Follow these simple steps for a most delicious, succulent roast turkey every time!
It’s turkey season again and nothing conjures up images of the holidays better than a beautifully cooked roast turkey.
My easy to follow instructions will help you make the perfect and most delicious, succulent roast turkey every time!
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- Plan in advance
- Selecting a turkey
- What size to buy
- Storing uncooked turkey
- Fresh or frozen turkey
- Cooking from frozen
- Washing the turkey
- Brine, salt or not
- To truss or not
- Cook to temperature
- The cooking thermometer
- Unique features of the Thermapen
- Temperature to cook to
- How to roast turkey
- Storing cooked turkey
- What to serve it with
- 📋 Recipe
Plan in advance
For a big meal it’s always best to do a little planning in advance such as:
- how many people you are cooking for and what size turkey you will need
- if you are using a frozen turkey, allow time for it to defrost before cooking
- allow enough time to cook and rest the turkey
- plan which dishes you would like to serve alongside it
- prepare any sides or sauces you can in advance or have the ingredients ready to make them later.
Selecting a turkey
For this special meal it is worth spending a little extra to buy a fresh farm reared turkey.
While supermarket turkeys are reared in just 12 weeks, farm turkeys mature naturally in nearly 6 months. As a result farm reared are more flavoursome and having more intramuscular fat, they are more succulent and cook 30% quicker.
There will usually be a small bag inside the cavity of the turkey containing the giblets. Remove this and set it aside as it makes a very delicious gravy.
For this recipe I used a Bramble Farm Bronze free-range Turkey from Miller of Kensington for this recipe.
What size to buy
When choosing a turkey, calculate the size based on approximately 1 pound (450g) serving per person.
size of turkey per person : 1 pound or 450 g per person
That should make enough to cater for hungry guests and for sandwiches later in the evening or the next day.
The recipe below is for a 12 pound/5.4 kg turkey, suitable for 8 people.
Storing uncooked turkey
Buy your turkey 1-2 days before you plan to cook it.
Keep the turkey covered in a large pan to catch any juices that may leak, and store in the fridge.
Fresh or frozen turkey
Fresh turkey tastes better and is quicker to prepare as frozen requires thawing before cooking.
Cooking from frozen
If cooking from frozen plan ahead to allow time to defrost the frozen turkey in the fridge.
This will take a day or two depending on the size of the bird so allow around 24 hours for every 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of turkey.
Washing the turkey
Do NOT wash the bird before cooking. According to the USDA, rinsing the turkey will not get rid of bacteria, and can contaminate the sink and surrounding areas.
As long as the turkey is within its best before date, cook the bird to the correct temperature and this will kill off any bacteria.
Brine, salt or not
I don’t bother brining or salting the turkey before cooking.
According to Kenji from Serious Eats, brining the bird gives a watered-down flavour, and although salting protects against over cooking, this is superfluous when you are using a good quality cooking thermometer such as the Thermapen (see below).
Instead buy a good quality farm reared turkey which is both flavoursome and succulent and use a digital thermometer like the Thermapen (affiliate link), to check the internal temperature of the meat and ensure that it cooks to perfection.
If you are serving turkey with stuffing, roast it separately so the turkey cooks evenly and the meat doesn’t become too dry.
To truss or not
A trussed turkey takes longer to cook which means there is more chance of the breast (white) meat drying out, so I prefer not to truss for more succulent turkey.
Cook to temperature
To guaranteed tender, succulent meat every time, cook your meat according to temperature and don’t rely only on the timing.
This is because oven times will vary, as will the size of the bird, moisture content, other ingredients in the oven, etc.
The cooking thermometer
There’s nothing worse than chewy, dry turkey which has been in the oven too long for fear of it being under-cooked.
The Thermapen thermometer provides an easy solution for checking when the turkey is cooked to perfection, so that it is perfectly safe to eat and utterly delicious.
The Thermapen has a stainless steel probe that pierces the meat easily and checks the internal temperature of the meat in just 3 seconds.
The casing is easy to hold with a large digital display, and the probe folds inwards for easy storage.
See below for instructions on how to use it.
Unique features of the Thermapen
- ergonomically designed – it is lightweight and easy to clean, with a large digital display, 360° rotating backlit display (so it can be used in either hand), and a motion sensing sleep mode (it turns on when you pick it up)
- accuracy – get super-fast and accurate temperature readings to half a degree in just 3 seconds, and you can switch between ℃ and ℉. It measures a wide range from -49℃ (-57.82℉) to 299.9℃ (571.82℉).
- the stainless steel probe has a reduced diameter so that less moisture/juice is lost.
- long battery – has 3000 hours of battery life.
- A wide variety of colours are available.
- costs a fraction of the price of comparable professional models.
- can be used to check the temperature of meat, poultry, baking, confectionary, jam, sauces and more! It is also a great for checking barbecued meats.
Temperature to cook to
The USDA recommends that a turkey is considered cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165℉/74℃, and the juices run clear.
How to roast turkey
These steps will ensure a perfectly cooked, succulent roast turkey.
- Remove the turkey from the fridge an hour or two before cooking, to bring it to room temperature.
- Set the oven to 350℉/180℃, and prepare the turkey for roasting (rub with butter, drizzle with oil, season and fill the cavity with herbs, etc.
- Place the turkey on the middle shelf of the oven, breast side downwards.
- Turn the turkey halfway through cooking.
- In the last hour of cooking, after turning the turkey breast side up, check the temperature of the turkey by inserting the Thermapen/thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (taking care not to touch a bone, as that will give a higher reading). Then check the temperature of the meat every 15 minutes.
- (This is also a good time to baste the turkey with the juices that have collected in the pan. Basting won’t make the meat moist, but it will help brown the skin nicely.)
- The turkey will continue to cook for a little while longer after it is removed from the oven, so remove it from the oven when it reaches 160℉/71℃.
- Cooking it for any longer WILL result in dry meat.
- In the moments after it is taken out, the temperature will continue to rise to the required 165℉/74℃, while it is resting.
- To get an accurate reading, make sure that the thermometer is not touching a bone.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Storing cooked turkey
This recipe is enough for 8 people with some leftovers for sandwiches and a salad for the evening or the next day.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Also keep the turkey carcass for a delicious stock.
Turkey may also be frozen for 2-6 months, then thawed (in the fridge) and reheated.
Tip: If freezing, add a little gravy, broth, or water to stop it drying out.
Leftover turkey may be eaten cold or reheated.
What to serve it with
⭐️ Are you making Turkey this holiday? I’d love to know how it turned out , let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to give it a star rating!
Instagram – I love seeing your creations, so post a picture, tag @endofthefork or hashtag #endofthefork
How To Cook The Perfect Turkey
- 12 pound full turkey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 lemon cut into 4 wedges
- 1 medium red onion cut into 4 pieces
- 4 bay leaves
- fresh rosemary small bunch
- 12 pound full turkeyBring the turkey to room temperature 2 hours before cooking and remove the giblet bag from the turkey cavity. Preheat the oven to 350℉/180℃.
- 1 lemon, 1 medium red onion, 4 bay leaves, fresh rosemaryPlace the turkey in a large roasting pan and stuff the cavity with the lemon wedges, onion, bay leaves and rosemary.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter, salt, pepperRub the butter over the turkey and drizzle olive oil over it, and season with salt and pepper.
- Turn the turkey breast side down and place on middle shelf in the oven.
- Half way through cooking, turn the turkey over so the breast side is facing upwards.
- In the last hour of cooking, check the temperature of the turkey by inserting the Thermapen/thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (taking care not to touch a bone, as that will give a higher reading). Then baste the turkey with the juices that have collected in the pan.
- Check the temperature of the meat every 15 minutes. When the thickest part of the turkey reaches 160℉/71℃, remove the turkey from the oven. The temperature will continue to rise, so measure the temperature again till it reaches 165℉/74℃, indicating a perfectly cooked turkey.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
StoringThis recipe is enough for 8 people with some leftovers for sandwiches and a salad for the evening or the next day. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Also keep the turkey carcass for a delicious stock. Turkey may also be frozen for 2-6 months, then thawed (in the fridge) and reheated. Tip: If freezing, add a little gravy, broth, or water to stop it drying out. Leftover turkey may be eaten cold or reheated.
The ingredients here on EOTF are set out in grams & milliliters and in US cups & spoons.