How To Roast A Turkey

Turkey Brine

(Makes enough for up to a 24 lb. turkey)


1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 gallon water

2 T. black peppercorns

1 T. allspice berries

1 onion, sliced

1 large bunch sage

6 bay leaves

ice cubes


The day before (or night before) you want to cook the turkey:


Using a 5-gallon bucket, line it with a plastic bag. Put the salt, sugar, onion, herbs and spices in a pot on the range with only two cups of water taken from the one gallon of water called for in the recipe. Bring to a boil and stir everything to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat and add some ice cubes to cool it off, plus about half of the remaining water. Put the thawed turkey in the plastic bag in the bucket and add the water and herb mixture. If the bucket needs more water to cover the turkey, add it now.


Since I can't fit the bucket into my refrigerator, I always place it outdoors on the deck, adding ice cubes to the water to make sure it stays cool. It's never been a problem here in New Jersey in late November, and sometimes it's gotten so cold that the top layer of water has frozen.  I don't want to take any risks though, so I always add the ice cubes. Twist the top of the bag and secure it closed. To keep squirrels or birds from pecking into the bag during the night or before it goes into the oven, place a flat baking pan on the top and weigh it down with something heavy. Let it sit overnight and soak.


The next day, drain the turkey from the liquid before roasting.  Pat dry, then place your hand between the skin and the breast meat and spread some butter inside with some sage leaves. Alternately, make an herb butter, mixing some softened butter with minced sage, rosemary or other herbs.


Roasting Method


After rubbing butter between the skin and the breast meat, place the turkey breast side down in a pan that has a bed of celery sticks, carrots and onion chunks. Take several whole heads of garlic and slice a shallow slice off the top. Spread them in the corners of the pan. If you're not stuffing the turkey, place some onion chunks, fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme or a combo) and a couple of lemons that have been halved, in the cavity. Rub the outer skin with a stick of butter that's been softened. Roast turkey according to timetable below, basting occasionally. If the breast starts to get overly browned, make a tent with aluminum foil and cover loosely. If wings get overly browned and the rest of the turkey still needs cooking, wrap the wings in aluminum foil. The total roasting time will depend on whether the turkey is stuffed or not.

Here are the roasting times recommended by the USDA. If you're checking with a meat thermometer, the USDA says the turkey is safely cooked once the thickest part of the breast and thigh reach a minimal internal temperature of 165 degrees. Full roasting instructions from the USDA are here.


Timetables for Turkey Roasting
(325 °F oven temperature) 

Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing. 

Unstuffed

4 to 8 pounds (breast)

1½ to 3¼ hours

8 to 12 pounds

2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds

3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4½ to 5 hours


Stuffed

4 to 6 pounds (breast)

Not usually applicable

6 to 8 pounds (breast)

2½ to 3½ hours

8 to 12 pounds

3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds

3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds

4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4¾ to 5¼ hours