Are you hosting a Christmas feast this year and need to know How to Cook the Perfect Roast Turkey? Fear not. I have all the tips and tricks you need to make sure your bird is cooked to juicy perfection. Even if you’re roasting a turkey for the very first time. Read on for step-by-step instructions on exactly how I roast my turkey.
- Why You’ll Love This Roast Turkey Recipe
- Why Dry Brine?
- Recipe Ingredients
- What Size Turkey Do You Need?
- Turkey Roasting Times
- How Long Does it Take to Defrost a Turkey in the Refrigerator?
- How to Cook the Perfect Roast Turkey: Step-By-Step
- Tips for Cooking the Perfect Roast Turkey
- How to Cook the Perfect Roast Turkey: FAQs
- What to Serve with Roast Turkey
- Printable Recipe Card
- Pin How to Cook the Perfect Roast Turkey for Later!
Why You’ll Love This Roast Turkey Recipe
- It’s the best turkey you’ve EVER tasted! Yep, I said it. And I’ll repeat it. This dry-brined roast turkey recipe is the best you’ve ever tasted. Period. The secret is in the brine, a combination of salt, sugar, and herbs rubbed all over the turkey before cooking. This gives the turkey heaps of flavor and keeps it moist and juicy.
- Perfect for any special occasion. This dry-brined roast turkey is ideal for any special occasion, whether you’re thinking about serving it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a regular Sunday dinner. It’s sure to impress your guests and have them coming back for seconds (and thirds!).
- Leftovers! One of the best things about this recipe is turkey leftovers. There’s nothing better than cold turkey sandwiches on boxing day. So, when you’re thinking about the size of the turkey to buy, remember to factor in the leftovers!
- The skin will be crisp and delicious. If you’re looking for a turkey with crispy skin full of flavor, the butter and dry brining combo is the way to go.
- Easy to make. This recipe is surprisingly easy to make. There’s no special equipment or ingredients. Just follow the simple steps, and you’ll have a delicious turkey in no time!
If you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative to roast turkey as the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table, give my Christmas Nut Roast Recipe a try. It’s loaded with delicious flavors and festive ingredients.
Why Dry Brine?
I was always a little skeptical of brining my turkey. Especially a wet brine. The idea of dunking a turkey into a giant vat of salty water and being able to find space to keep it cool for several days seemed like way too much work.
On the other hand, dry brining made me curious. The basic principle of dry brining is that you rub a salty mix over the turkey. Usually, a combination of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices. Over one or two days, the salt draws the meat juices to the surface of the turkey. That salt then dissolves in those turkey juices and produces a flavorful brine. The brine then gets reabsorbed into the turkey meat. It breaks down the muscle proteins, which results in a tender, juicy, and well-seasoned turkey loaded with flavor.
But is it really worth the effort? Would the results be noticeably better than my regular “butter under the skin” turkey?
Well, I can honestly say YES! I’ve found that dry-brining results in significantly more tender and juicy meat, with minimum fuss.
RECIPE TIP: How Long Should I Leave My Turkey to Dry Brine? I’ve found that the dry-brining sweet spot is 48 hours. If you don’t have 48 or even 24 hours, it’s still worth dry brining your turkey the night before. You’ll still see some benefits.
Turkey and Dry Brine
- Free-Range Turkey
- Sea Salt Flakes
- Coconut Sugar
- Fresh Rosemary & Thyme
- Lemon Zest
Vegetable Roasting ‘Rack’
- Fresh Rosemary, Thyme & Sage
- Water or Stock
What Size Turkey Do You Need?
I am using a 4.6kg or 10 lb turkey in this recipe. This size is plenty big enough for my family gathering of six, with leftovers. But, let’s be honest, not all of us will have the same size turkey. So, to find out what size turkey works best for you this year, refer to the table below for guidance.
|Amount of People||Turkey Weight in Kg||Turkey Weight in Kg|
|6 – 8 people||3 – 4 kg||6.6 – 8.8 lb|
|8 – 10 people||4 – 5 kg||8.8 – 11 lb|
|10 – 12 people||5 – 6 kg||11 – 13.2 lb|
|12 – 14 people||6 – 7 kg||13.2 – 15.4 lb|
|14 – 16 people||7 – 8 kg||15.4 – 17.6 lb|
Note: These weights are based on a whole turkey, not a turkey crown.
Turkey Roasting Times
The best way to find out the roasting time of your turkey is to first refer to the packaging instructions. This will take into account the type and quality of the bird. Failing that, here is some guidance for cooking your fresh or fully defrosted turkey.
|Turkey Weight in Kg||Turkey Weight in Ibs||Cooking Time|
|3 kg||6.6 lb||2 hrs 10 mins|
|4 kg||8.8 lb||2 hrs 50 mins|
|5 kg||11 lb||3 hrs 10 mins|
|6 kg||13.2 lb||3 hrs 30 mins|
|7 kg||15.4 lb||3 hrs 50 mins|
|8 kg||17.6 lb||4 hrs 10 mins|
How Long Does it Take to Defrost a Turkey in the Refrigerator?
Defrosting a turkey may take longer than you think. To ensure your turkey defrosts in time, check how long it will take to defrost well in advance by referring to the retailer’s instructions on the packaging. If there is no mention of thawing times on the packaging, the below table will provide some guidance.
|Turkey Weight in Kg||Turkey Weight in Ibs||Defrosting Time In|
|3 kg||6.6 lb||1 day 15 hours|
|4 kg||8.8 lb||2 days 4 hours|
|5 kg||11 lb||2 days 18 hours|
|6 kg||13.2 lb||3 days 7 hours|
|7 kg||15.4 lb||3 days 20 hours|
|8 kg||17.6 lb||4 days 9 hours|
- The above times are approximate. Keep an eye on your turkey throughout the defrosting process. Once defrosted, there should be no ice crystals in the cavity, and the legs should be soft and flexible.
- Do not defrost your turkey at room temperature.
- Retailers usually recommend leaving the turkey in its packaging while the turkey thaws. Place the turkey in a rimmed tray that will catch any liquid that leaks out of the packaging while it defrosts, and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. This will help to avoid cross-contamination.
How to Cook the Perfect Roast Turkey: Step-By-Step
- 24-48 HRS AHEAD OF TIME
Prepare Turkey for Dry Brine
Remove your fresh turkey (or fully defrosted turkey) from the fridge. Remove any packaging, as well as the bag of giblets and neck, from the carcass. Place the turkey onto a shallow roasting pan and pat dry with some paper towels. Using your fingers, carefully loosen the skin over the turkey breasts from the neck end. Leave the skin attached at the cavity end.
- Gather Ingredients for Dry Brine
Stir together the ingredients for the dry brine.
- Dry Brine Turkey
Add the dry brine to the turkey in three places for best results.
1) Generously sprinkle the dry brine inside the large cavity.
2) Spread roughly half of the remaining dry brine under the skin over the breasts.
3) Spread the rest of the dry brine over the exterior of the turkey, rubbing it over the legs, wings, and breasts.
Finally, refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, for 24 – 48 hours. If there’s not enough time, dry brine the night before. You will still see some benefits.
- ON THE DAY
Prepare Turkey for Roasting
Gather your ingredients. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting. Also, remove the butter from the fridge to soften. 30 minutes before the turkey goes into the oven, preheat to 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.
- Make a Vegetable Roasting ‘Rack’
Add the onions, celery, carrots, half of the lemon, and fresh herbs in a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey.
- Add Water
Pour the cold water into the bottom of the pan.
- Place Turkey on Vegetable Roasting ‘Rack’
Place the turkey in the roasting pan on the vegetable roasting rack. Tuck the wings nicely underneath. Pop the remaining lemon halves and herbs inside the turkey cavity.
Tip: Avoid putting too much into the turkey cavity, as it will result in uneven cooking.
- Add Butter
Smoother the softened butter under the turkey skin. Rub any butter left on your hands over the top of the bird, legs, and wings.
- Roast Turkey
Create an aluminum foil tent to sit over the turkey, ensuring a good gap between the foil and the turkey. Carefully place the tented turkey in the oven and leave it alone to cook as per the retailer’s instructions. In my case, that was 2 hours and 45 minutes. In the final 30 minutes, remove the foil to get an even crisp on the skin.
Note: Due to the coconut sugar in the brine and the butter under the skin, the skin will get super-crispy, but it will also caramelize and be quite dark. This is normal and tastes delicious. But it does mean that you should keep the turkey covered with foil for longer so the skin doesn’t burn before it is fully cooked.
- Rest and Serve
When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, drain the juices from the cavity, and transfer it to a warm platter. Cover your cooked turkey loosely with a double layer of foil. Rest for at least 30 minutes – 1 hour, and allow the turkey to relax and reabsorb its juices. Serve the turkey with stuffing, seasonal vegetables, and homemade gravy.
Find the recipe card with exact ingredients and full recipe instructions at the bottom of this page. ⇩
There’s a LOT going on the night before Christmas, and I want to help you get ahead of the game! Check out these 25 Easy Christmas Eve Dinner Ideas. Hopefully, they’ll make life just that little bit easier… and tastier!
Tips for Cooking the Perfect Roast Turkey
Tips for Preparing the Turkey
- Dry brine turkey: Dry brining is a simple process that can make a big difference in the flavor of your turkey. By rubbing salt into the surface of the turkey, you can help to break down the proteins, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful dish.
- Butter under the skin: Smothering butter under the skin of your turkey is a great way to add extra moisture to the turkey breast meat. It also adds delicious richness and flavor and makes the skin extra crispy.
- Cook stuffing separately: One of my favorite things about Christmas dinner is the stuffing. But, all too often, stuffing is dry, bland, and uninspired. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. Cooking stuffing separately from the turkey is one of the best ways to ensure that it comes out moist, flavorful, and perfect every time. Furthermore, stuffing the turkey can lead to uneven cooking, with some parts of the bird being overcooked and others not cooked enough. This can lead to both dry and uncooked meat all at once. Check out my recipe for the best Sage and Onion Stuffing to accompany your perfect turkey roast.
Tips for Cooking the Turkey
- There’s no need to baste! Basting a turkey is an age-old practice that many people swear by, but I’m not one of them. Basting means opening the oven door every 30 minutes, which can cause the oven temperature to drop and the turkey to take longer to cook. Also, basting your turkey only flavors the skin. It doesn’t do a very good job of penetrating the turkey meat. Plus, basting creates soggy skin, and we want it nice and crispy. Let the dry brine do its magic. There’s no need to baste.
- Rest the turkey: Once your turkey is cooked through, carefully remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful roast turkey.
How to Cook the Perfect Roast Turkey: FAQs
No! Washing a raw turkey can increase the risk of spreading germs around the kitchen. Cooking the turkey will kill any bacteria that may be present.
I would not recommend it. Table salt has a harsh aftertaste that will affect the flavor of the turkey.
I love to use Maldon Sea Salt Flakes as it has a sweet and delicate flavor. Kosher salt is a good alternative.
No! Rinsing a turkey is not necessary. We are not using enough salt for the brine to be too salty. Rinsing a turkey will only increase the chances of germs spreading.
No! A frozen turkey will not absorb the flavors of the brine. Ensure your turkey is fully defrosted before adding the dry brine.
Butter adds a richness to the turkey that there is no alternative for. But, if you don’t want to use butter, I recommend rubbing 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the turkey for crispier skin.
What to Serve with Roast Turkey
Looking for the perfect Christmas spread? Here are my favorite side dishes to serve with Christmas Turkey.
- The Best Crispy Roast Potatoes
- Sausages Wrapped In Bacon
- Sage and Onion Stuffing
- Honey-Roasted Parsnips
- Braised Red Cabbage
- Honey Glazed Carrots with Orange
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Braised Red Cabbage
Thinking of making this recipe? Share your thoughts in the comment section and provide a star rating! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I always LOVE hearing from you.
Printable Recipe Card
How To Cook The Perfect Roast Turkey
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- Roasting Pan
- ⅓ cup (76 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large onion
- 3 celery sticks
- 5 medium carrots
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs of fresh sage
- 1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock , or water
- Prep Turkey: 24 – 48 hours before the big day, remove the fresh turkey (or fully thawed turkey) from the fridge. Remove any packaging. Remove the bag of giblets and neck from the carcass, and set it aside to make gravy if you wish. Place the turkey onto a shallow roasting pan and pat dry with some paper towels. Using your fingers, carefully loosen the skin over the turkey breasts from the neck end. Leave the skin attached at the cavity end. Food safety note – wash hands after working with raw meat!
- Dry Brine: In a medium-sized bowl, add the sea salt, coconut sugar, chopped rosemary, thyme leaves, and lemon zest, and stir to combine.
- Brine Turkey: For best results, add the dry brine to the turkey in three places. 1) Generously sprinkle the dry brine inside the large cavity. 2) Spread roughly half of the remaining dry brine under the skin over the breasts. 3) Spread the rest of the dry brine to the exterior of the turkey. Rubbing it over the legs, wings, and breasts. Finally, refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, for 24 – 48 hours. If you're short on time, add the dry brine the night before. You'll still see some benefits.
- Prep: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour before roasting. This will help the turkey to cook more evenly. Also, remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften. 30 minutes before the turkey goes into the oven, preheat to 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.
- Prep Roasting Pan: In a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey, add the onion, celery, carrots, half of the lemon, and fresh herbs. This creates a platform for the turkey to sit on. If you want, add the turkey neck to the roasting tray for extra flavor and avoid waste. Pour the stock into the roasting pan. This has created a flavor bomb of a roasting rack.
- Prep Turkey: Place the turkey in the roasting pan on the vegetable trivet. Pop the remaining lemon halves and herbs inside the turkey cavity. Avoid overfilling the cavity to ensure hot air can properly circulate around the bird. Smoother the softened butter under the skin over the breasts. Create an aluminum foil tent to sit over the turkey, ensuring a good gap between the foil and the turkey.
- Roast: Carefully place the tented turkey in the oven and leave it alone to cook as per the retailer's instructions. In my case, that was 2 hours and 45 minutes. In the final 30 minutes, remove the foil to get an even crisp on the skin.
- Check for Doneness: Insert an instant-read thermometer into the turkey at the thickest part of the thigh. The turkey is cooked if the internal temperature of the thickest part of the bird is at least 167ºF (75ºC). Alternatively, pop a skewer into the thigh or thickest part of the breast and check that the juices run clear, with no pink. If you need to cook the turkey for longer, recheck every 10 minutes to ensure it does not overcook or will become dry.
- Rest: When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, drain the juices from the cavity, and transfer it to a warm platter. If you want, reserve the turkey drippings for your chosen gravy recipe. Cover your cooked turkey loosely with a double layer of foil. Rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, and allow the turkey to relax and reabsorb its juices. This will help the meat become even more succulent and juicy.
Nutrition Information (Per Serving)
Nutrition Disclaimer: Nutritional information is estimated using an online nutrition calculator. For accuracy, we recommend you calculate using the exact ingredients and brands you used.