Roasting a large Turkey!

Roasting a whole turkey is easy, the real trick is to cook the bird to the right temperature. It's not as important how long or at what temperature you choose to cook your bird at. I strongly recommend a instant read pocket thermometer (we have a video on that in the Favorite Tools section) to be able to test the bird in many areas.


Both can give you great results, I prefer fresh but sometime I've had to use frozen. The bird in this video is frozen so that you can see it can still be very moist. Note; a frozen turkey is more difficult than a fresh bird to get right because being frozen means you lose some of the water in the thawing process. However, if you following these instructions you will still get a great bird!


I cook turkey and for me it's all about the bird so I don't stuff my birds. Stuffing is a left-over tradition stemming from the fact that oven space was very limited. Yeah, it looks good on Sunset Magazine, but if you stuff a bird, you rob both the bird and the potential gravy of some of the best juices. More importantly, the stuffing itself also changes the heat to surface ratio giving a cook numerous cooking challenges and to get the inner breast and thigh properly done, stuffing the bird usually ends up drying out the outer breast and leg. (Especially a bird that has not been allowed to come up to room temperature. See below.)

Why don't you tie up the legs?

Another tradition that should be done away with. Because of the differing characteristics of the breast meat and the leg meat, the legs need to cook more than the breast. A perfectly done bird would have the breast at about 160° to 165° to be moist and tender, but the legs and thighs need to be closer to about 180° to be tender and done. Tying up the legs makes them fit tighter to the body, creating an area that takes that much longer for the heat to get to and cook. Hence, the rest of the bird, and especially the breast overcooks and dries out.


In this video I recommend leaving the turkey out overnight to come up to "room temperature" and then cooking it the next day. This gives the best results but please know that in doing so you are creating an environment that can harbor harmful bacteria most county Health Departments would classify as a possible cause for "food borne illness." If you choose to follow my lead, extreme caution must be taken to insure you don't contaminate any other foods or surfaces that may come into contact with the turkey and or it's juices before it is fully cooked to a safe temperature, a minimum of 160° (and USDA says 165°!)

To safely do this, do all the prep work the night before, so that all you have to do is remove and throw away the foil or plastic wrap you used to cover the bird overnight. Heat the oven and place it directly in the oven. Don't touch it or let it or any of it's juices touch or come in contact with anything else.

If you're not sure what you are doing, and you aren't 100% confident about the issue at hand, don't do it. Instead skip the overnight part and prep the turkey as shown right before it goes into the oven. Your times will vary from the video but the temperature is the important issue. Your turkey is done when the "coldest" reading on an accurate pocket thermometer is 160° to 165°.

End note

Also see our other seasonal videos for gravy & side dishes.

Video on Vimeo!

©2012 Rick and Diana Boufford & The Black Sheep Cooking Club
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