Do not be intimidated. You can prepare a moist and tasty Roast Turkey with these step-by-step brining and roasting instructions. Give it a try!
Theories and techniques abound on achieving the perfect Roast Turkey. A few have shared their precious secrets but I believe there is more than one way to get to Rome. In the end, it is what you are comfortable with and are willing to do to create that center piece that everyone looks forward to at this time of the year. If you ask Ro-Ri San, he will tell you that the best Roast Turkey is my boned and stuffed turkey. I did that for several years but it got tedious. Removing the carcass from a chicken takes me 20 minutes but a 10 pound turkey takes about an hour. Perhaps I’ll do it again someday…
Brining to keep the meat moist
These days, my motto is to keep it simple. I do like to brine my turkey though as small turkeys under 12 pounds tend to dry out more easily. I use a simple half-salt-half-sugar solution. The main purpose of brining is to infuse the meat with moisture and not so much with flavor. Over the years, I have tried tried adding different herbs and spices to the brining solution but I did not think it made much of a difference. I only pile on the herbs and spices just before roasting.
When it comes to roasting, I have tried several techniques – lid on, lid off, breast up, breast down, and even placing a few slices of bacon under skin. Then I met this friend some years back who showed me how she roasted her turkey which I had never seen or heard before. She draped a clean wet towel over the breast of the turkey and after every half hour or so when the towel dried out, she would wet the towel again and place it back on the turkey. Wow…she practically baby sat the turkey but it was really moist and delicious!
Modified wet towel method
Back then, I wasn’t sure if I had the patience to do what she did and so I decided to brine my turkey instead. Yet, every single Thanksgiving when I am about to prepare a Roast Turkey, I would remember her technique. Some years I would use the technique only to abandon it after the towel dried up. Then I had the chore of cleaning out that towel or throw it away. Finally, I figured that I could use a wad of moistened clean paper towels instead and change it out every time it dried out. Since I am at it, I might as well baste the turkey too. Now that I am willing to use her technique, it does not seem too much any more. My Roast Turkey is far from perfect but my family thinks it is pretty good and that is what matters. 🙂
Safe Roasting Practice
Please note that the roasting time given in the recipe below is just an approximate as it depends on the size of the turkey and the temperature of your oven. For safety reasons, I would use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey before stopping the roasting. According to the FDA, the turkey is safe when a food thermometer inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast reaches a temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Tools used in making this Roast Turkey
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- 1 turkey (10 to 12 lbs)
- ½ cup kosher salt (150g)
- ½ cup sugar (110g)
For the cavity
- Thaw turkey in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days before roasting.
- Prepare a large enough bucket /container/oven roasting bag. Make sure the container fits in the refrigerator.
- Place 4 cups (960ml) water in a large pot. Add kosher salt and sugar. Heat up the water stirring until salt and sugar dissolve. Turn off heat. Add another 8 cups (about 2 liters) water to the salt and sugar solution. Brine is now ready to be used.
- Take neck and giblets out of the turkey. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Wash the turkey inside out. Place turkey and brine in /container/oven roasting bag. Add some ice cubes so that the water is nice and cold. Place in the refrigerator for 8 to 16 hours turning once.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Remove turkey from brine. Rinse inside out with cold water. Discard brine.
- Sprinkle turkey cavity with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Stuff with lemon and onion.
- Pat dry with paper towels. Tie the legs together if turkey does not come with the plastic ties for cooking. Tie a string around the turkey body holding down the wings and turn the neck skin flap over to close the top cavity. Place turkey breast side up on a roasting rack inside a deep pan.
- Combine butter, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, and lemon zest in a small dish. Microwave for 30 seconds on 70% power. Rub mixture all over turkey. Sprinkle all over with a little salt and pepper.
- Place a moisten wad of clean kitchen paper towels on the turkey.
- Roast for about 3 hours, basting and replacing the dried out kitchen towels with a fresh moisten towels every 30 to 45 minutes during roasting. Remove the paper towels the last 30 minutes of roasting so that turkey can turn brown.
- According to FDA, the turkey is safe when a food thermometer inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast reaches a temperature of 165°F (74°C).
- Remove from oven and allow turkey to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
This was our first turkey dinner for the season. I served the Roast Turkey with our favorite Chestnut, Pear, and Wild Rice Stuffing, homemade Cranberry Sauce, Candied Sweet Potatoes, and of course mashed potatoes with gravy.
Recipes for leftovers to come soon
I like to make my turkey soup stock as soon as we are done with dinner so that I do not have to store the carcass in the freezer. Be sure to check back in 2 days to see what I made with this rich and tasty soup stock and some leftover turkey meat. You do not want to miss it!
NOTE: This post was updated on November 27th, 2014 with new pictures.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎