This Roast Turkey Recipe is absolutely the best. The turkey is tender and juicy every time, even the white meat! The best part is there are no crazy tricks, it is super simple to make and super delicious to eat! With just a few simple ingredients you can have a whole turkey ready and in the oven in no time! When you take it out, you will find it perfectly browned with moist, tender meat perfect for your holiday (or any day!) meal!
Roast Turkey Recipe
I have a confession. I didn’t grow up even eating turkey on Thanksgiving. My family made lasagna. Not because we are Italian, but just because my parents liked it way better than turkey. I kind of love the memories of this quirky tradition now that I am older and I can certainly appreciate the sentiment to eat something you really enjoy. When I moved away and got married, though, we decided we wanted to do a more traditional thanksgiving and so I was left to figure out how to make a turkey.
I have tried a lot of methods and recipes for turkey over the years. A LOT. I have baked turkey, brined turkey, and I have cooked turkeys inside paper bags. I have roasted turkey, fried turkey and made turkey in the Instant Pot. Some were good, some were not so good, and a couple were to be remembered over the years.
My friend of many years Emily made the roast turkey for our thanksgiving celebration this year. We had a big crowd and she had a whopping 23 pound turkey! I didn’t tell her this, but this actually really scared me. I have done tons of research on cooking turkey (it is the engineer in me, I just can’t help it!) since I have been experimenting the past 14 years and one thing I hear over and over and have found to be true myself, is that the bigger the turkey, the more dry it will be since it has to cook longer to come to the right internal temperature to be done. But to my delight, when I showed up with my approximately 97 sides in hand for the dinner, the turkey wasn’t dry at all. It was in fact, the most tender, moist white meat I have ever had on a baked turkey! It was absolute perfection next to my favorite homemade cranberry sauce!
She had been talking about this roast recipe for weeks (maybe months!) but honestly I was so skeptical I didn’t really take note. Thankfully, she is a great friend and recounted the recipe that was passed to her from her friend when she had the same reaction to this amazing turkey and even helped me make and photograph another roast turkey so I could share it with you!
The best part about this recipe is that it isn’t hard or time consuming. It only uses a few simple and familiar ingredients and the result is pure perfection. Before I get into the nitty gritty of the recipe, I want to go through some of the most frequent questions I get on Turkey
How long do you cook a turkey in the oven?
This is the question that comes up most when we talk roast turkey. Each turkey will require a slightly different cooking time because each turkey is a different size. In our recipe, the turkey will need to cook at 325˚F for 15 minutes per pound*.
You can use this easy formula to find out how long to cook your turkey:
Turkey Weight (in pounds) x 15 = Total number of minutes to cook your turkey
To convert this into hours, simply divide the number of minutes by 60.
Total number of minutes to cook your turkey/60 = How long to cook the turkey in hours
So, for example, if I have a 12 lb turkey it would look like this:
12 x 15 = 180 minutes
180 minutes/60 = 3 hours.
See it really is simple!
* Time can vary based on your oven, climate, and altitude. Please use this as a guide but measure the internal temperature for true doneness.
What Temperature is a Turkey Done?
To be done the turkey must be 165˚F. The time guide above is a great starting place, but the MOST IMPORTANT part of making sure a turkey is cooked long enough, is that the internal temperature is 165˚F all the way through.
Where do you measure the temperature of a Turkey?
You should measure the temperature in 3 places:
- Innermost part of the thigh
- Innermost part of the wing
- Thickest part of the breast
A simple and inexpensive meat thermometer can help you make sure it is done to the correct temperature. You can usually find them in grocery or super stores or online for $5-10 on the cheap side and $50+ on the more expensive side. I use a digital thermometer that was inexpensive that you can insert into the meat and will sound an alarm when it reaches the desired temperature
Do I really need to measure the temperature of the Turkey?
I highly recommend measuring the temperature for a couple of reasons:
- If the entire turkey is not above 165˚F it increases the risk of food borne illness. Who wants to be sick in the holidays? It is just not worth it for the cost of a thermometer!
- The turkey will be so much better when it is perfectly cooked! If you over cook a turkey it will become dry and tough. If you undercook a turkey you can get sick!
- The cook time can change due to your oven, the climate or altitude where you live. By measuring the temperature you cook the turkey the perfect amount of time every time!
While, you could just cook the turkey long enough where there is no doubt it is done, you might not end up with the best tasting turkey that way.
How to make a Roast Turkey
As I mentioned above, the absolute best part of this recipe is how simple it is. I spent a lot of time talking about how long to cook your roast turkey for and how to measure the temperature, but don’t let that overwhelm you. I just wanted to make sure to cover the questions in detail so everyone can easily understand. This really is an easy recipe to make with an outstanding result.
I am going to walk through the recipe ingredients and instructions here with all of my notes and tips. If you just want the quick version, feel free to skip down to the printable recipe card below.
Roast Turkey Ingredients
- 1 Whole Turkey, thawed- You can use any size of turkey you want and just adjust the cooking time per the guide above. The most important thing to note, before you cook is that the turkey will need to be COMPLETELY THAWED. This is very important since if it is not thawed, you will not get a good result cooking it in the oven.
I used a Butterball turkey here and it came out beautifully! You can find whole turkeys in the freezer section of your grocery store, or sometimes you can find them fresh at local farms or markets.
- 1 bottle white wine (25 oz)- Emily usually uses a sweet white wine like riesling, but I was out so I used pinot grigio and it came out just as tasty. It doesn’t need to be a high end wine since the bird isn’t sitting in it but rather being steamed by it as it cooks.
- 1 bottle Italian salad dressing (16 oz)- You can buy bottled or make up a batch of your favorite recipe. The seasonings of the dressing will flavor the turkey as it cooks and the oil in the dressing helps to make the skin brown, crispy, and perfect.
- 1 red apple- Any kind will do!
- 2 dried bay leaves
Roast Turkey Instructions
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Clear extra oven racks to make room for turkey. I used the lower middle rack for my turkey. You want it to be as centered as you can.
- Unwrap your thawed turkey and remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. In my turkey the neck was in the main cavity and there was a bag of giblets in the neck side of the cavity. Just make sure you clear it out so that you aren’t cooking plastic or anything else into your turkey.
Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Most roasting pans come with a rack, but if you don’t have a roasting rack, you can make several balls (4-6) of aluminum foil and prop it up on that in the pan which is what I had to do since my rack was no where to be found this year.
- Cut the apple in half and place inside cavity. It should fit inside when halved, but if you have a smaller bird or an extra large apple, then you can cut the apple into quarters. Place a bay leaf under each wing. I then tuck the legs back in the bottom part of the skin and fold the wings under so that they are secure.
Pour the entire bottle of white wine into the bottom of the roasting pan, and then pour the entire bottle of dressing over the turkey. The wine will just sit in the bottom while the dressing should be put directly over the skin of the bird and I try to make sure I get it into all the nooks and crannies of the bird.
- Place the turkey in the oven and bake for 15 minutes per pound of turkey. You can see my example of how to calculate this above, but just use it to get a general idea, then around 30 minutes before it is done cooking I like to start to check the temperature and see how close we are, then monitor the roast turkey until it is 165˚F throughout.
- When the internal temperature is 165˚F throughout, remove turkey from the oven and let rest for 20-30 minutes, then carve and serve. By letting it rest, it helps the juices to lock into the meat before you cut it open and helps it to be more tender and juicy. Then you can just carve it up and enjoy!
I really hope that this recipe is enjoyed by your family as much as it is by mine! We might start making this more often because we loved it so much! And possibly because my all time favorite leftovers are turkey, cranberry and brie grilled cheese sandwiches. If you get a chance to make it, please let me know with a comment below or tag me on Instagram @easyfamilyrecipes in your feed or stories!
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The BEST Roast Turkey
- 1 Turkey thawed
- 1 bottle white wine 25 oz
- 1 16 oz bottle Italian salad dressing
- 1 red apple
- 2 bay leaves
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Clear extra oven racks to make room for turkey.
- Unwrap your thawed turkey and remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan.
- Cut the apple in half and place inside cavity. Place a bay leaf under each wing. Pour the entire bottle of white wine into the bottom of the roasting pan, and then pour the entire bottle of dressing over the turkey.
- Place the turkey in the oven and bake for 15 minutes per pound of turkey.
- When the internal temperature is 165˚F throughout, remove turkey from the oven and let rest for 20-30 minutes, then carve and serve.
- Turkey MUST be fully thawed before cooking.
- Check turkey in innermost thigh, innermost wing, and the thickest part of the breast to make sure it has reached 165˚F. Turkey may remain pink in places, but USDA recommends cooking to 165˚F for safe consumption.
- Nutrition facts provided based on my best estimation for the recipe and may not be accurate depending on what brands you use or modifications you make to the recipe. I recommend using a nutrition calculator with the exact brands and measurements you use for the most accurate calculation.
- ©2017 The Pinning Mama- Recipe found at: https://www.thepinningmama.com/the-best-roast-turkey/
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)