for more Thanksgiving recipes, including sides and desserts!

sliced roasted turkey on white platter

Best Recipe for Roasting a Turkey

Want the secret to a perfectly crispy, moist roast turkey? It's a multi-step process, but I provide a shortcut!
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Course Main Course
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

Turkey Dry Rub

  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

Turkey Basting Recipe

  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Mix dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Combine melted butter, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl.
  • Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack inside a roasting pan. Fill the bottom of the pan with about 1 cup of water to keep the drippings from burning the pan. Brush butter mixture over the entire turkey and inside the cavity of the turkey. Liberally massage turkey rub all over turkey. Reserve some of the butter mixture for basting during the cooking process.
  • Roast turkey for 45 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to roast turkey, basting with butter mixture every 30 minutes. After the second hour, begin checking the temperature of the turkey every 15 minutes to keep from overcooking.
  • Remove turkey when an instant-read thermometer reaches 160 degree when thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the breast. Allow the turkey to rest on a cutting board for at least 30 minutes to one hour for carry-over cooking and to allow the juices to redistribute.

Notes

SHORTCUT to Roasting a Turkey – Instead of brining the turkey, add all dry rub and basting ingredients together and rub the turkey inside and out. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for 24 to 48 hours. Remove from oven and place in 425 degree oven for 45 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. With an internal thermometer, periodically check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast. When the temperature reaches 160 degrees, remove the turkey to a cutting board and allow to rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

 
 
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