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How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

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You only need three ingredients—plus salt and pepper—to create this perfect roast turkey. The secret is placing the bird over a buttered loaf of ciabatta bread, which helps the meat to cook evenly in the roasting pan.

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Recipe Summary

Ingredients

Allow turkey to stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in lower third of oven.

Use a serrated knife to cut off top of bread to create a flat surface, if necessary. Cut bread lengthwise, without cutting all the way through. Open bread like a book. Evenly spread butter over cut-side of bread. Place bread, buttered side up, in large, heavy-duty roasting pan.

Liberally season turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Truss legs together using kitchen twine, and tuck wing tips under the breast. Place turkey, breast side down, on buttered bread. Place in oven, legs first if possible, and roast for 45 minutes. (If it’s not possible to position turkey in oven legs first, rotate roasting pan halfway through cooking time.) Remove turkey from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees.

Using a wooden spoon and side towels, carefully turn turkey so it’s breast side up. Place in oven, breast side first if possible, and continue roasting, turning and basting with pan juices every 15 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone) reaches 165 degrees, about 1 1/2 hours more. (If it’s not possible to position turkey in oven breast side first, rotate roasting pan halfway through cooking time.) Let turkey rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

Introduction: Optimize Your Turkey: Perfect White Meat and Succulent Dark Meat

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Thanksgiving has got to be the best holiday of all: not only is it focused on gratitude, family, and a big meal – but also the foods of Thanksgiving are my personal favorites – especially turkey.

Now, turkey and I have not always been on speaking terms. My mother, who could turn a chuck steak into something approaching filet mignon, was hopeless with the big bird. Not surprising, since she came from a culture that once used fowl in its spectator sports – our Thanksgiving turkeys invariably had the interior texture of a soccer ball. At the time, I thought I just didn’t like turkey, and choked it down smothered in gravy.

One day I had a revelation when a friend cooked up turkey perfection: juicy white meat, dark meat sliding off the bones. I resolved that henceforth, all turkeys would be like this one!

I learned that the challenge of perfect turkey is that it needs a different final temperature for the white meat (145) and dark meat (165) To make sure my turkeys are perfect every time, but still give you that Normal Rockwell moment at the table that we all crave, I came up with the following solution:

Step 1: Snip the Skin on the Drumstick

Using a good pair of kitchen shears, cut through the skin between the breast and the drumstick until you release the thigh. You will need to stretch the skin over the meat on both sides and skewer it, so make sure you have slack on both sides. Repeat for the second drumstick.

Step 2: Cut Between the Thigh and the Breast

There is a small strip of meat that connects the ribcage to the thighs. Again, using your kitchen shears, cut all the way through to the backbone on each side of the turkey.

Step 3: Snap the Backbone

Bend your turkey in half to snap the backbone by pulling pull the top and bottom of the backbone towards each other until the part between the breast and the thighs snaps. If there is any remaining tissue connecting the two halves of your turkey, cut it with kitchen scissors.

Step 4: You Now Have a Two-part Turkey!

At this point, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, and prep your turkey (salting, seasoning) the way you would normally.

Step 5: Stretch the Remaining Skin to Cover the Breast and Drumstick

If you like to stuff herb butter under the skin, do that first. Using skewers or toothpicks, secure the skin around your breast meat and on the tops of the turkey thighs.

Step 6: Prepare Your Roasting Pan and Roast the Dark Meat

I usually set my turkey on a bed of aromatic vegetables, so they flavor the drippings. Keep in mind that you will need something to prop up the back of the turkey (like a big leek or carrot,) so assemble the entire turkey on your roasting pan, and then remove the turkey breast and put it back in the refrigerator. Put a roasting thermometer in the meatiest part of the thigh, and another in the meatiest part of the breast.

Roast the dark meat (You can even stuff the turkey – and the stuffing will cook properly! Just mound it in place before you remove the white meat and roast it with the dark meat) at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Step 7: Reassemble Your Turkey, Finish Roasting, Rest, and Serve!

Set the breast back on the spot you prepared for it, and continue roasting until the thermometer reads 165 in the dark meat, and 145 in the breast. Turn up the heat to 450 degrees for a few minutes to crisp up the skin, and once it is golden brown, remove your perfect turkey!

Your turkey should rest for 20 minutes, tented with foil. At this point, you can move it carefully to a serving platter (if you’ve stuffed it, scoop the stuffing into a serving dish) and take off the skewers; the skin will stay put of its own accord after cooking. You will still need a small prop behind the turkey to rest the back of the breast, so keep a carrot or leek handy for this purpose.

Carving this beast is significantly easier since the work of separating white from dark is already done for you! Enjoy your perfectly-cooked turkey!

Looking for more recipes, tricks and tips? Come visit us at Quips, Travails and Braised Oxtails!

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How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

How To Roast A Perfectly Moist Turkey

A whole turkey, perfectly cooked, juicy in thigh and breast and richly caramelized all over is a thing of beauty, but it is, indeed a rare bird. Turkeys are large, they have a big hole inside them.

They are thick in some places and thinner in others. They have appendages that dangle about and can burn.

The Rockwell picture of the happy family gazing at the perfect bird is just that – Rockwell picture, an idealized view of Americana. If you can let go of that picture, there are a couple of ways that you can cook your turkey that almost ensure the perfect bird.

It just won’t be a perfect whole bird. Open yourself up to the possibilities and let go of the iconic roast turkey. You and your guests will be glad that you did.

These techniques work especially well if you normally carve the turkey in the kitchen and plate it before bringing it to the dining table. Everyone knows what a classic Thanksgiving bird looks like but I’m sure they will be much happier to have carved moist turkey meat in exchange for a gorgeous looking dried out bird.

Option 1 – Spatchcocking

To spatchcock a turkey (or a chicken, for that matter), lay the turkey breast side down on a stable surface, and using heavy duty kitchen shears, cut along either side of the backbone, through the rib cage. This will take a little muscle.

Once you have the backbone out, save it for soup or stock. Now, turn the turkey back over and press down hard on the breast bone. This will crack the bone, and you’ll be able to press the turkey flat.

What good does this do? Now, your meat is a much more even thickness. The legs and thighs will now be nicely exposed to the heat, and the breast meat will be a little protected.

Now all you have to do is lay him out in a roasting pan – I usually set him on a “raft” I create by laying carrots and celery stalks in the roasting pan. This keeps the bird off the bottom of the pan and helps build wonderful flavor for your gravy.

Roast your bird at about 375º F, until the breast meat registers about 155ºF and the thigh reads about 175-180º F. Don’t worry; the temperature will continue to rise once the bird is out of the oven.

The roasting time will be much less for a spatchcocked bird than for a whole bird. This is good, because your oven will be freed up for other items that need to be baked.

Start checking with an instant read thermometer at one hour for a 14 pound bird. Once the bird is done, take it out of the oven, remove it to a platter and cover with foil to rest for 20 minutes to half an hour while you make the gravy in the roasting pan.

Option 2 – Removing the Thighs and Drumsticks Before Roasting

Usually, the first cuts you make once the turkey comes out of the oven are the cuts to remove the thighs and drumsticks. Make these cuts before roasting, and roast the dark meat and white meat separately.

Yes, in two different pans. (Again, the temperature will continue to rise while the turkey is resting).

You can build a vegetable raft, as above, or you can put a 1-2 inch layer of stuffing underneath the meat (if you don’t want the drippings for gravy-making purposes). With the two pan method, you can remove the white meat from the oven at 155ºF and the dark meat at 175ºF.

Once the meat is done, cover and let it rest while you continue to cook the stuffing to a safe internal temperature and a crisp, brown crust.

Option 3 – Classic roasting of Bird With Protective Layer

If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to present anything other than a whole bird at your Thanksgiving table, help to protect the lean white meat by adding a layer of compound butter under the skin.

While the turkey roasts, the butter will melt and keep the meat moist (not to mention add flavor to the pan for gravy) while the herbs will stay put, giving you a wonderful green layer of flavor between the caramelized skin and the white meat.

It looks beautiful, and it is tasty, too. This is the compound butter you might try, but of course, you can use any combination of flavors that you would like.

Compound Butter

1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 small shallot, rough chopped

1 handful flat leaf parsley

Leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh savory

Leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh marjoram

Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste

Spin everything in a food processor until all the ingredients are blended and the herbs are finely chopped. The butter should be a nice mostly-uniform bright green.

No matter how you choose to cook your bird, the number one reason people end up with dry turkey is that they wait until the white meat reaches 165ºF before taking it out of the oven.

So, whether you spatchcock, cook the white and dark separately or roast whole, don’t forget that the temperature of the meat can rise another 10 to 15 degrees once it comes out of the oven. Don’t forget to compensate for carry over cooking, and you will be rewarded with a juicy turkey this Thanksgiving.

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I’m a work-at-home dad who enjoys cooking, learning everything I can about the culinary world and sharing it with you. To learn more about me. Read More…

3 lb. | SERVINGS: 12

Offering the best of both worlds, our Boneless Turkey Roast has juicy white and dark meat, and comes with its own gravy packet.

Available Nationwide at Select Retailers

All of our whole turkey (fresh and frozen), boneless roasts, and bone-in breasts are available in all major retailers across the country. Please be sure to check with the store manager if you do not find the item or specific size you’re looking for.

Nutrition Facts

Roast

Serving size: 4 oz. (112 g)

Servings Per Container: 10

Gravy

Serving size: 2 oz. (28 g)

Servings Per Container: 5

Serving size: 4 oz. (112 g)

Servings Per Container: 10

Ingredients: Boneless turkey roast with white and dark meat. Contains up to 20% of a solution of Water, Contains 2% or less of Salt, Dextrose, Natural Flavor, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphate to enhance tenderness and juiciness.

Preparation

Thaw in Refrigerator (not at room temperature). Place unopened roast on a tray in refrigerator for 1½ to 2 days, or until thawed. To thaw faster, place unopened roast in cold tap water for 3 to 5 hours. Change water every 30 minutes to keep turkey cold. When thawed, keep in refrigerator until ready to cook. Cook within four days of thawing.

Remove plastic netting and wrapper from roast. Leave inner string netting on (this holds the roast together during roasting). Refrigerate gravy packet until ready to use. Drain juices and lightly pat with paper towels. Lift string netting and shift position on roast to make removal easier after cooking. Cover roast with non-stick cooking spray. Additional basting is not necessary.

When you’re ready to cook, be sure to consult our roasting or grilling instructions.

Cooking Instructions

Slow Cooker:

From Thawed: Spray bottom of the slow cooker with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place roast skin side up in slow cooker. Add ½ cup liquid. Cover and cook on LOW up to 8 hours or on HIGH up to 4 hours, until a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF as measured with a meat thermometer. Turkey must reach 140ºF within 4 hours. Once done, remove from the slow cooker and let stand 10 minutes for easier carving.

From Frozen: Remove gravy packet by placing breast side down on tray in microwave on high (100%) for 1-2 min OR running water on the breast until the gravy packet can be removed. Refrigerate gravy packet.

Spray bottom of the slow cooker with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place roast skin side up in slow cooker. Add ½ cup liquid. Cover and cook on HIGH up to 6 hours, until a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF as measured with a meat thermometer. Turkey must reach 140ºF within 4 hours. Once done, remove from the slow cooker and let stand 10 minutes for easier carving.

Storage

Keep frozen until ready to thaw

Unopened: Store in freezer, can be stored for up to 2 years

Storage of Leftovers: Refrigerate leftovers within 1 hour of eating. Use leftover turkey within 3 days.

Do You Need Some Turkey Tips?

Check out our How To section so you can cook your top turkey.

Related Products

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Boneless Frozen Cajun Turkey Breast Roast

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Ready to Roast Classic Bone-in Turkey Breast

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Ready to Roast Classic Boneless Turkey Breast

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

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We believe that everyone deserves the right to delicious turkey raised responsibly without any compromises. That’s why Farm to Family by Butterball™ turkeys are raised without any antibiotics ever.

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How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

  • Total: 70 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
488 Calories
29g Fat
2g Carbs
55g Protein

×

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 488
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 38%
Saturated Fat 12g 58%
Cholesterol 284mg 95%
Sodium 722mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 55g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 22mg 2%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 637mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Dark-meat lovers will be thrilled with this tasty and easy turkey thighs recipe. The thighs, part of the meaty legs of the bird, are ideal for a small Thanksgiving dinner for which a whole turkey can be too much. This is also an excellent way to cook dark turkey meat for other recipes such as casseroles and salads. The meat is tender, moist, and flavorful, and the recipe doubles easily if you are serving bigger parties or want to freeze some portions.

Thyme and sage, the traditional turkey herbs present in our recipe, can be replaced or added to by other flavorful ingredients. Use our recipe as a template and mix and match the suggestions in our recipe variations section to flavor the thighs to your liking.

This quick preparation frees up your time to make side dishes; much of the job in this recipe is done by the oven. Serve the thighs with other recipes that can be cooked at the same temperature, like a corn casserole or a baked pasta. Other delicious sides that can pair with the thighs include roasted or mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, balsamic Brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce.

For this recipe, a food thermometer is a good tool to have at hand to ensure the meat is thoroughly and safely cooked.

Ingredients

3 (1-pound) turkey thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

1/4 cup butter (softened)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried sage leaves

1/2 cup turkey broth (or chicken broth)

Steps to Make It

Gather the ingredients.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Never rinse the turkey before cooking it as the bacteria on the surface of the meat will aerosolize and spread around your kitchen. A good pat dry is a reliable procedure and enough for the seasonings to adhere to the skin.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and sage and mix well.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Loosen the skin from the meat and rub the butter mixture into the meat. Smooth the skin back over and rub the remaining butter mixture on the skin.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Place the thighs in a roasting pan and pour the broth around the turkey.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Roast the turkey thighs for 60 to 70 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 170 F when inserted in the meat away from the bone.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Remove the pan from the oven, cover tightly with foil or the pan lid, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Other Delicious Flavoring

Use our recipe as a guide for cooking the thighs, but have fun making your own mixture of seasonings. Here are a few ideas:

  • Citrus: Place the thighs in a zip-top bag and add the juice and zest of two lemons, plus 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey. Let them marinate for 30 minutes before using the herby butter. Add lemon slices to the bottom of the roasting pan, plus the marinade juices, and place the thighs on top before roasting.
  • Herby: Use a finely chopped half-handful each of cilantro, Italian parsley, and basil instead of the thyme and sage. Mix with the butter, rub on the thighs, and roast.
  • Mustard: Mix 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard with 2 tablespoons of honey and the butter and other ingredients, except the thyme and sage. Cover the thighs with the mixture and cook.
  • Bacon: Follow the recipe as is, but wrap each thigh in 2 to 3 bacon strips. Cook until the meat has reached a safe temperature and the bacon has crisped up.

Cast-Iron Skillet Thighs

If you want to crisp up the skin and stove-cook your thighs midway before placing them in the oven, follow the recipe up to step 6, and then place the thighs skin-down in a very hot cast-iron skillet. Allow the skin to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turn the thighs, add the broth, and cook for 20 minutes at medium-high, covered. Place the skillet in the oven, giving the turkey enough time to cook thoroughly, about 20 to 30 minutes at 350 F. If you’d rather cook the thighs all the way on the stove, uncover after 20 minutes, turn the thighs, cover again for another 20 minutes, and check the inner temperature of the meat. If needed, give them an additional 10 to 15 minutes. In both cases, let the thighs rest for 10 minutes, covered, before serving.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Most of us cook turkey just once a year, yet expect perfection: Moist white meat, tender drumsticks, and crispy, bronzed skin. That’s a lot of pressure when the odds are against us. Turkeys are not easy birds to roast.

So odds are, you’ve ended up with perfectly cooked dark meat, and the breast meat has paid the price. It’s turning cottony and crumbly as you slice it, and panic strikes. What to do?

“First, I would hide in the bathroom and cry,” said Andrew Carmellini, the owner of Locanda Verde, Little Park, and several other renowned restaurants in New York.

The man’s got street cred, so, go ahead, CRY! But know this: it’s not entirely your fault.

BLAME THE TURKEY.

The sheer anatomy of the bird guarantees a challenge: Easy-to-overcook breast meat combined with dark meat that seems to take eons to cook through. So it’s hard not to end up with a combination of dry breast meat and fall-off-the-bone thighs and drumsticks, or moist breast meat and undercooked thighs and drumsticks. If you don’t want to risk giving your guests a Thanksgiving gift of food-borne illness, you’ve probably erred on the side of overcooking.

. AND THE ROASTING PAN.

If the roasting pan’s sides rise too high (and most of them do), the legs aren’t exposed to as much hot air as the breast meat. So the part of the turkey that’s prone to undercooking gets protected by the sides of the pan, while the part that gets dried out easily gets a full blast of heat. You’re fighting an uphill battle here.

So, you’re feeling better about yourself. Now what?

THE QUICK FIX

If your turkey comes out dry you should turn your attention from cooking the perfect bird (because that didn’t work out) to making a stellar stock and gravy. Sure, you can just serve up gravy at the table and gently encourage your guests to give themselves an extra helping. But there’s a better way to redeem your bird.

This is what turkey redemption looks like.

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Alex Brannian, Food Styling by Cyd McDowell

Here are three methods for hiding dry turkey meat:

Ladle warm broth over the platter of sliced turkey to make it look—and taste—moist. But don’t overdo it. You don’t want your turkey to drown in broth.

Dried-out turkey doesn’t just lack moisture. It lacks, well, fat. Luckily, Carmellini has a fix for that. “I would add some butter to the gravy and brush that mixture over the top,” suggests Carmellini. Now that’s sound advice.

Or you can combine the broth and gravy like Nate Waugaman, the chef of José Andres’ America Eats Tavern in McLean, Virginia. He mixes equal parts gravy and stock, seasons it, and then pours enough of this thinned-out gravy over the dry turkey slices to rise half way up the meat. He then covers the pan with foil and pops it in a 200°F oven to warm it through. “It’s important that the liquid is not too thick so that the breast meat is able to absorb it,” said Waugaman.

Call it “smothered” turkey, and you might end up actually preferring it to the taste of naked bird—even on those rare occasions when the stars align and you nail perfect doneness.

After many years of trying, we have finally found the BEST way to roast a turkey!

Although we know that there are several different ways to prepare the main dish for our Thanksgiving meal. However, many of them require countless ingredients or specialized equipment.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White MeatCooking a turkey can be tricky, but follow these instructions for the BEST way to roast a turkey.

You can use a smoker to make Smoked Turkey. Or you could use the popular deep frying method if you prefer. But I would have to say, for most of us, making a whole turkey in the oven is the preferred method of cooking dinner for Thanksgiving.

But instead of buying an injector kit to pierce liquid into the meat of the bird during the cooking process, we take a more natural and simplistic approach to roasting a turkey.

So you will not find any crazy or special ingredients in this recipe. Nor will you need to go out a buy a special dish, fryer, or injector.

The Secret To Moist and Delicious Roasted Turkey

The true key to making a moist and delicious turkey isn’t just in the roasting process. It is actually begins the night before.

If you want the best turkey, you must allow the thawed turkey to soak in brine overnight. Allowing the turkey to soak in a salt water bath overnight helps to break down the tissue. This allows the moisture to seep into the fibers prior to cooking.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White MeatThe first key to success is to brine the turkey overnight in a salt water mixture.

We typically use only a salt water bath. However, you could also add in a few other items to flavor the brine. For instance, feel free to chop up an onion, celery, or even a lemon or two and add it to the water.

The important part is that before you roast your turkey that it has time to soak in salt water overnight.

Then there is one more step before it is time to throw it in the oven. Now you need to add a herb butter mixture underneath the skin of the turkey.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White MeatApply the butter right on top of the meat and then any leftover butter can be used on top of the skin.

Although it is a messy job, massaging the butter mixture directly on the surface of the turkey meat allows it to absorb additional flavor and moisture while it is roasting.

Yes, Baste The Turkey

And yes, just like Grandma always used to do, use a turkey baster to baste your turkey during the cooking process. However, it is best to wait at least one hour before you open the oven door for the first time.

Then baste the turkey every 30 minutes after the first hour of cooking time with the drippings in the bottom of the roasting pan.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White MeatBasting during the cooking process helps the meat to absorb additional moisture.

And finally, the key to making the BEST roasted turkey is letting the bird rest after you take it out of the oven.

This sometimes is the hardest part as your guests might be anxious to dig right in.

However, allowing the bird to rest under the lid of the roasting pan or under aluminum foil will give the meat time to reabsorb liquid that has expelled during the cooking process.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White MeatOnce you have checked the internal temperature with a thermometer, let the bird rest under a lid or aluminum foil.

I also continue to baste my turkey while it rests as well. Then the remaining liquid will be used for our Gravy Recipe.

Even the best of us can play our cards right and still wind up with a turkey that’s moist in some places and dry in others. This one simple tip from the folks at CHOW can yield rich, juicy white meat without sacrificing delicious, crispy skin.

When you’ve finished seasoning the bird and you’re about to put it in the oven, flip it over in your roasting rack and let it cook breast-side down for a half-hour to 45 minutes. Then you can flip it over and cook it normally, basting and brushing the way you normally would. CHOW.com’s Roxanne Webber explains that doing this lets the skin firm up while the bird is upside down, trapping in the delicious moisture around the white meat that would have drained down and out of the turkey if it had been right side up.

It’s worth a try, especially if you’ve cooked a turkey before and for some reason it’s still turned out dry. She also notes that if you don’t give your turkey enough time to thaw—as in several days, normally—ice crystals in the meat will melt and steam the turkey from the inside, drying it out no matter what you do.

Since it’s a little late to suggest taking it out to thaw early, we suggest that if you’ve been waiting until the last minute to thaw, take the turkey out now and put it in a large pot or cooler full of cold water (don’t use hot water!) Change the cold water every half-hour or so until the bird is thawed all the way through and ready to go in the oven. Our friends at Food52 say it should take about 30 minutes per pound , and if all else fails you can cut your cooking time in half by spatchcocking your bird . Watch the video above or hit the link below for more turkey-preparation tips.

Spatchcock Your Turkey and Save Hours This Thanksgiving

Spatchcocking, or butterflying, is the fastest and easiest way to cook a turkey with juicy meat…

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

One of the greatest challenges of the Thanksgiving feast is being able to present a magnificent eye appealing bird that has palate appeal as well. How does one prepare the star of the day in a way that allows both the white and dark meats to be juicy and succulent? I’ve sat down at numerous Thanksgiving tables through the years only to be disappointed by overdone legs and thighs and dry untasty slices of breast meat. For all of the great fanfare that goes into the holiest culinary day of the year there simply must be a way in which the bird can be prepared so that it invokes deserving oohs and aahs during both presentation and the dining experience.

Thanksgiving gives rise to thoughts of the Norman Rockwell depiction of the glorious bird being presented on a huge platter bedecked with all of the trimmings at the family dining table on the March 6, 1943 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Presentation, without a doubt, is important… one eats first with the eyes; therefore the dining experience begins with the visual. The challenge is to satisfy that aspect as well as provide a bird whose meat, both white and dark, is succulent, juicy and flavorful.

The dilemma here is that the legs and thighs of the bird have a different cooking time than the white meat of the breast. I’ve read articles, recipes and near dissertations on how the turkey must be cooked in order to address this challenge. There are those who say breast first into the oven to solve this problem… and there are those who say cook it in a bag! Others will tell you to roast it in a hot oven… then you hear cook it long, low and slow! It’s no wonder the televised morning news programs have a “Turkey 911!” segment every year on Thanksgiving Day… with the same questions fielded year after year… after year!

That beautiful bird has consistently been both an eye and a palate pleaser through the years at our table. The presentation visually stirs the taste buds and both white and dark meat are done to perfection, filled with juicy flavor. Our secret? We cut the bird up, separating the breast from the legs and thighs, so the internal temp of both meats can be monitored during cooking so the legs and thighs can be removed from the oven or the smoker at the precise time they are done, the breast continuing to cook until it too reaches its point of perfection.

This year we smoked our turkey cut this way following 10 hours in a brine. Oak was our wood of choice for the smoking process, during which time we regulated the smoker temp at a constant 300 degrees on its thermometer, adding small pieces of oak to the firebox as necessary to maintain constant heat. The legs and thighs were removed from the smoking chamber when their internal temp reached 145 degrees, one and one half hours. The breast smoked an addition thirty minutes for a total time of two hours with an internal temp of 150 degrees. Note that during the resting time the meat will continue to cook, the internal temperature rising an additional 10 degrees while tented. The time it takes to roast or smoke your bird will depend upon its weight. Our bird weighed 18 pounds. A smaller turkey will take less time and, conversely, a larger bird will take longer.

Brining is an integral part of the process as well, for it is the brine which imparts flavor and increases the juiciness of the meat.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Overnight Roasted Turkey is crispy and golden brown on the outside, while staying moist and juicy on the inside. With just 15 minutes of prep this turkey cooks all night long with no basting needed!

Most people are used to the traditional Roast Turkey Recipe you’ll find on our site. Along with other easy Holiday Recipes you can make in your slow cooker, you could put the recipes together the night before and wake up to a fully prepared feast without any of the extra work!

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

OVERNIGHT TURKEY RECIPE

You may be wondering, why cook an overnight turkey? This recipe is perfect for those of you who like to serve Thanksgiving lunch!

There are many readers who’ve been reaching out for help with preparing Thanksgiving lunch vs. a Thanksgiving dinner. For those of you who find yourselves in this position, you do not have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning anymore to start cooking. Let your oven act like a crockpot overnight!

I know most of you haven’t tried cooking a turkey overnight, but have you ever considered it? I have roasted a lot of turkeys in my life and trust me, this Overnight Turkey Recipe will change your life… in a good way. You can slow roast a turkey overnight without checking on it periodically.

Roasting a turkey is so much easier when cooked overnight. This slow-roasted Overnight Turkey Recipe is hands free once it’s in the oven.

With this recipe, you can rest, literally, assured that your turkey will be ok when you wake up. Not just ok, your turkey will be moist and tender and ready for your finishing touches before you place it on the Thanksgiving turkey serving platter.

OTHER HOLIDAY SIDE DISH RECIPES

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Green Bean Casserole

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Baked Mac and Cheese

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Candied Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Easy Apple Sausage Stuffing

Overnight Roasted Turkey vs. Classic Roasted Turkey

A typical roasting temperature is around 325 degrees F for up to 8 hours depending on the size of your turkey.

As you slowly roast your turkey overnight at 200 degrees F for approximately 10 hours, the low temperature and moisture is basting your turkey while you sleep. No need to baste your turkey.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

HOW TO ROAST AN OVERNIGHT TURKEY

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Mix the Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, thyme, and sage into the butter.
  • Rub the herb butter all over the outside of the turkey.
  • Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan breast side up and pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the pan.
  • Tent the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Place the turkey into the oven overnight to cook for approximately 10 hours.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the turkey’s internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh and in the turkey breast. Once the turkey breast has reached a temperature of 160 degrees, increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
  • Remove the aluminum foil and roast for another 15-20 minutes on high heat until the skin is browned and crispy.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

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How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

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How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

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WHAT ABOUT THE STUFFING?

Do not stuff a slow cooked turkey. Grandma’s favorite stuffing recipe (normally cooked in the cavity of the turkey) will be a flop because the low temperature and moisture overnight will make it a soggy mess.

This Thanksgiving be kind to yourself. Plan for Thanksgiving dinner to be around Noon. Both the Overnight Turkey and the Slow Cooker Stuffing will be hot and ready to enjoy.

Stuffing is best cooked separately at all times for food safety reasons. By the time the liquid from the turkey (that the stuffing has absorbed) reaches a food safe temperature, the white meat of the turkey will be overcooked. You are always best to cook them separately.

WHAT ABOUT THE GRAVY?

This recipe calls for 32 oz. of broth to roast your Thanksgiving Turkey in all night long. Cooked low and slow, the turkey juices will be full and rich with flavor.

This year’s gravy might just be the best gravy you’ve ever had. Here’s a tried and true recipe I’ve used for years for you to use.

  • Pour the liquid left behind in the roasting pan into a measuring cup and remove as much of the fat (reserve two tablespoons) as you can.
  • Add two tablespoons of your turkey fat into a sauce pan on medium high heat and combine with 2 tablespoons of flour.
  • Whisk and let cook on medium for a minute to cook out the raw flour taste.
  • Add in the rest of the turkey broth and let it cook until thickened, approximately 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Season to taste.

If you’re slow roasting your turkey overnight, you may want to consider doing your entire holiday meal in the slow cooker! Here are more holiday side dish options, all made in the slow cooker!

SLOW COOKER HOLIDAY SIDE DISHES

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How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Roast Turkey made with seasoned butter and broth and basted for over 4 hours for an incredibly tender meat and crispy skin that is PERFECT for your holiday dinner!

Turkey isn’t just a recipe in this house, it’s a passion. And we LOVE making a large bird because it means leftover recipes like this Leftover Turkey Casserole and Turkey Moist Maker Sandwich (MY SANDWICH!) and Chicken Tetrazzini (but with Turkey).

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

Roast Turkey is the traditional turkey recipe you grew up watching your parents make on Thanksgiving or Christmas for all your family who has come over to enjoy a delicious meal with you, with a few added tricks to bring out the most juicy, tender turkey breast you’ve ever had on a turkey in your life.

Not to mention the incredibly crispy skin that’s been roasting in the oven, being basted with buttery broth and drippings all day long. My guests have told me that this is the most perfect roast turkey they’ve ever had!

Roasting and basting a turkey might sound intimidating, but it’s not that bad, I promise! All you need is the bird, a few key ingredients, a roasting pan, and a good meat thermometer. This is restaurant quality roasted turkey we’re talking about here. The only turkey recipe you will EVER need.

The key to juicy meat is all in the butter and the roasting/cooking time. You can add herbs like thyme, rosemary, or even lemon wedges to this roast turkey recipe. Fresh thyme adds a really nice flavor and helps season the gravy, but I like to keep it simple with just salt and pepper.

The butter is trapped under the skin, so it’s basically basting the turkey from the inside the entire cooking time. And what you get is a Thanksgiving turkey that’s practically falling off the bone good.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

HOW LONG DO YOU COOK A TURKEY IN THE OVEN?

How long you cook this turkey recipe in the oven depends on what size turkey you have, and if you’re using stuffing or not. The USDA recommends you roast an unstuffed turkey (16-18 pound) for about 4 hours, or until the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (check it with a thermometer).

If you are using stuffing, add another 1/2 hour to the roast time. You can buy an oven safe thermometer that stays in your turkey while it cooks in most stores now.

Check out my Slow Cooker Stuffing cooked outside of the turkey, cutting your roasting time down. It takes about 4 hours to cook in the slow cooker, so make sure you start it early. I would start around the same time you put the turkey in to roast.

Let me also take a moment to please lobby for you to cook your stuffing on the side. Cooking stuffing inside the turkey makes everything take longer to cook because of the density of the turkey being stuffed. Plus with salmonella concerns it is much safer to cook the stuffing on the side.

DO I PUT WATER IN THE BOTTOM OF THE ROASTING PAN FOR TURKEY?

Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the bottom of the roasting pan initially, and replace as needed while the turkey cooks. This helps keep the bird from drying out, and you can also use the pan juices for gravy later when your roasted turkey is removed from the pan. You can skip this step if you used brine, because your brined turkey will require less time in the roasting pan.

My Turkey Brine recipe guarantees the most tender and juicy turkey breast you’ve ever had with less cook time!

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

WHAT IS THE BEST TEMPERATURE TO COOK A TURKEY?

325 degrees is the optimal temperature for roasted turkey. Any higher and you might be left with dry turkey breast that cooked too quickly on the outside. Don’t rely on the pop up indicator that comes with a bird, use an instant-read thermometer instead.

Your turkey cooking times will depend on what pound turkey you have. Try not to open the oven door and just let it roast, unless you’re basting, so the oven temperature doesn’t drop.

MORE HOLIDAY RECIPES AND SIDE DISHES

  • Leftover Turkey Casserole
  • Turkey Brine
  • Candied Yams
  • Slow Cooker Stuffing
  • Spatchcock Turkey
  • Roasted Green Beans

TIPS FOR COOKING A MOIST ROAST TURKEY IN THE OVEN

  • If you want to keep your Thanksgiving turkey moist, the most important thing is not to overcook it. You can use an oven safe meat thermometer and measure your cooking time, to make sure the roasted bird doesn’t go too far.
  • For extra moist meat, don’t cook stuffing inside the bird. It’ll increase your cooking time, and the white meat may get dry while the middle is still coming to temperature.
  • Let the roast bird rest out of the oven for at least 20 minutes after roasting. Just like a good steak, letting your roast turkey rest helps to lock in the juices. Just loosely cover with a piece of tinfoil while you prepare the gravy from the drippings on the bottom of the pan.
  • If you’re not up for basting, consider learning how to make turkey brine, which can be prepped beforehand. It basically self-bastes while it’s roasting!
  • Remember to remove the giblets before cooking the turkey. These can be used to flavor gravy later.

How to Roast a Turkey With Moist White Meat

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