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Basic Roasted Turkey
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Makes: 6 to 8 servings

When it comes to turkey recipes, intricate techniques and exotic ingredients can just add to an already chaotic Thanksgiving Day. Make your life easier with a straightforward cooking method and only a few flavorful ingredients. When the turkey’s done cooking, save the the neck in the bottom of the roasting pan and the vegetables from inside the bird’s cavity to make a Basic Turkey Gravy.

Special equipment: For this recipe you will need a large roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack, a brush or turkey baster, and a meat thermometer.

Game plan: Make sure your turkey is fully defrosted. If you bought a frozen bird, you’ll need to put it in the fridge 3 to 4 days ahead to thaw.

This dish was featured as part of our Thanksgiving for Beginners menu.


  1. 1The night before you roast the turkey, remove the contents from the cavity. Discard the giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) and reserve the neck. Rub the turkey all over with several generous pinches of salt, including a few under the skin covering the breast. Place the turkey in a dish or on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the next day.
  2. 2Heat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the lower third.
  3. 3Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels and tuck the wing tips back and underneath. Rub a generous amount of vegetable oil inside the cavity and all over the outside. Season well with salt and pepper, including inside the cavity and under the skin.
  4. 4Break the butter into little chunks and place them under the skin covering the breast. Put the lemon, onion, and celery inside the cavity.
  5. 5Place the turkey, breast down, on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan and put the reserved neck in the bottom of the pan. Roast for 45 minutes, basting the turkey every 20 minutes once the pan juices accumulate.
  6. 6After 45 minutes, flip the turkey onto its back and continue to baste and roast for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  7. 7When a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 170°F and the juices run clear, remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. (If you’re planning on making your own gravy, be sure to reserve the neck in the bottom of the roasting pan and the vegetables from inside the bird’s cavity.)
  • Basic Roasted Turkey
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