How to Make a Roast Turkey: A Step-by-Step Guide

by Ella

Roasting a turkey is a quintessential culinary skill that takes center stage during festive occasions, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas. The aroma of a beautifully roasted turkey fills the air, signaling a gathering of loved ones and a bountiful feast ahead. However, the task of preparing a roast turkey can be daunting, especially for those attempting it for the first time. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of making a succulent and flavorful roast turkey that will impress your guests and leave lasting memories of a delicious celebration.

How to Make a Roast Turkey

Roasting a turkey is a quintessential culinary skill that takes center stage during festive occasions, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Prep Time20 minutes
Active Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Keyword: Roast Turkey
Yield: 24
Cost: $5


  • 1 Roasting Pan
  • 1 Roasting Rack
  • 1 Meat Thermometer
  • 1 Basting Brush or Spoon
  • some Kitchen Twine
  • 1 Carving Knife and Fork
  • 1 Aluminum Foil
  • 1 Cutting Board


  • 1 (18 pound) whole turkey
  • 8 cups prepared stuffing
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • some salt
  • some freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ quarts turkey stock, divided


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Place a rack in the lowest position of the oven.
  • Remove turkey neck and giblets. Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Place turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Loosely fill turkey cavity with stuffing. Rub skin with butter, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour 2 cups of turkey stock into the roasting pan. Loosely tent turkey with aluminum foil.
  • Roast turkey for 2 1/2 hours, basting with pan juices every 30 minutes. When drippings evaporate, add remaining stock to the pan, 1 to 2 cups at a time.
  • Remove foil and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh reads 165 degrees F (75 degrees C), about 1 1/2 hours more.
  • Transfer turkey to a large serving platter. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 663


Fat: 34g


Carbs: 14g


Protein: 72g


What types of stuffing are there for roast turkey?

Stuffing is a versatile and flavorful addition to roast turkey, enhancing its taste and providing a delicious complement to the main dish. There are numerous stuffing variations to suit different tastes and culinary preferences. Some popular types of stuffing for roast turkey include:

1. Traditional Bread Stuffing: Made with cubed bread (white, whole wheat, or cornbread) mixed with sautéed onions, celery, herbs (such as sage, thyme, and parsley), and chicken or turkey broth. This classic stuffing is seasoned with salt and pepper, creating a comforting and aromatic side dish.

2. Sausage and Herb Stuffing: A variation of traditional stuffing, this version includes crumbled cooked sausage (pork, turkey, or vegetarian) for added richness and flavor. The herbs and seasonings complement the sausage, creating a hearty and savory stuffing.

3. Wild Rice and Mushroom Stuffing: Combining wild rice, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and herbs, this stuffing offers a nutty and earthy taste. It is an excellent option for those seeking a gluten-free alternative to traditional bread stuffing.

4. Cornbread and Pecan Stuffing: Cornbread stuffing adds a sweet and slightly nutty flavor, while chopped pecans provide a delightful crunch. The combination of sweet and savory notes makes this stuffing a crowd-pleaser.

5. Chestnut and Apple Stuffing: Chestnuts and diced apples add a unique and delightful twist to traditional stuffing. The sweet and nutty flavors complement the turkey’s richness, creating a perfect balance.

6. Mediterranean-inspired Stuffing: This stuffing incorporates ingredients like olives, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, and fresh herbs, offering a Mediterranean flair to the traditional roast turkey.

7. Quinoa and Cranberry Stuffing: Quinoa serves as a nutritious base for this stuffing, while dried cranberries add a burst of sweetness and color. It is an excellent option for those looking for a gluten-free and nutrient-packed stuffing.

8. Herbed Cornbread Stuffing: Using cornbread as the base, this stuffing is enriched with a variety of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage, for a burst of fragrance and flavor.

9. Spinach and Feta Stuffing: Sautéed spinach and crumbled feta cheese create a delicious and vibrant stuffing option that pairs well with turkey’s milder taste.

10. Vegan Stuffing: For those following a plant-based diet, a vegan stuffing can be made using vegetable broth, sautéed vegetables, herbs, and plant-based butter or oil. It can be as flavorful and satisfying as traditional stuffings.

How Long to Roast a Turkey

The 18-pound turkey is roasted for about four hours at 325 degrees F. If your turkey is larger or smaller than 18 pounds, you’ll have to adjust the cooking time.

Roast Turkey Temperature

You’ll know your roast turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F.

 FAQs About Roast Turkey

Q1. How to Brine a Turkey:

Brining is a technique that involves soaking the turkey in a seasoned liquid solution to enhance its flavor and moisture. Follow these steps to brine a turkey:

a. Prepare the Brine Solution: In a large container or food-safe bag, combine water with salt, sugar, and any desired aromatic ingredients, such as herbs, spices, and citrus.

b. Submerge the Turkey: Place the thawed turkey into the brine solution, ensuring it is fully submerged. You may need to weigh it down with a plate or heavy object to keep it under the liquid.

c. Refrigerate: Cover the container or seal the bag, then refrigerate the turkey in the brine for at least 12 hours, or ideally, overnight.

d. Rinse and Dry: Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cold water to remove excess salt. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels before roasting.

Q2. 3 Ways to Safely Thaw a Frozen Turkey:

Thawing a frozen turkey safely is crucial to avoid the risk of foodborne illness. Here are three safe methods for thawing a frozen turkey:

a. Refrigerator Method: Place the wrapped turkey on a tray or in a roasting pan in the refrigerator. Allow approximately 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.

b. Cold Water Method: Submerge the wrapped turkey in a sink or container filled with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, allowing 30 minutes of thawing time per pound of turkey.

c. Microwave Method: Use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw the turkey. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the weight and time required.

Q3. How Much Turkey Per Person Do You Need?

Estimating the amount of turkey needed per person ensures there is enough to go around without excessive leftovers. Generally, plan for about 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. For a large gathering or if you want leftovers, aim for the higher end of the range.

Q4. How to Truss a Turkey the Easy Way:

Trussing the turkey helps it cook more evenly and maintain its shape during roasting. Follow this easy trussing method:

a. Place the turkey breast-side up with the legs facing you.

b. Cross the legs and tie them together with kitchen twine.

c. Tuck the wingtips under the turkey’s back to prevent them from burning.

Q5. How to Smoke a Turkey:

Smoking a turkey infuses it with smoky flavor and creates a beautifully crispy skin. Follow these steps to smoke a turkey:

a. Prepare the Smoker: Preheat the smoker to around 225°F (107°C) and add your choice of wood chips for smoking flavor.

b. Season the Turkey: Rub the turkey with oil or butter and your preferred seasoning blend.

c. Smoke the Turkey: Place the turkey on the smoker’s grill and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), which can take several hours depending on the turkey’s size.

Q6. How to Carve a Turkey the Easy Way:

Carving a turkey may seem daunting, but with a few simple steps, you can do it easily:

a. Let the Turkey Rest: After roasting, let the turkey rest on a cutting board for about 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

b. Remove the Legs and Thighs: Cut through the skin between the breast and leg, then bend the leg outward to expose the joint. Cut through the joint to remove the leg and thigh in one piece.

c. Slice the Breast: Cut parallel to the breastbone, starting at the top, and work your way down to create even slices.

d. Serve: Arrange the carved turkey on a serving platter and serve to your guests.


Roasting a perfect turkey is an art that requires attention to detail and a little bit of practice. By following this step-by-step guide, you can confidently prepare a succulent and flavorful roast turkey that will impress your guests and become a centerpiece of joy and celebration. From selecting the right bird and brining to roasting and carving, each step contributes to a memorable dining experience. Embrace the process, savor the aroma, and create lasting memories as you master the art of roasting a perfect turkey.



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