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Roast turkey is the preparation of a fresh or frozen turkey by placing the turkey in a hot oven. Frozen turkeys are normally defrosted before roasting. Fresh turkeys are removed from the refrigerator and then roasted. Turkeys have been eaten worldwide as shown in some of the historic recipes. The current United States Department of Agriculture recipe is the modern example of how to prepare a turkey. This method can be used worldwide as both Fahrenheit, Celsius (Centrigrade) and Gas Mark measurements are included in the article. Of note two famous chef's recipes are included. Both James Beard and Julia Child were well known United States cooking experts. A recipe for Canadian roast turkey is also included.

For historical reading, and perhaps education, several historic recipes are included. The historic recipes are more for reading purposes rather than for cooking as these recipes do not follow current USDA food safety standards.

USDA Turkey Roasting Method

This is the safe way to cook the modern turkey as this method uses modern food safety standards.


Defrost the turkey in the refrigerator. All about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. Be sure to place a container underneath the turkey to prevent turkey juices dripping onto nearby foods.

Fresh turkey

Purchase a fresh turkey two days before you plan to roast it. Store the fresh turkey in the refrigerator until you are ready to roast it.


Heat the oven to 325° F (165° degrees C) (Gas Mark 3). Remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Insert a rack into the roasting pan. Add the turkey. Roast the turkey until an internal temperature of 180 degrees F) (80 degrees C) is reached. Insert a meat thermometer into the turkey to ensure this temperature is reached.[1][2]

Roasting chart

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends turkeys should not be stuffed during roasting for food safety reasons. Stuffing should be baked in a separate casserole dish. Some people refer to stuffing as dressing when it is backed separately in a casserole dish.

Unstuffed Turkey

  • 8 to 12 pounds (3.6 to 5.5 kg), 2 3/4 to 3 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds, 3 to 3 3/4 hours
  • 14 to 18 pounds, 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
  • 18 to 20 pounds, 4 1/4 to 41/2 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds, 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed Turkey

  • 8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds, 3 1/2 to 4 hours
  • 14 to 18 pounds, 4 to 4 1/4 hours
  • 18 to 20 pounds, 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds, 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours[1]


Remove the cooked turkey meat from the carcass. Promptly refrigerate the cooked turkey meat within two hours of serving. Turkey leftovers should be eaten within 3 to 4 days of preparation. Turkey gravy should be eaten within 2 days of serving. Heat the leftover turkey gravy to 165° F (75° C) for safe serving.

Foil Roasted Turkey

The foil roasted turkey is a fast way to complete the roasting task. This recipe is from the Reynold's Kitchens.

Defrost the turkey, if needed, before roasting the turkey. Preheat the oven to 450 °F. (230 °C) (Gas Mark 8).Remove the giblets from the turkey. Rinse the turkey and pat dry. Brush the turkey with vegetable oil. Tear off a piece of aluminum foil that is 2 1/2 times longer than the turkey. Place the turkey onto the foil. Fold over the ends of the aluminum foil to cover the ends loosely. Do not seal. Place the turkey into a roasting pan that is at least 2-inches deep. Insert meat thermometer through the foil and into the turkey thigh. Make sure the meat thermometer does not touch the bone. Roast the turkey for the following times:

  • 8 to 12 pounds 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours
  • 24 to 28 pounds 3 3/4 to 5 hours
  • 28 to 32 pounds 5 to 5 1/2 hours[3]

Store the turkey as directed.

Julia Child's Roast Turkey

Julia Child was a well known television personality who taught cooking via the United States Public Broadcasting System. Her famous television show was the French Chef.

  • Turkey
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Lemon (to season turkey cavity, if desired)

Defrosting Frozen Turkey

Do not remove the turkey from it's original wrapper. A 20-pound turkey will take around 3 to 4 days to defrost in the refrigerator. Child says you can defrost a turkey in a sinkful of water. It should take about 12 hours to defrost the turkey. Child also says not to stuff the turkey in advance.

Allow about 1/2 pound turkey per serving or 1 pound per person, if you want leftovers.

Servings: Figure 1/2 pound of turkey per serving, or 1 pound per person, with leftovers. Roast at °F (170 °C) (Gas Mark 3)

Cooking Times

Unstuffed Turkeys

  • 12 to 14 pounds, about 4 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds, about 5 hours
  • 20 to 26 pounds, about 6 hours

For stuffed birds add 20 to 30 minutes extra for cooking time.

The turkey is done when the temperature measures 175 °F (79 °C) at the thickest portion of the leg. The stuffing temperature should be 165° F. (74 °C) Figure about 1/2 to 3/4 a cup of stuffing for each pound of turkey.

She recommends flavoring the cavity with salt, pepper, a thin slice of lemon, a small onion and a handful of celery leaves.

Child says to cut out of the wishbone and cut off the wing nubbins. She also recommends skewering the neck to the backbone, and then skewering or sewing the cavity closed, or close it with foil. Rub the turkey with salt and vegetable oil.

Place the turkey breast side up on an oiled rack and then baste every 20 minutes. Start checking the turkey temperature about 20 minutes before the charted roasting time. The turkey will start to release juices into the pan as an indicator that the turkey is thoroughly cooked.

High-Temperature Roasting

Preheat the oven to 500° F (260° C) (Gas Mark 10) Roast the turkey 15 to 20 minutes or until the juices begin to burn. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 °F (232 °C) (Gas Mark 8). Add 1/2 cup each chopped carrots and onions along with 2 cups water to the roasting pan. Add water as needed to prevent the mixture from burning and smoking.

Start the roasting at 500° F (260° C) (Gas Mark 10), and in 15 to 20 minutes, when the juices begin to burn, reduce the heat to 450° F (232° C) (Gas Mark 8). Using this method a 14 pound turkey should roast in about 2 hours rather than the usual 4 hours. The turkey may not turn out as tender using this method though.[4]

To prepare Julia Child's turkey stock and giblet gravy you can find the recipe at the ABC News Good Morning America web site.

Store the turkey as directed.

The recipe provided above is copyright ABC.

Canadian Roast Turkey

The Canadian roast turkey recipe is similar to what is cooked in the United States. This recipe is from Canadian Living. Canadian Living is a current and reportedly popular magazine published for Canadian readers.

  • 15 pound (6.8 kg) turkey
  • 2 tablespoons (25 mL) melted butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 mL) paprika
  • Herb Stuffing
  • 1 1cup (250 mL) butter
  • 4-1/2 4-1/2cups (1.125 L) chopped celery
  • 4 cups(1 L) chopped oniononions
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) poultry seasoning
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 mL) salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (7 mL) pepper
  • 2 loaves whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the stuffing melt the butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven; cook celery, onions, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring often, for about 25 minutes or until softened. In large bowl, combine onion mixture with bread cubes, tossing until moistened. Add the eggs and toss with the mixture.

Be sure to remove the giblets and neck from turkey and reserve for stock or gravy. Rinse turkey under cold water and pat dry. Add about 3 cups (750 mL) of the stuffing; skewer opening closed. Loosely fill the cavity with stuffing. Loosely fill neck opening with about 3 cups (750 mL) of the stuffing; fold neck skin over stuffing and skewer to back. Spoon the remaining stuffing into a casserole dish and refrigerate.

Insert turkey legs under band of skin or tie together with string. Insert wings under back. Place the turkey breast side up in a roasting pan. Pour the butter over the turkey and rub into the skin. Season the turkey with paprika.

Roast in 325° F (160° C)(Gas Mark 3) oven, basting with pan drippings every 30 minutes, for 3-1/2 hours. Stir 1/2 cup (125 mL) turkey drippings or chicken stock into stuffing in casserole. Add casserole to oven alongside turkey and roast, basting turkey twice, for 60 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 180°F (82°C) and juices run clear when turkey is pierced. Transfer turkey to cutting board; tent with foil and let stand for 30 minutes before carving. Serve with stuffing and gravy. Cover the turkey with a foil tent during the last hour of cooking, if the turkey seems to be browning too fast. To make the gravy follow the directions found at Canadian Living.[5]

Store the turkey as directed.

Recipe copyright Canadian Living.

James Beard's My Own Favorite Roast Turkey

James Beard was a renown chef who became famous in the United States through his cookbooks and television show. He was probably the first superstar chef in the United States.[6]

  • 18 to 20 pounds turkey
  • 1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • Additional salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 quart water
  • Half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup soft butter, more if desired
  • Strips of fresh or salt pork, or bacon rind
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or Madeira
  • Stuffing
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots or finely cut green onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried tarragon, or 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely cut
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup pinenuts
  • Additional melted butter, if needed
  • 10 to 12 cups fine fresh breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the shallots (or green onions) and tarragon to the skillet. Cook until the shallots are just wilted. Add the remaining stuffing ingredients, and more melted butter, if needed to complete the stuffing.

Remove neck from the turkey and add to a 2-quart saucepan along with the liver, gizzard, heart, and the onion, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, and the thyme. Add the water and bring to a boil, and boil 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer 1 hour. Drain and reserve for the sauce. If desired, chop the gizzard, heart, and liver to add to the sauce.

Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C) (Gas Mark 4). Rub the inside of the turkey with the lemon, and dry with paper towels. Lightly stuff the turkey cavity with the stuffing mixture. Stuff the neck cavity lightly with stuffing. Truss the turkey with a trussing needle, hand tying the the piece of neck skin to the back of the turkey. You can also sew with needle and twine to complete the trussing process. Close the vent of the bird by skewering or with twine and sew it up. Tie the legs together firmly and then tie them to the tail of the bird. With your hands rub soft butter and the season with salt and pepper. Lay strips of fresh pork or salt pork (or bacon rind) and set the rack into a shallow roasting pan. Place the turkey breast side down onto the rack. Roast 1 hour at 350° F. Remove the turkey from the oven and turn the turkey so it is laying on its side. Rub with softened butter. Return the turkey to the oven and roast 1 hour. Remove the turkey, turn to the other side, rub with softened butter. Roast 1 hour. Roast 1 hour and then turn the turkey on its back, rub the turkey breast with soft butter. Return turkey to the oven and roast until the turkey tests done. Remove the roast turkey from the oven and place on a hot platter to rest 15 minutes, if being served hot. If being served tepid, "let it cool gently at room temperature". Remove all the twine and skewers.

Sauce: Skim fat from the roasting pan and reserve 1/4 cup. Over medium heat add the flour to the pan and blend thoroughly, scraping to loosen bits of caramelized dripping. Add any turkey juices and the reserved fat. Gradually whisk in 2 cups turkey broth, or more, cook stirring until the sauce thickens. Correct seasonings. Add the chopped giblets, if using, and the Cognac or Madeira. Simmer 4 to 5 minutes.

NOTE: For food safety purposes do not allow the turkey to stand at room temperature longer than 2 hours.

Recipe lightly edited and rewritten from James Beard's American Cookery

Historic Fannie Merritt Farmer 1918 Roast Turkey Recipe

Fannie Farmer wrote one of the first United States cookbooks, if not the first, using standardized cooking measurements. The cookbook was first published during the late 1890s. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is still in print and was last updated by American cookbook author Marion Cunningham.

Dress, clean, stuff, and truss a ten-pound turkey . Place on its side on rack in a dripping-pan, rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with one-third cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with one-fourth cup flour. Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, and baste every fifteen minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about three hours. For basting use one-half cup butter melted in one-half cup boiling water and after this is used baste with fat in pan. Pour water in pan during the cooking as needed to prevent flour from burning. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper to prevent burning. Remove string and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley, or celery tips, or curled celery and rings and discs of carrots strung on fine wire. For stuffing, use double the quantities given in recipes under Roast Chicken. If stuffing is to be served cold, add one beaten egg. Turkey is often roasted with Chestnut Stuffing, Oyster Stuffing, or Turkey Stuffing (Swedish Style).[7]

Historic The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Beeton Roast Turkey

Mrs. Beeton was a well known British cookbook author. She wrote numerous books and some can be found at Project Gutenberg. The books are in public domain in the United States.

_Mode_.--Fasten a sheet of buttered paper on to the breast of the bird, put it down to a bright fire, at some little distance _at first_ (afterwards draw it nearer), and keep it well basted the whole of the time it is cooking. About 1/4 hour before serving, remove the paper, dredge the turkey lightly with flour, and put a piece of butter into the basting-ladle; as the butter melts, baste the bird with it. When of a nice brown and well frothed, serve with a tureen of good brown gravy and one of bread sauce. Fried sausages are a favourite addition to roast turkey; they make a pretty garnish, besides adding very much to the flavour. When these are not at hand, a few forcemeat balls should be placed round the dish as a garnish. Turkey may also be stuffed with sausage-meat, and a chestnut forcemeat with the same sauce is, by many persons, much esteemed as an accompaniment to this favourite dish.--See coloured plate, A1.

_Time_.--Small turkey, 1-1/2 hour; moderate-sized one, about 10 lbs., 2 hours; large turkey, 2-1/2 hours, or longer.

_Average cost_, from 10s. to 12s., but expensive at Christmas, on account of the great demand.

_Sufficient_.--A moderate-sized turkey for 7 or 8 persons.

_Seasonable_ from December to February.

ENGLISH TURKEYS.--These are reared in great numbers in Suffolk, Norfolk, and several other counties, whence they were wont to be driven to the London market in flocks of several hundreds; the improvements in our modes of travelling now, however, enable them to be brought by railway. Their drivers used to manage them with great facility, by means of a bit of red rag tied to the end of a long stick, which, from the antipathy these birds have to that colour, effectually answered the purpose of a scourge. There are three varieties of the turkey in this country,--the black, the white, and the speckled, or copper-coloured. The black approaches nearest to the original stock, and is esteemed the best. Its flesh is white and tender, delicate, nourishing, and of excellent flavour; it greatly deteriorates with age, however, and is then good for little but stewing.


991. INGREDIENTS.--Turkey poult; butter.

_Choosing and Trussing_.--Choose a plump bird, and truss it in the following manner:--After it has been carefully plucked, drawn, and singed, skin the neck, and fasten the head under the wing; turn the legs at the first joint, and bring the feet close to the thighs, as a woodcock should be trussed, _and do not stuff it_.

_Mode_.--Put it down to a bright fire, keep it well basted, and at first place a piece of paper on the breast to prevent its taking too much colour. About 10 minutes before serving, dredge it lightly with flour, and baste well; when nicely frothed, send it to table immediately, with a little gravy in the dish, and some in a tureen. If at hand, a few water-cresses may be placed round the turkey as a garnish, or it may be larded.

_Time_.--About 1 hour. _Average cost_, 7s. to 8s. each.

_Sufficient_ for 6 or 7 persons.

_Seasonable_.--In full season from June to October.

THE FUTURE OF THE TURKEY.--Human ingenuity subjects almost every material to the purposes of ornament or use and the feathers of turkeys have been found adapted for more ends than one. The American Indians convert then into an elegant clothing, and, by twisting the inner ribs into a strong double string, with hemp or the inner bark of the mulberry tree, work it like matting. This fabric has a very rich and glossy appearance and is as fine as silk shag. The natives of Louisiana used to make fans of the tail; and four of that appendage joined together was formerly constructed into a parasol by the French.


(_Miss Acton's Recipe_.)

992. After the fowl has been drawn and singed, wipe it inside and out with a clean cloth, but do not wash it. Take off the head, cut through the skin all round the first joint of the legs, and pull them from the fowl, to draw out the large tendons. Raise the flesh first from the lower part of the backbone, and a little also from the end of the breastbone, if necessary; work the knife gradually to the socket of the thigh; with the point of the knife detach the joint from it, take the end of the bone firmly in the fingers, and cut the flesh clean from it down to the next joint, round which pass the point of the knife carefully, and when the skin is loosened from it in every part, cut round the next bone, keeping; the edge of the knife close to it, until the whole of the leg is done. Remove the bones of the other leg in the same manner; then detach the flesh from the back--and breast-bone sufficiently to enable you to reach the upper joints of the wings; proceed with these as with the legs, but be especially careful not to pierce the skin of the second joint: it is usual to leave the pinions unboned, in order to give more easily its natural form to the fowl when it is dressed. The merrythought and neck-bones may now easily be cut away, the back-and side-bones taken out without being divided, and the breastbone separated carefully from the flesh (which, as the work progresses, must be turned back from the bones upon the fowl, until it is completely inside out). After the one remaining bone is removed, draw the wings and legs back to their proper form, and turn the fowl right side outwards.

993. A turkey is boned exactly in the same manner; but as it requires a very large proportion of forcemeat to fill it entirely, the logs and wings are sometimes drawn into the body, to diminish the expense of this. If very securely trussed, and sewn, the bird may be either boiled, or stewed in rich gravy, as well as roasted, after being boned and forced; but it must be most gently cooled, or it may burst.


994. Cut through the skin down the centre of the back, and raise the flesh carefully on either side with the point of a sharp knife, until the sockets of the wings and thighs are reached. Till a little practice has been gained, it will perhaps be bettor to bone these joints before proceeding further; but after they are once detached from it, the whole of the body may easily be separated from the flesh and taken out entire: only the neck-bones and merrythought will then remain to be removed. The bird thus prepared may either be restored to its original form, by filling the legs and wings with forcemeat, and the body with the livers of two or three fowls, mixed with alternate layers of parboiled tongue freed from the rind, fine sausage-meat, or veal forcemeat, or thin slices of the nicest bacon, or aught else of good flavour, which will give a marbled appearance to the fowl when it is carved; and then be sewn up and trussed as usual; or the legs and wings may be drawn inside the body, and the bird being first flattened on a table, may be covered with sausage-meat, and the various other ingredients we have named, so placed that it shall be of equal thickness in every part; then tightly rolled, bound firmly together with a fillet of broad tape, wrapped in a thin pudding-cloth, closely tied at both ends, and dressed as follows:--Put it into a braising-pan, stewpan, or thick iron saucepan, bright in the inside, and fitted as nearly as may be to its size; add all the chicken-bones, a bunch of sweet herbs, two carrots, two bay-leaves, a large blade of mace, twenty-four white peppercorns, and any trimmings or bones of undressed veal which may be at hand; cover the whole with good veal broth, add salt, if needed, and stew it very softly, from an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half; let it cool in the liquor in which it was stewed; and after it is lifted out, boil down the gravy to a jelly and strain it; let it become cold, clear off the fat, and serve it cut into large dice or roughed, and laid round the fowl, which is to be served cold. If restored to its form, instead of being rolled, it must be stewed gently for an hour, and may then be sent to table hot, covered with mushroom, or any other good sauce that may be preferred; or it may be left until the following day, and served garnished with the jelly, which should be firm, and very clear and well-flavoured: the liquor in which a calf's foot has been boiled down, added to the broth, will give it the necessary degree of consistence.

Published Originally By S. O. Beeton in 24 Monthly Parts 1859-1861.

First Published in a Bound Edition 1861.

The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Isabella Beeton

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at[8]

E-text prepared by Jonathan Ingram, Sandra Brown, and Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders

Historic Gold Medal Flour Cookbook Roast Turkey

The Washburn-Crosby Company published the Gold Medal Flour Cookbook. The following recipe is from the 1910 copy. The book can be found at the Internet Archive.

Roast Turkey

Select a turkey which is plump and young. For cleaning, dressing and trussing, follow the general directions as given on page 19. For stuffing use Poultry Stuffing No. 2 or No. 4. Place on its side on rack in a dripping pan. Rub entire surface with salt, brush with soft butter and dredge with Gold Medal flour. Place in hot oven and when well browned reduce the heat. Baste with fat in pan and add 2 cups of boiling water ; continue basting every fifteen minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about four hours for a ten pound turkey. For basting use (unreadable) cup butter melted in 1 cup boiling water and after this is used, baste with fat in pan. During cooking turn turkey frequently that it may brown evenly.

For gravy pour off liquid in pan in which turkey was roasted. From the liquid skim (unreadable) cup of fat, return the fat to pan and brown with five tablespoons of flour ; add slowly 3 cups of stock in which giblets were cooked, or add 2 cups of boiling water to dissolve the glaze in bottom of the pan and substitute for broth. Cook five minutes, season with salt and pepper and strain ; add the giblets chopped very fine. The giblets may be used for force-

meat balls or chopped fine and mixed with the stuffing.[9]
  1. 1.0 1.1 USDA Offers Advice For Preparing A Safe Thanksgiving Meal. Retrieved on 2010-10-10.
  2. Turkey: Alternate Routes to the Table. Retrieved on 2010-10-10.
  3. Foil Roasted Turkey. Retrieved on 2010-10-13.
  4. Julia Child's Roast Turkey. Retrieved on 2010-10-13.
  5. Roast Turkey with Herb Stuffing and Gravy. Retrieved on 2010-10-13.
  6. About James Beard. Retrieved on 2010-10-14.
  7. Roast Turkey. Retrieved on 2010-10-13.
  8. The Book of Household Management. Retrieved on 2010-10-14.
  9. The Gold Medal Flour Cookbook, 1910, Washburn-Crosby Co.. Retrieved on 2010-10-14.