My golden-brown Traditional Roast Turkey recipe is the centerpiece of many families’ Thanksgiving and Christmas Celebrations. Although we are immigrants to the USA, my parents moved here from England in 1962. Our Thanksgiving Celebration is rigidly traditional and the recipes date back to our first year in the USA. My mom got all of her Thanksgiving recipes from a little old church lady that first year in Texas. She and I have been making the same recipes ever since.
My Roast Turkey recipe is traditional, simple, and straightforward with no weird spices or gimmicks. Juicy, tender, and delicious, you’ll hit a home run with your family and friends with this one. So, let’s get to it, you need to make a plan.
First things first, the plan:
- Defrosting: Defrosting a turkey takes time! A frozen turkey takes several days to defrost in the refrigerator and the bigger the turkey the longer it takes. You need to plan for roughly 5-6 hours for every one pound of turkey. Example: a 15-pound turkey takes roughly around 4-5 days plus we need 24 hours to brine the bird before roasting. So, take the (15-pound) turkey out of the freezer no later than Sunday morning.
- Brining: I use a method called ‘Dry Brining’. Not only does it give you better overall results, but it also takes up less space in your refrigerator, it is a lot easier and a lot less messy. Basically, all you are doing is adding the normal amount of salt that the turkey would normally take, the only difference is, you are putting the salt on the turkey 24 hours before you start to roast it, simple. A good rule of thumb is a ½ teaspoon of salt per one pound of turkey. Using the 15-pound turkey as an example, 15 x ½ = 7.5 teaspoons of salt.
- Seasonings: The dry rub I like to use is named after the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Scarborough Fair’! Yes, you guessed it, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are the main ingredients, there are many recipes for this rub on the internet, I will give you my version, it’s easy to make and lasts for months. I add it just after the salt and let the flavors absorb into the turkey overnight. I use about 1 teaspoon of dry rub per 1 pound of turkey, 15-pound bird = 15 teaspoons of dry rub, rough 1/3 of a cup
Cooking Times for Whole Turkey
- Cooking time: If everyone is expecting to eat at 3 o’clock, that turkey better be roasted, rested, and ready to carve at 3 o’clock. Here are the cooking times for roasting an unstuffed turkey @ 325 °F, if you’re stuffing the bird (I don’t recommend) add 20-30 minutes to these times. Roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving
- 14-23-pound turkey: 325°F for 2-3 hr.
- 24-27-pound. turkey: 325°F for 3-3 3/4 hr.
- 28-30-pound turkey: Bake in a 325° oven for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hr.
- Cooking time for all of the side dishes: This may be the most challenging part of cooking on Thanksgiving Day. Making sure everything is cooked well, not over or undercooked is key to a great meal. The size of your oven, available space, number of sides, and the cooking time for everything needs to be taken into account and planned for. I am still to this day in awe of my Mom and Dad for how efficient and well planned they were cooking such a huge meal in our tiny cramped little kitchen.
Here’s my Traditional Roast Turkey recipe:
Traditional Roast Turkey
Scarborough Fair Dry Rub
- 2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
- 2 Tablespoons Dried Sage
- 2 Tablespoons Dried Rosemary Finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Dried Thyme
- 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
- 1 15-Pound Turkey Cooking time may vary depending on the size of your bird.
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt Per Pound of Turkey
- 1 Teaspoon Scarborough Fair Dry Rub Per Pound of Turkey
- 1 Cup Unsalted Butter Melted
- 2 Lemons Zest
- 2 Small Red Onions Cut in half
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
- 1 Quart Chicken Stock
- Combine all the Scarborough Fair Dry Rub ingredients and set aside
- Defrosting takes time! Make sure you start the defrosting well in advance of the day of cooking.
- 24 hours before roasting, remove the giblets and reserve for the gravy, rinse the turkey, inside and out, pat completely dry with paper towels, make incisions between the thighs and drumsticks and between the breasts and wings (juices get trapped by the skin in these areas and prevents even cooking). Sprinkle the turkey with ½ teaspoon of salt per pound of turkey, rub in the lemon zest. Sprinkle the turkey with 1 teaspoon of Scarborough Fair Dry Rub per pound of turkey, cover the turkey with foil and refrigerate
- 1 hour before roasting, remove the turkey from the refrigerator, wipe the excess dry rub off with a paper towel, and let air dry.
- Preheat the oven to 325 °F, -Stuff ½ an onion, ½ a lemon and the fresh rosemary sprigs in the turkey, tie the legs together, pour the chicken stock into the roasting pan
- Rub the turkey with the melted butter, stuff place the turkey in the oven on the lowest rack
- Rotate the roasting pan every 30 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and the breast reads 165°F
- Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Let rest for 20-30 minutes before carving