Roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving can be challenging, whether you’re a cooking novice or a culinary whiz. But by following these 9 easy steps for slow-roasting an unstuffed bird (bake the stuffing on the side while the turkey is resting), you’ll prepare a tender, juicy turkey that your whole family will be truly thankful for. Here’s how:
- About an hour before roasting, remove the turkey from the fridge. Remove the giblets from the turkey cavity and wash the inside of the thawed or fresh turkey under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper. Let it sit for about half an hour to take the chill off.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- Place the turkey, breast-up, on a flat rack in a shallow pan, 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.
- Brush or rub the skin with extra-virgin olive oil to prevent it from drying and to enhance the golden color.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower (thickest) part of the thigh muscle but not touching the bone. (Or, use an instant-reading thermometer toward the end of cooking to test doneness.)
- Place the turkey in the oven. Roast the turkey until the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165°F.
- Baste it with the drippings, if desired, but be sure to keep the oven door closed when you do so to keep the temperature up. Also keep an eye on how the turkey is browning, and loosely cover the breast and top of the drumsticks with a double-thick layer of aluminum foil, if necessary, to prevent overbrowning.
- The cooking time will vary depending on what kind of turkey you have purchased (heritage birds, which generally run 14 to 16 pounds, are leaner and cook more quickly) and also on what kind of oven you are using. In general, you can estimate about 15 minutes per pound, so a 12-pound turkey would take about 3 hours and an 18-pounder would take about 4 1/2 hours. Start checking the turkey about half an hour before you expect it to be done.
- Transfer the bird to a cutting board and let the bird rest, tented with foil, for 20 to 30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to be reabsorbed into the flesh.