Simply Healthy Family: Roasting a Turkey 101 {Excellent tips and tricks for a perfect turkey!}


Roasting a Turkey 101 {Excellent tips and tricks for a perfect turkey!}

If you've never roasted your own turkey for Thanksgiving because you thought it was to hard I'm here to make your day. It falls into the category "So easy, a mom of 4 can do it.". There are a million different recipes and ways to cook your Thanksgiving turkey from brining, roasting, deep frying and smoking. There are also a ton of different tutorials out there that had me hesitant to pick one up and give it a go for fear of ruining a perfectly good turkey.

For the last few years I've been popping a turkey in the oven for a mini Thanksgiving dinner for our little family, mostly for the leftovers. It's wonderful to share the holidays with the whole fam but we were sad every year that we couldn't wake up the next day and have a turkey cranberry sandwich for lunch. This is when I decided to bite the bullet and buy a turkey.

Last year, I chose an Organic turkey from Trader Joe's and was oh so pleased with the juicy, natural tasting meat that we got from it. I've never brined a turkey but have heard wonderful things about it. I was pleased to see that my Trader Joe's turkey was already brined {honestly, I don't think it's absolutely necessary but try for yourself}. All I did was rinse it off, rub under the skin with an oil and herbed mixture and then pat the outside with butter to make it moist and golden brown.  

Voila!  Mamma made a turkey! 

How to Roast a Turkey  {the easy way}

1. To choose a turkey you will calculate 1 pound per person on a turkey up to 12 lbs and 3/4 lb per person on a turkey up to 24 lbs. This is because the bigger the turkey the more meat to bone ratio. I like to get one bigger so we have left overs.

2. Prepare Turkey. The biggest mistake I made the first time I made a turkey was not leaving enough time for it to thaw (this was before my Trader Joe's turkey which was fresh). I thought I could take a huge frozen turkey and stick it in the fridge a day or two before Thanksgiving like I would a small chicken and be fine. BIG mistake. It was still frozen solid and we had to wait 2 more days.  Ooops.  You could probably stick it in a clean sink with water, but I never liked that option.

3. Cleaning your Turkey. Again, several tutorials that involve a lot of steps, but really you just need to pull out the innards if they haven't been already and place the thawed Turkey on a rack over  sink and carefully rinse it inside and out with cool water. Pat dry with paper towels.

4. Turkey Spa Treatment.  I haven't stuffed my turkey but prefer rather to make a separate sour dough or corn bread stuffing. Therefor, I discard the innards. Now, place your clean and dry turkey, breast side up in a deep roasting pan with a wire rack on the bottom. In a small food processor or with a knife, finely chop a couple of tablespoons of fresh rosemary, thyme and 1/2 a cup of yellow onion (minced finely).   I find that garlic goes well with chicken and onion with turkey.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of good quality sea salt to the herb and onion mixture and mix together. Pull back the skin of the turkey with one hand and using your other hand push between the skin and the meat to separate the two without removing the skin. Now, using your hand, spread the herb mixture under the skin, onto the meat. Cover as much area as you can. 

The turkey loves this, 'Gobble, Gobble!.   Think of it as a herbal facial.

Now it's time for the turkey's massage treatment. Using a small piece of slightly softened, real butter, rub the entire skin of the turkey. This browns the turkey nicely and locks in moisture. A moist and tan turkey is a happy turkey.

Cooking the turkey. I know you're supposed to use a meat thermometer but I don't have one, bad mommy. Most turkeys come with a little pop up thingy that lets you know when it's done anyway. A meat thermometer would be nice to have though especially if you are a novice cook. It can also let you know how close to being done your turkey is so you can prepare the final touches of your dinner.

Place turkey breast side down in a large roasting pan with a wire race placed on the bottom. I have found that placing the turkey breast side down allows for the juices to run down through the breast as it cooks making it even moister.  Now, loosely cover your turkey with heavy tin foil or place in a cooking bag. This is important!  You don't want a dried out turkey.

Place your turkey in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F. Do not add water to the pan. If using a meat thermometer, cook until the temperature reaches 180 degrees F and juices run clear.
For an  unstuffed  turkey that is 8-12 lbs turkey you will cook it for approximately 3  - 4  hours. Add about 15-20 minutes for every extra pound. Stuffed turkey take a bit longer. A good chart can be found here.

When done, carefully remove turkey from oven and place on a carving platter. Let cool for 10 minutes before carving.  Admire your beautiful turkey! 

I should have turned him around for his photo shoot, oops.

 Happy Holidays from Simply Healthy Family!

Did I miss anything?
What turkey tricks do you have up your sleeve?



  1. I've been really scared to do this. I don't like touching raw meat at the best of times, and my experience with roasting a whole chicken wasn't the most pleasant. But you did make this look easier, and the part about putting herbs under the skin is really interesting.

  2. Give it a go! I try not to think to much about the raw meat thing too ;)
    I rub the herb mixture under the skin unlike most people because I don't eat the skin ( on chicken and turkey) and wanted to keep the flavor.

  3. Great info.....I love making different kinds of roasted turkey. My mother in law roasted a turkey upside down once and she said it was the best she ever had!

  4. That must be the key! That's what I did and it was amazing. ;)


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