2000s Recipes + Menus

The Simplest Roast Turkey

Serves8 to 10
  • Active time:20 min
  • Start to finish:3 hr
November 2005
You’ll rejoice as white and dark meat alike come out juicy and tender in a bird you can set and forget—and then enjoy.

We do not recommend this high-heat roasting method for turkeys weighing more than 16 pounds. However, for turkeys weighing less than 14 pounds, start checking the temperature earlier. If you only have a dark-colored metal roasting pan, add 1 cup water to the roasting pan before putting the turkey in the oven.

Learn how we achieved turkey perfection.
  • 1 (14- to 16-pound) turkey, neck and giblets (excluding liver) reserved for turkey giblet stock
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (2 teaspoons if using a kosher bird)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Special equipment:

    pliers (preferably needlenose); a small metal skewer (optional); kitchen string; a flat metal rack; an instant-read thermometer
  • Remove any feathers and quills with pliers (kosher turkeys tend to require this more than others).
  • Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450ºF.
  • Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry. Mix salt and pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly in turkey cavities and all over skin. Fold neck skin under body and, if desired, secure with metal skewer, then tuck wing tips under breast and tie drumsticks together with kitchen string.
  • Put turkey on rack in a large flameproof roasting pan. Roast, rotating pan 180 degrees halfway through roasting, until thermometer inserted into fleshy part of each thigh (close to but not touching bone) registers 170F, 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 hours.
  • Carefully tilt turkey so juices from inside large cavity run into roasting pan. Transfer turkey to a platter (do not clean roasting pan) and let stand 30 minutes (temperature of thigh meat will rise to 180F). Cut off and discard string from turkey.
Other cooking options:
Stuffed turkey: Twelve cups of stuffing will fill both cavities and leave you extra to bake separately. Just before roasting, spoon room-temperature stuffing loosely (stuffing expands as it cooks) into the neck (smaller) cavity. Fold the neck skin underneath the body and secure with a small metal skewer. Then loosely fill the body (larger) cavity, and tie drumsticks together. If you don't want any stuffing to spill out, cover the opening with a slice of fresh bread, tucking it inside the cavity before tying the drumsticks. Follow roasting directions above. (Timing for a stuffed bird may be slightly longer, but start checking the temperature at 1 3/4 hours.) Immediately transfer stuffing from body cavity to a shallow baking dish (separate from one for stuffing baked outside the turkey). Take temperature of stuffing in neck cavity and if less than 165F, add it to the baking dish. Bake (covered for a moist stuffing or uncovered for a crisp top) until it reaches a minimum of 165F. This can take 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the temperature of the oven, which you may have lowered to reheat side dishes.

Roast turkey breast: The same method used above can be applied to a whole turkey breast (instead of the entire bird). For a 6- to 8-pound breast (with skin and bone), reduce amount of salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons and pepper to 3/4 teaspoon. Use a V-rack instead of a flat rack. Roast, rotating pan 180 degrees halfway through roasting, until thermometer inserted in thickest part of each breast half (close to but not touching bone) registers 170F, about 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Let stand 30 minutes (temperature in breast will rise to between 175F and 180F). (For a grilled turkey option, see Grilled Whole Turkey.)
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