Mom’s Roast Turkey

My mom’s turkey is unlike others. The breast meat isn’t dried out, requiring cupfuls of gravy to taste good, but moist and flavorful. I’ve been watching her make our family turkey for years. Finally a few years ago she let me make it, giving instructions the entire time. Mom’s method is to buy the best quality turkey available (organic, free-range, etc.) and cook it breast-side down. She also cooks the turkey stuffing separately, not in the cavity, which makes it easier to cook the turkey more evenly.

Roast Turkey

Mom’s Roast Turkey Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 4 hours

Handle a raw turkey with the same amount of caution as when you handle raw chicken—use a separate cutting board and utensils to avoid contaminating other foods. Wash you hands with soap before touching anything else in the kitchen. Use paper towels to clean up.


  • 1 turkey, approx. 15 lbs.*
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 1 to 2 carrots
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • Several sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme

* Need help figuring out how big a turkey to get? Butterball has a turkey calculator that helps you figure out just how many pounds you need. In general, plan for:

12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people


1 Defrost and De-Chill

If you are starting with a frozen turkey, you will need to defrost it first, a process that can take several days depending on the size of the turkey. Place the wrapped frozen turkey in a pan to catch any leaks, and then in the refrigerator to defrost. You will need about 5 hours of defrosting for every pound of turkey. Which means that if you have a 15 pound turkey, it should take 75 hours, or a little over 3 days, to defrost.

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours (depending on the size of the bird) before cooking to allow it to come closer to room temperature. The turkey will cook more quickly and more evenly that way.


2 Remove Giblets and Rinse Turkey

When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from its package. Reach into the turkey's main cavity and pull out the neck and giblets (gizzard, heart, liver). The giblets may be wrapped in a small paper package. (If they're not in the main cavity, check the neck opening.) If you want, you can chop up the heart and gizzard to make stock for the stuffing or dressing (put the chopped heart and gizzard into a small saucepan, cover with water, add salt, bring to simmer for an hour or so.) You can either cook the neck alongside the turkey, or save it for turkey soup. You can also use all of the giblets for making giblet gravy.

Turkey Giblets Turkey Plastic Tie

Rinse the turkey inside and out with water. If you see any remnants of turkey feathers, pull them out. Use paper towels to pat dry the turkey.

Many turkeys come with a plastic tie holding the drumsticks together. Check the instructions on the turkey package; it is likely that you will not need to remove the tie unless you are cooking the turkey at a very high temperature. If you do remove the plastic tie, and you may want to truss the turkey with kitchen twine to help hold the legs together.


3 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


4 Insert Aromatics and Truss Turkey

Slather the inside of the cavity with the juice of half a lemon. Take a tablespoon of salt and rub all over the inside of the turkey.

turkey-aromatics-open turkey-aromatics-foil

In this method of cooking a turkey, we don't make the stuffing in the turkey because doing so adds too much to the cooking time. For flavor, put in inside the turkey a half a yellow onion, peeled and quartered, a bunch of parsley, a couple of carrots, and some tops and bottoms of celery. You may need to cap the body cavity with some aluminum foil so that the stuffing doesn't easily fall out. Close up the turkey cavity with either string (not nylon string!) or metal skewers. Make sure that the turkey's legs are tied together, held close to the body, and tie a string around the turkey body to hold the wings in close. (Here's a good video on trussing: how to truss a turkey.)

turkey-stuff-neck turkey-close-neck

The neck cavity can be stuffed with parsley and tied closed with thin skewers and string.


5 Rub with Olive Oil or Butter, Salt and Pepper

turkey-on-rack-1 turkey-on-rack-2

Rub either melted butter or olive oil all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle salt generously all over the outside of the turkey (or have had it soaking in salt-water brine before starting this process). Sprinkle pepper over the turkey.


6 Place Turkey Breast Down on Rack

Place turkey BREAST DOWN on the bottom of a rack over a sturdy roasting pan big enough to catch all the drippings. This is the main difference between the way mom makes turkey and everyone else. Cooking the turkey breast down means the skin over the breast will not get so brown. However, all of the juices from the cooking turkey will fall down into the breast while cooking. And the resulting bird will have the most succulent turkey breast imaginable.

Add several sprigs of fresh (if possible) thyme and rosemary to the outside of the turkey.


7 Roast the Turkey

Put the turkey in the oven. Check the cooking directions on the turkey packaging. Gourmet turkeys often don't take as long to cook. With the turkeys mom gets, she recommends cooking time of about 15 minutes for every pound. For the 15 lb turkey, start the cooking at 400 F for the first 1/2 hour. Then reduce the heat to 350 F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce the heat further to 225 F for the next hour to hour and a half.

turkey-roast-back-up turkey-roast-breast-up

If you want the breast to be browned as well, you can turn the bird over so that the breast is on top, and put it in a 500°F oven or under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, just enough to brown the breast. Note that if you do this, you will have a higher risk of overcooking the turkey breast.

Start taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, inserted deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh, an hour before the turkey should be done. You want a resulting temperature of 175°F for the dark meat (thighs and legs) and 165°F for the white meat (breast). The temperature of the bird will continue to rise once you take it out of the oven, so take it out when the temperature reading for the thigh is 170°F, and for the breast 160°F. If you don't have a meat thermometer, spear the breast with a knife. The turkey juices should be clear, not pink.


8 Let Turkey Rest, Then Carve

Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn the turkey breast side up to carve it. (See Alton Brown video on how to carve a turkey.)


Making Turkey Gravy

Scrape all the drippings off of the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour drippings into a smaller skillet. Ladle off excess fat with a gravy spoon and save for possible use later. In a separate small bowl take a quarter cup of corn starch and add just enough water to dissolve the corn starch. Beat cornstarch with a spoon to remove lumps. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the drippings, stirring constantly. You may not end up using all of the cornstarch mixture. Only add as much as you need to get the desired thickness. Allow time for the cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Add salt, pepper, sage, thyme, or other seasonings to taste. (See gravy recipe for step-by-step photos.)

Save Bones for Stock

When you are finished with your turkey, save the bones from the carcass to make a delicious turkey soup.

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Harold McGee's Thanksgiving Tips on Serious Eats

Turkey Hotlines

If you find yourself in a bind with how to cook your turkey, there are several companies that offer telephone hotlines during the holiday season:

  • Butterball Turkey Talk Line (800) 288-8372
  • Foster Farms Turkey Helpine (800) 255-7227
  • Reynolds Kitchens (800) 745-4000; 24hrs a day through Dec 31

Happy Holidays!

P.S. This cranberry relish goes great with turkey.

Roast Turkey


  1. mary

    Hi Elise! This way of cooking turkey is interesting and I’m gonna give it a try this year! I just wanted to ask how I would improvise on the cooking times and temperatures if using a 10-12 lb turkey. I look forward to hearing from you! Thank you!

  2. Elise

    Hi Mary,

    You might try deducting 15 minutes of cooking time for every pound of turkey less than 15 lbs. So for a 12 lb turkey, deduct 45 minutes cooking time. I would take half of the time from the middle and half from the end of the cooking. Make sure you use a meat thermometer to test when the turkey is actually done.

    Good luck!

  3. Marky

    I was skeptical at first…My brain told me I had the turkey in the pan wrong-side up!!! But I went ahead anyway. That was the most tender turkey breast we have ever had! It was like cutting into a juicy steak that melts in your mouth. I am definitely sharing this recipe with my friends.They’ll just have to reprogram their brain!!! Thanks and hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

    Marky from Avon NY

  4. The McCrea Family

    Hi Elise,

    We had cooked our turkey upside down several years ago at the suggestion of a restaurant chef and it came out very moist and tender.

    Unfortunately, we lost the recipe this year and came across your website – it’s Thanksgiving evening now and I just had to tell you that I think it came out better this year using your recipe! Some of the best turkey ever. Thank you!

    The McCrea Family

  5. elise

    Hi Marky and the McCrea’s,

    I’m so glad the breast-side down turkey turned out well for you! We just finished ours and again, it was so wonderfully moist.

  6. Kimberly

    I tried this turkey yesterday. It was so moist and juicy!!! It was certainly not as pretty as others I have done, but the taste was great.

    I cooked it breast down on a wire rack in a roasting pan. The breast had deep grooves from the rack. The last 15 minutes I turned it over to brown a bit more on the breast. I carved the turkey on a platter before guests arrived. It has been a whle since I have made a turkey. My husband and daughters do not care for it like I do. I was a bit nervous using a new recipe for a large family gathering. But the method really seemed logical.

    Everyone loved it!!! Every bite of breast meat was tender and juicy. I will never cook a turkey right-side-up again. Thanks for sharing your recipe!!


  7. Colleen

    This is the first turkey I have ever made and WOW, it is the best I’ve ever tasted!! Pretty good for a first time turkey chef!

    Thanks for the great turkey reciepe (and stuffing too!)…you sure make an amateur look good.

    Calgary, AB Canada

  8. Elise

    Hi Kimberly and Colleen, you are very welcome! I’m so glad your turkeys turned out so well. Yes, this method doesn’t make as pretty of a turkey, this is true. But we always carve it up in the kitchen anyway. And once you taste how moist and delicious turkey can be, you never want a dry turkey again. :-)

  9. Irene

    In the past, I’ve always used a tent foil over my
    turkey. Because there’s no mention of a cover,
    I assume that it’s not necessary. Right?
    We’re all looking forward to Christmas and trying
    this recipe.

  10. Elise

    Hi Irene,

    That’s right, no cover. Typically an aluminum tent is needed to keep the breast from overcooking when it is breast-side up. This recipe calls for cooking the turkey breast-side down, where there is much less chance of overcooking the breast.



  11. Jaspreet

    hello……I am trying this turkey for the first time…..for a big family….sounds good, I have also read all the views, so Im gonna give it a try…… would a cotton thread do, to tie it up???

  12. Elise

    Hi Jaspreet, cotton thread should work fine.

  13. Jeff Larsen

    This is indeed the best way to cook a turkey. Everyone at Thanksgiving just raved. I have never eaten a better turkey in my life.

    Simply place it breast side down…cook it at 400 for an hour, than at 325 for 4 more hours (a 20 pounder). It is the best turkey anyone will ever have. YUM!

  14. Coryne

    hey there.

    I’ve never made a turkey before and I’m simply dying to try your recipe, but I’m a little concerned about the time. If i wanted to make a 6-8 lbs turkey, how long should i cook it for? This turkey sounds absolutely delicious and i’m totally looking forward to making it!

  15. Emma Peel

    This recipe along with the gravy and the stuffing was a hit – from now on – upside down birds in this house! And the stuffing – I also added two cups cooked wild rice – it was amazing. Compliments from all of my guests and recipes on the email exchange. Thanks!

  16. Stan Shore

    I am new at this. The first question is how large of a turkey do I need? I am still not sure of the number of guests. Probably between 12 and 18.

    Palo Alto, CA

  17. Carrie

    Hi Elise,
    I bake chickens in the oven, breast down for about 30 minutes and then flip them over for the last 30 minutes. But, I use a glass pyrex with no rack. Could I do something like this for a turkey (15 lbs.), or do I need a rack?
    Thank you, from this amateur whose in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving.

  18. Lester

    Hi Elise,
    I am going to try this recipe tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I have a 22lb turkey and will cook for approx 5.5 hours ( 15 minutes per pound). How would you regulate the temperature for this amount of time.

    Thanks and have a great Thanksgiving,

  19. Alice

    I have been cooking my turkey breast side down for the last 25 years. My family used to leave the white meat and eat only the dark but now we always have dark left, no white.

  20. Elise

    Hi Carrie – I’ve never roasted a turkey in a pyrex dish, so I don’t know. I would think that the rack would facilitate even air flow around the turkey, so it would be preferable.

    Hi Lester – Just add on time to the end, the lower cooking temp.

    Hi Alice – Does the fact that your family eats more white than dark meat have something to do with the cooking method that produces better white meat? Or to do with changing tastes and changing turkeys? Dark meat is so flavorful, but it seems to me that people would rather smother their turkey breasts in gravy than enjoy the naturally rich flavor of the dark meat. Also, given the way they breed turkeys these days, the legs are smaller and smaller, yielding even less of the dark meat.

  21. Brian

    Hey Elise,

    Do you have to use a rack in the pan? All I have is one of those giant handi-foil oval pans in which to cook the turkey. Would it be okay to just lay the turkey breast-side down in the pan? Also, I just want to confirm the approximate cooking time for a 22.5 lb turkey. Any help much appreciated! Thanks!

  22. Elise

    Hi Brian –

    One thing you can do is roast the turkey directly on the oven rack in your oven (clean it up first). Place a large rimmed pan on the rack underneath the rack that holds the turkey to catch the drippings. The rack is for air flow; it will help your turkey cook more evenly.

    Regarding a 22.5 lb turkey – 22.5 lbs x 15 minutes per lb = 337.5 minutes. Divide 337.5 by 60 minutes to the hour and you get 5.625 hours, or approximately 5 hours 37 minutes.

  23. Lander

    I cooked my turkey last night in other to ease the pressure of preparing so much food today. This is the softest turkey I have ever eatten. When I started to cut it, the meat just pulled away from the bones. Yummy, Yummy. This is the only way I will bake my turkey. Thank you so much.

  24. Jeremy Henderson

    A few years ago I had Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some friends, and we had a first time turkey cook who also accidentally discovered the upside-down bird method. It was by far the best tasting turkey I’ve ever eaten.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  25. sharon

    I’m trying your turkey recipe! and it’s my first time cooking this for my friends :) I just arrived here in the US 4 months ago and surf the web about the this recipe for thanks giving! now the turkey is cooking and it smells greattttt~

  26. Cathy

    Thank you for your AWESOME recipe. I had a crowd of 22 here today and roasted a 22-pound fresh turkey. Unbelievable. I made the turkey exactly as you specified and it was truly the very best I have ever eaten. Moist, flavorful . . . all of it! BTW, I used a roaster oven because my real oven is tiny and old. I swear by it now.
    Thank you again for making me so thankful on Thanksgiving : )

  27. Steve

    We had a party of 24 last night, and I choose to bake both birds upside down… WOW… absolutely wonderful turkey! As many have said, I’ll never bake another one breast side up… just be sure you rest the breast on veggies while baking.. the later you can flip it and brown… it’s wonderful.. and no basting!

  28. juni

    Fantastic bird ! My family loved it, I heard how juicy the white meat was about a hundred times. Thank you for the recipe.

  29. denise

    I was a Thanksgiving Virgin (first time to have Thanksgiving at our home, first time to make a turkey etc…) and all I have to say is “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!”

    The turkey was so juicy and flavorful – my guests (20 in all) just gobbled it up and all thought that it was the best bird that they had ever had!

    My mom made a “back-up” turkey, in case my bird flopped, and we all agreed that my bird won hands down – Thanks for making our Thanksgiving such a success!

  30. BD


    I never roast a turkey. But I am going to make one for this year.

    I bought a frozen turkey and the turket came with a indicator that will indicate if the breast is cooked. But if i put the breast down, the indicator might not work. Do I need to depend on the indicator.

    How long need to marinate the turkey in advance? one day?

  31. Roger Wills

    The photo at the top of the page looks a little like you have wrapped the turkey in foil but I don’t see that anywhere in the recipe. Or is it just my screeen playing tricks with my eyes?



  32. Monica Hart

    Hi Elise,

    I will be using your recipe this year and I just have a couple of questions. If I bake the turkey upside down directly on my oven rack, do I still need to put some type of Vegetable underneath the breast? It won’t look to horrible if I don’t will it? Also, do you think putting some uncooked bacon in the cavity of the turkey or under the skin of the breast, will enhance the flavor.

  33. Elise

    Hi BD – Our turkeys never have that indicator. I would suggest that you use a meat thermometer instead, and remove the popup indicator. I don’t know what you mean by “marinate” as our instructions do not call for marinating. You do need to defrost your turkey, starting probably several days in advance.

    Hi Monica – Our recipe does not call for vegetables or bacon. That said, I’m all in favor of experimentation, especially when someone else is doing the experimenting. Let us know how it turns out.

  34. Ann

    Elise, thank you. Our employer gave us a turkey this year, so when I started to cook it,(maybe I’ve cooked one or two others in my life – dry, dry, dry)it seemed as though I remembered seeing on t.v. this restaurant (that is all about turkey – they sell bazillions of turkey sandwiches and etc.) giving their secret to success as cooking the turkeys breast side down. So I Google’d that phrase and it took me to your recipe. Turkey is in the oven now. Thanks again.

  35. Nutan

    Hi Elise, I am finally cooking my turkey on old years eve i didn’t do it for Christmas as is the norm in Trinidad because it always comes out dry, dry. I going to try your breast down recipe tonight.I ‘ll let you know how our family turkey dinner turned out next week.

    Best Regards,

  36. VERNE

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. BTW, I just won a big vintage Guardian Service turkey roaster on eBay. It’s all hammered aluminum, was made in the 40’s & has a lid that doubles as a serving tray. I’ve heard that there’s no need to baste with these roasters & that they roast food beautifully. Have you or your mom ever used one of these roasters to do a turkey? Should I use the lid? I’m trying to find recipes for this roaster.

  37. Robert

    This is by far the best roast turkey recipe I’ve ever found. Only one complaint though: The turkey comes out so moist you can’t even carve it! It just falls apart! I tried pulling off the drumsticks…nothin’ doin’. The bone slid right out! Awesome!

  38. Krystine May

    I am really interested in cooking this for my friends on Monday, but I’m held back by the notion of not having the turkey skin browned. Has anyone turned it over for the last 30 minutes or so to brown the skin? If so did it effect the turkey that much? I’m cooking for a group of men and I think they will want their skin!

    Please advise. I’m not a huge cook but if I cook the turkey upside down for hours then turn it over the last bit to brown I can’t see it ruining the juiciness but if I’m wrong I definately would like to know.

    Thank you!

  39. Krystine May

    I also only have an oval foil pan (doubled up) no rack. I’m cooking at a friends house so I can’t put it directly on the rack with pan below. Has anyone cooked it without the rack upside down in a roasting pan like I’m going to have too? Is it fine or not as good?

  40. Elise

    Hi Krystine,

    You can turn the turkey over for the last 20 minutes to brown if you want. We never bother as we carve the turkey in the kitchen.

    I don’t quite get the connection of why if you are cooking the turkey at someone else’s house you can’t cook it directly on the rack. You can easily remove the rack and clean it, after you are done cooking, as you would clean any rack on which you cooked a turkey. You should cook the turkey on a rack of some sort, as the bird needs the hot airflow underneat it to help it cook. If you do end up cooking the turkey directly on the middle rack, with the pan on the rack below, reduce the cooking time. Cooking it this way is akin to using a convection oven, as the increased airflow cooks the turkey faster. How much time to reduce? Depends on the size of the turkey. The last 15 pound turkey I cooked was done 45 minutes earlier than it would have been cooking it in a rack in a pan.

  41. Auzzie

    Hi Elise, it’s my first time cooking turkey by myself. should I add any water to the turkey before put it in the oven?

  42. Krystine May

    Thanks for the prompt reply :) I bought rack to go in the pan and a meat thermometer. Figured it was time to bite the bullet. Thanks for the advice and can’t wait to see how it turns out. Happy Thanksgiving!

  43. Theresa

    Hey Elise! Thanks a lot for the recipe! I cooked my very first turkey last night for an “early” Thanksgiving dinner with my family (i live in Canada), and it turned out great! My father couldn’t believe how incredibly moist the turkey was when he carved it. He said I should cook Thanksgiving dinner every year!

    Also, since I’m asian, I couldn’t resist but to pat the skin after I washed it with some paper towels before I generously applied the salt and pepper. As a result, the turkey skin had a slight crispy texture to it. My brothers couldn’t get enough of it! I highly recommend it to anyone to give it a try!

  44. John

    We have cooked turkey upside down for as long as I can remember with a couple twists from your recipe. We cook at 325 degrees for four hours and we flip the turkey breast side up the last half hour to brown the the skin and give the bird the traditional look and our kids love the skin when its been browned to a slight crisp. The meat is always moist.

  45. Robert

    This is the very first recipe I’ve ever used for a roast turkey. (And the only one I’ll ever use) Not knowing the parts of the turkey, I ended up cooking it breast side up. It was still the most moist, succulent turkey I’ve ever tasted and my entire family agreed.

  46. victorg

    Awsome turk… I did this last xmas with a balducci’s turkey… 17 pounder…

    Gonna do it again this year too… thanks for the recipe!!!

  47. Mary Selle

    I am having a large group of people for Thanksgiving. Have you ever cooked and sliced the turkey(s) the day before. And possibly just put the sliced turkey with some broth in the oven to reheat? I need two turkeys and a couple of turkey breasts.

  48. Elsa

    Wow upside down! Sound pretty intresting =)
    This will be my first time cooking the Thanksgiving dinner and I’m very excited! I will definetely be using your recipe! I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving day =)
    Take care

  49. Cathy

    Hi Elise -

    I’m cooking for a group of 24 this year and I’m excited to try your recipe. Can you suggest what size turkey I should get for this large crowd? Also, should I add stock to the bottom of the roasting pan before putting the turkey in the oven? I noticed in the recipe you mention making stock for the stuffing so I wasn’t sure.

    Thank you so much!


  50. Gene

    OK, T-day is coming up, and I am ready to (maybe!) deep fry a turkey this year…everyone I talk to that has had a deep fried turkey says it’s the best EVER. Now, my oven roasted turkey is dang good anyway, and I was wondering if anyone here had any suggestions/comments regarding a deep fried turkey vs a brined turkey?

    Thanks to all, I love this site!

  51. Jeremy Henderson

    A few years ago I went over to the house of a friend who was cooking her first Thanksgiving turkey. It wasn’t until the turkey was done before someone pointed out to her that she had accidentally put it upside down in the pan.

    At first everyone made fun of her, until we started eating and all agreed that it was just about the best turkey any of us had ever had. Ever since then I’ve been extolling the virtues of flipping the turkey over, but most traditionalists sneer. Glad to see the movement is gaining momentum!

  52. Tom

    I will be making my first turkey for Thanksgiving. The question I have is this: I will be making the turkey at my house and bring it to another house about 1/2 hour away from mine. Should I cover the turkey with tinfoil right away when I take it out of the oven also I do not remember reading anything about basting the turkey. Do you recomend basting?
    Thanks for your help and have a great holiday.

  53. angel

    Hi, another first timer here. This sounds like a very good idea, but I ‘m not so sure what you mean by cooking it on a wire rack. Do I place it directly on my oven rack and put the disposable turkey pan on the rack below to catch the juices? If so how do I take the turkey out? Sorry for all of the obvious questions, but I would really appreciate some help.

    The White Family

  54. Pam


    I am getting nervous, the only free range turkey left was 23 lbs!! Everything I read references a 15 – 16 lb bird. Yikes, how will I handle this monster and ensure it’s great, my mother-in-law is coming for the first time in my 35 years of marriage!!
    Thanks, Pam

  55. Connie

    Hi Elise—I’ve done a few turkeys the traditional way, but thought I would try your recipe this year for the holidays. For a 20 lb bird, your recipe would be 400 the first 1/2 hr, 350 for 2 hrs, then 225 for 2 1/2 hrs, right? Jeff Larsen said 400 the first hr and 325 for 4 hrs works for him. What’s the difference? Too much browning? Dries out? I’m not a great cook and don’t want to spoil it. Thanks for sharing your skills wih us! Connie

  56. Sharon Rediske

    Can you tell me the temperature information for an 18 to 20 lb turkey?

  57. Liz

    Hi Elise,

    I’m a first timer as well. Seems to be a few of us looking for turkey recipes. :) Have a quick question…everyone I have asked says that the turkey should be covered while cooking, but i didn’t see it mentioned in the instructions. Should the turkey be covered in the oven? Looking forward to trying your recipe. Thanks!

  58. Patti Anderson

    Yum, Your recipe looks mighty interesting. I am having having about 25 people over for Thanksgiving. I bought a 22 lb bird , how long and at what temp would I cook a 22 lb bird… ? Please help!!! I want this bird to be the best! do you recomend turning it over at the end?

  59. Elise

    Hi Auzzie – some people inject a brine into a turkey before cooking. You can do that or not. We don’t, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

    Hi Mary Selle – We eat turkey leftovers – sliced turkey with gravy – for days after Thanksgiving, so you can make it ahead if you want. But it will be most moist if you cook it and eat it the same day.

    Hi Cathy – 24 people? I have no idea. I’ve never cooked a turkey for that many people. Does anyone else reading this have a suggestion of how big a turkey to get? I would not put stock in the roasting pan while cooking the turkey, no need for that. Your turkey should produce enough of its own drippings.

    Hi Terry – convection ovens more evenly distribute the hot air of the oven around the turkey, so it will end up cooking faster than using a conventional oven. How much faster? Hard to say. Usually for us something that should take one hour takes 45 minutes instead. If I were using convection, I would reduce the overall cooking time by 25%.

    Hello Tom – I would let the turkey sit for 10 minutes before putting foil on it, otherwise it will be too hot too touch. Basting is not necessary for this recipe, in fact, opening the oven to baste will increase the cooking time.

    Hi White Family – You can cook the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan or you can cook the turkey on an oven rack with a roasting pan on the rack beneath it to catch the drippings. To get the turkey out, you’ll need to pull both racks out at once, so that the bird’s drippings still drop on the pan. It is somewhat of a two person job. With both racks extended out of the oven, one person can lift the turkey, the other person pushes the turkey rack back in the oven, and then the person holding the turkey places it in the roasting pan beneath. Then you can pick up the roasting pan with the turkey in it. Or you can just remove the turkey directly from the oven to a carving board.

  60. Elise

    Hi Pam, Connie, Sharon, and Patti – There is no perfect answer to “how long to cook”. The guideline is 14-15 minutes per pound. Not every turkey is the same, by the way. Some are more tender and don’t take as long. The main points of this recipe are 1) cook the bird breast-side down, 2) stuff it only with a few vegetables for seasoning, not for stuffing, 3) salt and oil the bird before cooking, 4) start it off at a high heat for browning, then progressively lower the heat. By cooking the bird upside down, you’ll have a better chance at not overcooking it. For example, a 20 pound bird adds 5 pounds to the 15 pound bird recipe given here, which would then require about an hour and ten minutes more cooking time. I would add that time on to the middle and end of the cooking. Or you could add 10 minutes to the front and then half hour to the middle and the end. The initial high heat is just to brown the bird.

    Hi Liz – if you are cooking a turkey breast-side up (not this recipe), then after the initial browning, you would want to tent it in aluminum foil so that the breast doesn’t over cook. By cooking the bird breast-side down, you don’t need to cover it.

    Hi Patti – Personally I would find it physically difficult to turn over a very hot 22 pound bird. A 12 pounder, no problem, but 22 pounds? That’s heavy, at least for me. If you want the breast to be browned, you do need to turn the bird. If you don’t care, then there is no need.

  61. Elise

    One more point. The best way to ensure that you have perfectly cooked bird is to use an accurate meat thermometer. This is really the best way to tell how done the turkey is, and well worth the investment.

  62. Sheri

    Hi, I bought a Roaster Oven, and this will be my first Thanksgiving for my family. I am making a 14 lb turkey, and my mom has her heart set on having stuffing in the bird. I am gonna try your upside down method, but was wondering how big of adjustments I would need to make to have stuffing in the bird? I mean, how long should I cook the turkey? I am very nervous and just want my dinner to be a hit! Thanks in advance.

  63. Elise

    Hi Sheri – if you are using a roaster oven, and not a regular oven, I would follow the directions that came with your roaster oven. The method I lay out above works with a conventional oven, with plenty of air flow around the turkey. Regarding stuffing, we never cook a turkey with the stuffing in, so I don’t know what to tell you. I would imagine that you would have to increase the cooking time, to take into account the stuffing, but I don’t know how long. If you do some research online, you will probably be able to find the answer. Or perhaps someone reading this knows and will pipe up.

  64. Sacci

    Hello, Elise. I’m thinking of roasting Tureky this year with your recipe, and just wondering what you would do with the seasoning vegetables that you stuff inside. Do you take them out and put them aside before carving/serving? I suppose these vegetables are only for seasoning and not for eating, so do you throw them away in the end? I’d appreciate your advice! Thanks!

  65. Amy

    Hi everyone,
    My whole family is a big fan of the dark meat, though partially because it’s usually moister. I just want to know how cooking breast-down affects the dark meat. Does it get drier like the breast meat does when it’s on top? I don’t want my family disappointed with their favorite part of the bird!

  66. Laura

    Hi Elise!
    I just made this turkey a couple of weeks ago to practice for the real day. It came out awesome, and everybody loved it. It was probably the juciest turkey I have ever had.

    You may want to add parsley to the ingredient list though!

    Thanks for all the great recipes!
    Keep up the great work!

  67. Brittanie

    Hi Elise! I’m so excited to try this recipe and the stuffing recipe- they sound fabulous! I was planning to just cook the turkey directly on the rack with a pan undernieth to catch the juices – like you suggested – but my friend offered to loan me her roaster oven. I noticed that you left a comment for Sheri saying that there wouldn’t be as much airflow as with a conventional oven. Does that mean that your recipe won’t work with a roaster oven? Thanks so much! It’s so great of you to help all of us!

  68. Chez

    Hi! I’ve tried this recipe myself. And it’s Superb! Loved it! Very good! I like the moist, tender meat! thank you so much… I was so glad that I share this w/ everybody at work the week of Thanksgiving, just in time for cooking turkey!

  69. Farah

    I guess you are the Thanksgiving guru! I found your website today – I am too also a Thanksgiving and turkey virgin. I am so excited to do this right. We have a new convection oven and are very excited to use it. We know these times vary. Can you give me any helpful hints? Degree/ Timewise? I was planning on about 3 1/4 hours for a 13 pounds turkey and yes, I do have a thermometer. Don’t have a rack – but planning to pick one up. Thanks!

  70. Angy

    I, too, am wondering if the dark meat will end up being drier, or if it will still be moist. Sounds like the white meat is very good and moist. Will I still love the dark meat, too???

  71. Moe

    In Australia we usually have seafood for Xmas lunch. This year, i have friends from England & Ireland visiting for Xmas and I have been assigned with the task of cooking Turkey this year. I’m so excited, as i’ve never cooked turkey before and I can’t wait to try your recipe, sounds delicious. Would you also include roast vegetables with the turkey in the last 45mins of cooking?

  72. Samantha

    Hi! I can’t wait to try your recipe! After reading all the comments I have a question.
    I do not have a roasting rack. I bought one of those aluminum oval pans (no rack in it).
    I have a 16 pound turkey. IF I were to place my turkey directly on the middle oven rack with the oval pan below it, how do I know what time it’ll be done? I read that I’d have to reduce the cooking time if I cook it directly on the rack but can you provide me some insight on how long I should cook my 16pd turkey if it’s directly on the oven rack?
    thank you so much!!

  73. Samantha

    For the roasting pan, does it matter if you use a flat wire rack or a V-wire rack?

  74. J

    Hi Elise – I’m not sure if you’ll be back on to respond before Thanksgiving but I thought I’d take a chance. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you for sharing and being so nice to respond to all of these questions. My turkey will be between 24 and 26 pounds so I know it needs to cook for 6 to 6-1/2 hours. My question is how I should adjust the time for the different temperatures. According to your recipe I’m thinking 400 for the first hour; reduce to 350 for the next 3-1/2 hours then reduce to 225 for the last hour to hour and a half. I am going to attempt to flip it over for 20 minutes at 300. Does that sound about right to you? Thanks for any feedback… gobble, gobble!

  75. Jennifer

    Hello Elise

    I made my first upside down turkey last year. Huge success but the turkey had rack marks on it. I placed the turkey inside the V rack. Should I use a flat rack instead? Please advise

    Thank you

  76. Alexandria


    Thank you for sharing your Mum’s marvelous turkey recipe. This Thanksgiving (we’re Canadian), we made our first and easily the best turkey, gravy, and stuffing combination that we’ve ever tasted.


  77. Amy

    Hello Elise,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful Roasted Turkey Recipe. I made this for our Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner for my family and it turned out so good. We all love the juicy breast. I would recommend your recipe to all my friends.

    I love your website and the links to all the turnkey related topics. It really helps me a lot.

    Thanks again.


  78. Mei

    Hi Elise:

    My goodness! You and your mom’s names should be in the dictionary or history books for rewriting the history of how to roast a turkey! I followed your recipe and every single one of our guests said it was the best turkey they had ever tasted in their life. It was unbelievable! I also followed your suggestion about getting a free-range turkey and it was so worth it.

    There is absolutely no other way to roast a turkey. Thank you so much for sharing this VERY IMPORTANT recipe! I definitely will try your stuffing recipe next time.


  79. Jennifer

    One year, my parents were horrified when they took the Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven, and exclaimed (as my father tried to slice it), “There’s no meat on this bird!!!!” Turns out that my mother had *accidentally* put the turkey breast-side down in the pan. It was the juiciest turkey we ever had, and provided many laughs around the table. (For a minute there, my mother started rummaging around the freezer looking to see if we had any hot dogs to serve to the guests!)

  80. Elise

    Hi Coryne – estimate about 15 minutes of cooking time for every pound of bird.

    Hi Emma Peel – great name. ;-) Ah, good idea to add the wild rice, thanks!

  81. Elise

    Regarding the questions about the dark meat – the dark meat will be perfectly moist, as long as you don’t let the bird overcook.

    Hi Samantha – roasting the turkey directly on a middle oven rack, with the roasting pan on the rack below to catch the drippings mimics a convection oven, in which things cook in about a quarter less time. A v-wire rack will better support the bird, but other than that it makes no difference.

    Hi Jennifer – cooking the bird breast side down on a rack will leave rack marks, either way.

    To all – many people are writing in asking similar questions to those that have already been asked and answered in the comments. If you have a question, please read through all of the comments that have already been made. Most likely your question has already been addressed.

    I’m going to be focused on my family and cooking for the next couple days. Since I will not have the time to address many new comments, I am closing comments on this recipe for now.

    If you have a question about cooking time, please read through all of the comments. Given the weight of your turkey, you will have to do your own calculations. Don’t stress out too much about when to shift from one temp to another. You could cook the turkey at 350°F the whole time, and it would still turn out, as long as you took the turkey out of the oven when the meat thermometer indicated that the turkey was ready. The turkey would just cook faster. Also, most turkeys come in packages with time guides on them. You might want to check those.

    FYI, Butterball has an 800# turkey hotline at 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  82. Dude Metropolis

    Just want you to know that I love these directions and even in 2014 I come back here to make sure I’m making the turkey as good as I can. Thanks!

  83. Miss

    I just have to say, I have been coming back to this page for the last 5 years and my turkey comes out PERFECTLY. It’s 2014, thank-you! (and, I am now going to print the directions lol)

  84. Kelli

    Great idea cooking it breast side down. I will have to try it this year. Thank you for sharing.

  85. Priscilla Smith

    I always put my turkey breast side down, but I think the best way ever is to put it in a 225 degree oven at 10 pm the night before and let it bake all night. It is tender and juicy every time. Just falls off the bone and melts in your mouth! I’ve tried other methods, but this is by far our favorite!

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