Roasting a Thanksgiving Turkey






Roasting Instructions for Turkey



To Stuff or Not to Stuff

Many health guidelines now discourage stuffing in the bird.  This is because many people pull it from the oven before the stuffing has reached a high enough temperature to kill bacteria.


Stuffing in the bird:  If you choose to stuff your turkey, just make sure that when you roast it, that the stuffing itself registers 165°, as well as the reading for the meat recommended below.


Stuffing outside the bird:  Cooking the stuffing in a separate container doesn’t mean giving up that great turkey flavor.  The stuffing will cook during the last hour that the turkey is roasting.  At that point, you will have accumulated some concentrated flavor in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Simply draw some out with a turkey baster or a spoon and pour it over the stuffing.  Then cover the stuffing and put it in the oven.



Preheat oven to 325°.


Roasting time:  This and the following chart will tell you the total roasting time range. 

Weight Unstuffed Stuffed
8-12 lbs. 2 ¾ – 3 hrs. 3 – 3 ½ hrs.
12 – 14 lbs. 3 – 3 ¾ hrs. 3 ½ – 4 hrs.
14 – 18 lbs. 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hrs. 4 – 4 ¼ hrs.


Remove and reserve the bag of giblets.  These are excellent for making a quick stock to be used in a gravy or sauce if you like.  Instructions for that are below.


Put the turkey in the oven and set the timer for 1 ½ hours.  You should not have to do anything except keep the oven closed!  A quick peek at the bird can drop your oven temperature up to 100°.


After 90 minutes, begin basting the turkey approximately every 20 minutes.  This will give the turkey that perfect Norman Rockwell appearance!


As it approaches the low end of the total cooking time range, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.  When it registers 175° pull the turkey out.  You want it to get to 180, but the temperature will continue to rise at least 5 degrees after pulling it from the oven.


If you do not have a meat thermometer, grab the end of the drumstick and wiggle it.  When the turkey is done, the drumstick will be loose, and almost fall off in your hand.


After pulling from oven, allow at least 15 – 20 minutes before carving; otherwise, the juices will all be at the surface of the meat and completely escape onto the carving board upon slicing.




Over-browning or browning too fast:  If you feel the bird is becoming too dark, or browning dark long before the meat is cooked, simple place a piece of foil loosely over the bird and return it to the oven.  This will slow the browning.



Quick Simple Stock


In a medium saucepan, place 1 onion, 2 carrots, and 1 celery stalk—all coarsely chopped—and the giblets that came with your turkey.


Add a bay leaf, thyme (1 tsp. dry, or 1 tb. fresh), parsley (2 sprigs), and a half tsp. black pepper.  Do not salt.

Add water to almost fill the pan.


Bring to simmer, and let simmer without stirring until half of the water has evaporated. 


Strain stock, discard the rest.


Basic Gravy


When the roasted turkey has been removed from the pan, pour all of the drippings into a fat separator, or if you don’t have one, a glass.  Skim the fat off, reserving a quarter cup of the fat, and all of the drippings.


In a sauce pan, over medium heat, heat the fat, and add an equal amount of flour, stirring vigorously with a whisk.  If it appears to be burning or sticking a lot, reduce the heat.


Once blended, continue to stir and cook for a full 5 minutes to avoid a floury pasty taste.  This is a roux, and it will get darker, which will result in better gravy.


After five minutes, add the turkey stock you made, slowly, whisking constantly until it is all added (you should have about a pint).  If you didn’t make stock, canned chicken stock will make a fine substitute.


As it reaches a simmer, you will see it thicken.  Now add the drippings that you separated from the fat and whisk those into the gravy.


Correct the flavors with salt and pepper and enjoy!








  1. Where would we be without your expert guidance on this sacred ritual? We remember delivering turkey dinners around Arlington complete with stuffing and sides during the glory days of Tony’s Kitchen! We’re picking up a fresh bird from a local farm at Saturday’s Farmers Market in Burlington and I will follow your directions!

    Love from all the Albers clan XXX

    1. Oh Charlotte thanks so much! Hard to believe it’s been over 7 years since Tony’s Kitchen delivered oven-ready turkeys, pre-brined with butter rubbed under the skin! I can only imagine how good the turkeys are from the Burlington, VT Farmers’ Market! Have a great holiday!

  2. Good stuff, Tony (no pun intended)! Do you recommend (or avoid) any particular turkey preparation: brining, deep-frying, injection, flavoring under the skin, etc..?

    1. In yesterday’s post, “Brining the Thanksgiving Turkey” I discuss the fact that I myself prefer the garden-variety supermarket bird. I am a big fan of brining but I’m not sure it is the best treatment for all birds. Some of the high-end products one can find at Whole Foods, etc, will probably not benefit as much from brining as a standard turkey would.

      While I have not worked with flavor injection much, I am also a fan of rubbing herb butter under the skin for a self-basting bird. That will be put out today in a separate posting.

      And alas, much to the dismay of my children, I have not yet attempted the deep fried turkey. I know they’re good, but between an effort to reduce fried foods in my diet and the inherent danger and mess, I just haven’t ventured in that direction yet.

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