Take the stress out of your family Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) dinner with this simple trick that yields the perfect turkey roast - crispy skin and deliciously tender meat. We also included a printable roasting chart below.
No matter how much you plan and believe you found that easy, stress-free recipe for the perfect turkey roast, you always end up thinking: if at least the skin was crispy, the meat more tender, and where is that golden color?
All you want is delicious results without losing your mind. Is that too much to ask? Trust me, I get it!
📋Why This Recipe Works
For years I've been trying to come up with different, more unique turkey recipes for my family. I served it brined and smoked, and even made a turducken one year, just to name a few.
Each preparation was too time-consuming as if roasting the darn bird alone doesn't take enough time. That turducken took two days out of my life that I will never get back. And yet my family prefers this simple, tried-and-true recipe.
This recipe is from an old Croatian cookbook with torn leather binding my mom proudly displayed on her bookshelf and made for Christmas dinners and special occasions (Europeans don't celebrate Thanksgiving).
So, in short: the secret to the perfect roasted turkey is keeping it simple because who needs crazy methods and exotic ingredients? Not to mention time wasted that you could spend with your loved ones or relax.
5 most common mistakes in the preparation of the oven-roasted turkey:
1. You Don't Defrost the Turkey on Time
The turkey is much bigger than the chicken, so it needs more time to thaw. It is best to store it in the refrigerator for a few days before preparation so that it gradually thaws. As a rule, it takes 14 hours to defrost 5.5 pounds in the refrigerator.
2. You Bake It at Too High A Temperature
Crispy skin is the tastiest part of roasted turkey. If you bake it at too high a temperature, you will most likely get burnt skin and insufficiently roasted meat. It's best to roast the meat at a constant medium temperature.
3. You Put It in The Oven Too Early
If you are planning lunch at 3 pm, there is no reason to put a turkey to bake at dawn. As a rule, it takes 13 minutes of roasting for every pound of meat at a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, don't forget to let it "rest" for at least 20 minutes before cutting.
4. You Don't Use a Kitchen Thermometer
This kitchen tool is an investment that will surely pay off for you, no matter the level of your experience. The turkey should be baked until it reaches a temperature of 170-180 degrees F.
Even if it has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, you should also check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer, but not touching the bone.
5. You Don't Use the Pan Drippings
The juices left in the baking tray are liquid gold and have a delicious taste. Use it to make the gravy or toss with cooked mlinci, so don't throw it away.
Traditionally, Croatians serve roasted turkey with mlinci, homemade baked pasta. If you want a complete experience, you can find the simple recipe for mlinci in my book.
Now that you know what to do, check out 7 things not to do.
Download or print this free roasting chart for your reference by clicking on the graphic.
Additional consumer safety tips from the USDA.
🛒Ingredients and Notes
- whole turkey
- lemon-pepper seasoning
- Italian seasoning
- Vegeta Natur - for the authentic Croatian turkey, but you can use salt instead
- whole cloves
- bay leaves
Make your own Italian seasoning using:
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- ½ tablespoon dried sage
- ½ tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoons dried parsley
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ tablespoons dried marjoram
🔪Step by Step Instructions
*Keep scrolling to get the full (printable) recipe, ingredient amounts, and more tips, or click on the "Skip to Recipe" button at the top of the page.
- First, you'll have to remove the giblets and neck out of the turkey (use them to make stock). Then wash the bird inside and out and remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Pat the inside and outside dry, then pour hot water over the skin. Pat dry it again with paper towels.
- Next, place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and brush the outside of the bird with melted butter.
- Rub the herb mixture liberally all over the bird, then stuff the cavity with the lemon, clove-studded onion, and the bay leaves. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body.
- Cover and roast for about 2½ hours (see the roasting chart above). Uncover and continue baking until the skin turns golden brown. Let rest for 20 minutes.
The perfectly roasted bird results from good roasting and good preparation and selection of the right bird.
Let's start with these 7 valuable tips for a perfect turkey:
Although we all know it's best to buy a fresh turkey, you can also get the perfect roast with a frozen one. You'll have to keep in mind that you have to defrost it before baking completely. Larger birds can be defrosting for days.
2. Crispy Skin
Leave the turkey uncovered one day before baking, or follow the recipe directions below for a crispy skin.
3. Room Temperature of The Roast
Make sure that the meat stays at room temperature before baking. If you put the cold meat in the oven, it will not bake evenly. Take it out of the refrigerator for at least an hour or two before baking.
4. Spices, Spices, Spices
It's good to season your meat a few hours before roasting. Then it will be juicier, tender, and more delicious. Rub the bird generously with fresh or dried herbs and olive oil or butter. For extra flavor and to keep the meat juicy, place lemon and clove-studded onion into the cavity (see the recipe below).
5. Best Cooking Temperature
Baking at higher and lower temperatures has its advantages, but the ideal temperature for baking is about 350-375 degrees F. The meat is done when it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. If you expect a crowd, you should instead roast two smaller turkeys.
6. No Peeking!
Once your roast is in the oven, do not frequently open the door, which will further prolong the cooking time. It's best to bake the bird in a roaster with a rack and a lid. See the list of things you might need in the "equipment needed" section below.
7. Done, But
Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil, for 20 minutes before carving. Juices inside will settle, and you won't end up with a pool of liquid on the cutting board. Timing is everything! Use the sharpest knife to carve it.
🍲How to Serve It?
A Thanksgiving classic - homemade mashed potatoes are a must, but also consider crispy roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash as an addition to your sides and this maple cheesecake for your dessert.
- A large roasting pan with a rack and a dome lid makes roasting a breeze, but you can use the open pan as well and cover it with aluminum foil. Just make sure to leave room around the skin.
- Making sure your turkey is cooked through is very important. Thus, a meat thermometer is a must in every kitchen, plus you can use it for BBQ, baking, and any other cooking needs.
- Italian seasoning, in case you don't want to make your own blend.
- Vegeta Natur is a Croatian additive-free seasoning mix. I put it on everything and couldn't cook without it. It is great to season your meats, soups, stews, and vegetables.
- Whole cloves for the spiked (punk) onion. 😉
- Remember, a sharp knife is essential but an electric knife makes carving the meat much easier.
Well, we all have a different appetite, and you may or may not want leftovers, but it's recommended to allow about 1 pound per person.
How long does it take to bake a turkey really depends on the size of the bird, and if it's stuffed or not. Please check out downloadable chart above in the post for reference.
💗More Great Recipes to Try
- Honey Mustard Pork Roast
- Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pasta Bake
- Vegetable and Cheese Pie With Fillo
- Savory Ricotta Fillo Bundt Pie
- Stuffed Buttercup Squash
- Pumpkin Orange Chocolate Cake
- Brownie Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Easy Eggless Apple Cake
Liked this recipe? Leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section. Your feedback is always appreciated! Stay in touch through Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook! Don't forget to sign up for my email list below too!
Turkey Recipe: The Secret to a Perfect Roasted Turkey
- 12-14 pounds whole turkey
- 1 stick butter or ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons Vegeta Natur* or salt
- 1-2 tablespoons whole cloves
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 lemon
- 1 onion
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take the giblets and neck out of the turkey and wash the bird inside and out (use the giblets and neck to make stock). Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers, and pat the inside and outside dry. Then pour hot water over the skin of the turkey. The skin will tighten (this pulls the proteins in the skin together to form a tight surface that crisps up better). Pat dry the turkey again with paper towels.
- Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add one cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Brush the outside of the bird with melted butter.
- Mix together the Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, and Vegeta or salt.
- Rub the herb mixture liberally all over the turkey, spreading a little in the cavity and being sure to season the back, the breasts, and the meaty thighs.
- Wash the lemon and peel the onion. Press cloves into the onion. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, clove-studded onion, and the bay leaves.
- Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
- Cover and roast for 2½ hours until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear. Uncover the turkey, and continue baking until the skin turns golden brown, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer. (The internal temperature should reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh)
- Remove the turkey to a cutting board and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Carve the turkey with a sharp knife and serve.
- If you can, go for a fresh, not frozen, turkey. Otherwise, make sure to defrost it in the refrigerator ahead of the roasting day.
- For even crispier skin, leave the turkey in the fridge (in a pan to catch any juices that may leak) uncovered overnight.
- If you're tight on a schedule, leave the turkey be - don't be opening the oven ever so often or you will prolong the cooking time.
- The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 F for safety, but I always go a safer route and bake it to 170 -180 degrees.
- Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. It will carve more easily.
- Read the post above for more helpful tips.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on products used.