How to Season and Roast a Turkey

How to Season and Roast a Turkey

There are a lot of ways to season and roast a turkey, and even more opinions about which way is best. Some methods use butter and turkey fat for basting, other suggest to dunk the bird in a deep-fryer, while others add layers of bacon! Here’s how to cook a lean and healthy turkey for your family that is still juicy and delicious.

Preheat the oven
Place your oven rack in the lowest position, remove any other oven racks, and set the temperature of your oven to 450°F.

Dry the turkey
Using paper towels, pat the skin and the interior of the turkey dry. Look for any feathers that were not removed by the butcher, and pull them out. Use a small, sharp knife to cut away any extra fat from the neck or cavity openings.

Add seasonings
Using your fingers, gently make an opening between the skin and the breast meat until a pocket forms that can fit your whole hand. Rub a mixture of herbs and seasoning underneath the skin on top of the breast meat, then rub remaining herbs and seasoning on top of the skin of the whole bird.

Prepare for roasting
Place the turkey, breast-side-up in a heavy roasting pan with a v-rack. (If you don’t have a rack, you can prop up the sides of the turkey with balls of aluminum foil.) Tuck aromatic herbs, vegetables, and citrus inside the turkey. You can use a variety of herbs like rosemary, tarragon, and thyme, quartered onions, leeks, carrots, celery, garlic cloves, and lemons or oranges. Tie the legs together tightly with cooking twine.

Broth keeps it succulent
Pour broth or other liquid into the roasting pan. This helps keep the turkey from drying out. For our Rosemary turkey recipe, we used a mixture of chicken broth and orange juice. Cover with the turkey foil to keep moisture around it while it cooks.

Roasting the turkey
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and put the roasting pan in the oven. Cooking a turkey takes approximately 15 minutes per pound at this temperature. Calculate how long your turkey will roast by multiplying it’s weight by 15, then divide by 60. For example, a 14-pound turkey without stuffing would take about 3½ hours to cook. This is just an estimate, and a lot of factors can affect cooking time, so begin to check your turkey’s temperature about halfway through cooking using either an oven-safe probe thermometer or a quick read thermometer.

Baste that bird!
Baste your turkey every 30 minutes with broth (or a mixture of broth and orange juice). Open and close the oven door quickly, and keep it closed while you baste to keep the oven temperature from dropping too much.

Get it golden brown
About 2½ hours through roasting, remove the foil to brown the skin and let it get crispy. If the wings get too dark, the tips can be wrapped in foil. If the skin starts to get too dark, replace the foil until the turkey is done.

Check the temperature
Your turkey will be done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. Remove it from the oven.

Give it a rest
Let your turkey rest, covered in foil, for at least 20 minutes before carving. This lets all of the juices reabsorb into the meat for juicer, tender turkey that is easier to slice.

Move it to a carving surface
When you are ready to carve the turkey, lift it out of the pan, tilting so that all of the excess juices can drain out of the cavity into the pan. To lift, you can use oven mitts, or two large wooden spoons inserted into the neck and cavity. Place your turkey on a cutting board, ideally one with a moat. Placing a clean kitchen towel under the turkey will help keep it from slipping when you carve.


Kirsten Morningstar is Openfit’s Senior Culinary Content Editor and chief recipe developer. She has been a culinary content creator for more than a decade, working as a recipe developer, meal plan guru, food stylist and photographer, and writer for private clients and companies including Openfit, Livestrong, FitPlan, and Beachbody. When she’s not testing recipes or having dance parties with her toddler, she is planning her next long-distance hike across Spain. Find her on Instagram .