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Perfect Roast Turkey


Roasted Turkey

Roasted Turkey

Photo © Molly Watson

Roasting is simple: you put what is being roasted into a hot oven and cook it until it is done. For some reason – a desire for juicy white meat and a reasonable fear of less-than-cooked poultry flesh – roasting the Thanksgiving turkey has been turned into something way, way more complicated that it needs to be. Find an easy and supremely delicious way to roast your turkey below.

(Not to be pushy, but may I suggest you try grilling your turkey?)

Yield: 1 Roasted Turkey


  • 1 turkey (smaller ones are easier to roast well and if I have a crowd I go for two small ones instead one gigantic one; 8 - 12 lbs. is best)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt per pound of turkey
  • Sage leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup butter, softened at warm room temperature
  • 3 - 4 stalks of celery
  • About 1/2 lb. thinly sliced bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto
  • 1 1/2 cups tawny port or chicken or turkey stock


  1. Rinse turkey well and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Rub the turkey all over with the salt. It will seem like a lot of salt. It's okay, most of it will fall off before it ever sees the inside of the oven. Rub some under the skin on the breast and thighs, and all over the bird and inside the cavities. Put the turkey in a large bowl or roasting pan, cover, and chill for 24 to 72 hours. This pre-salting will help the bird be flavorful and hold onto its own natural juices when you roast it.
  2. A day before you plan to cook the turkey, uncover it, pour off any juices in the bottom of the bowl or pan, pat it dry, and chill uncovered. Leaving the turkey uncovered will help the skin dry out a bit which will help you get that wonderfully crispy skin we all love on a roasted bird.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat turkey dry. If using the sage, work the sage leaves under the skin on the breasts and thighs. Rub turkey all over with the butter.
  4. Place the celery stalks in the roasting pan – these will keep the turkey just a bit up all the bottom of the pan without the hassle of a roasting rack. Of course, you can always use a roasting rack instead.
  5. Lay bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto all over the turkey breast. They will help protect the white meat from getting overcooked, naturally baste the meat as it cooks, and provide the chef with a lovely little snack before having to carve the bird.
  6. Put 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of the pan and put the whole thing in the oven. After 30 minutes reduce heat to 350°F and gently baste the turkey, being careful to not disturb the bacon, with 1/2 cup of the port or stock. Repeat basting every half hour, using the pan juices when you run out of port or stock.
  7. Roast until a thermometer reads 170°F at the base of the thigh and/or 160°F at the thickest part of the breast. (Note: I don't use a thermometer when I roast turkey – I've roasted enough of them to know that they are done when the legs feel loose in their joints, or are even starting to pull away from the body a bit.) Remove turkey from the oven, tent with foil, and let sit in a warm place for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before carving. This time will allow the meat to finish cooking, let the juices to settle back into the meat, and give you time to make the gravy and finish up the rest of the meal.
Related Video
How to Roast a Turkey
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