Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


It’s the annual nationwide freak-out. That damned turkey! So many questions, so much uncertainty!

I hope this goes a little ways toward easing your mind if you are among the turkey afflicted. Of course, a detailed recipe and process shots are in my latest book, Ruhlman’s How to Roast.

For the last couple of years I’ve recommended a roast-braise hybrid.

This year a straightforward roast, from the book. Publishers Weekly published a full-on version (see below). Here I just want to go through the basics. You must have good turkey stock on hand, which is easy to do, but you can also buy low-sodium organic broth as well.

Stuff the cavity full of onions and lemon and carrots and celery to keep hot air from circulating in the bird’s cavity and overcooking the breast. Truss the bird, or at least tie the drumsticks together. Salt it very generously all over. Put it in a 425˚F oven for 20 minutes or so, then lower the temperature to 375˚F (but the truth is, temperature isn’t all that critical; it should be a hot oven is all, but because the bird is so big not as hot as for roasting a chicken). A 12-pound bird will take about one and a half to two hours.

How do you tell when it’s done? It doesn’t matter. Your goal is to slightly undercook the breast. Because the fact is, the legs and thighs need a lot longer than the breasts. Remove them from the bird and return them to the oven for another hour or so. (They can stay in a 200˚F oven for a couple of hours if you prefer.)

Here’s the key part: When the gravy has been thickened and all the sides are finishing up, remove the legs from the oven. Pour an inch or two of turkey stock into the pan you roasted it in, and bring this to a simmer. Take each breast half off and slice it thinly crosswise. Cut the meat from the legs as you wish. Put all the turkey back into the simmering stock to reheat the breast (or to fully cook it if it’s still partly raw).

Serve hot, with hot gravy on top!

Still too vague? Publisher’s Weekly has posted the entire version from How to Roast.

And please: Relax! Enjoy your family and friends on this most special American holiday.

If you liked this post on roasted turkey, check out these other links:

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.



15 Wonderful responses to “How to Roast a Turkey”

  • joelfinkle

    I’m more and more fond of a smoked turkey: Low temp, smoky flavor, and beatiful mahogany-colored skin (although it rarely gets crisp).

    And it really doesn’t take too long: A spatchcocked turkey takes about 2.5 hours in a 225F smoker.

    You do lose the drippings — that’s probably the biggest shortcoming for smoking.

  • Larry

    Use a drip pan to catch a couple tablespoons of the smoky goodness and add to your classic gravy base. It will add a subtle smoke kick that won’t be overbearing.

  • Nick Rogers

    I never really understood the thanksgiving freak out. Roasting most birds are hardly difficult. As delicious as your turkey looks, nothings going to pull me away from the deep frier come turkey day.

  • James O.

    Tempted to try it this way… But the family has come to expect me to do it on the Weber Kettle each year. Something about smoke flavor and all that.

  • Paula B.

    What is a turkey tenderloin and are they any good? Thinking about making one with a couple of turkey thighs in a roast pan, just dinner for two people.

  • Allen

    Spatchcock, roast and braise is my preferred method.
    It saves time and guarantees moist cooked meat.
    Only draw back is you do not get to parade the bird around to be admired and regarded.

    Perhaps you could make an authentic looking plastic one – like a fake Xmas tree.

    Sneak it back into the kitchen, pretend you just carved it up, while you just sit back and enjoy a fine beverage.

  • Laurie

    Have used the cooking bag for 30 years – All the juices, moist, no mess, great flavor and very little effort! Has taken all the stress out of the turkey!

  • Dug

    What about stuffing? Are there any other stuffers left in this world? Pan made dressing is flavorless.

  • Dave Blahnik

    How do I roast a perfect turkey every year for Thansgiving? I roast two chickens.

  • Tana

    One of the best life hacks I ever learned was how to make gravy with no lumps, ever.

    Put the flour into a small jar with 1/2 cup of the juices from the pan. (You can’t do this if you’re brining the turkey, which is why I never ever brine.) Replace the lid on the jar and shake, shake, shake. Pour that slurry into the gravy pan, and you are ensured to have the smoothest gravy in the world.

    And because I just convinced my host not to brine his turkey, I will share the recipe I’ve been making since 1994. I’ve made this turkey at least 20 times, to raves.

    Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving to the Ruhlman family. <3

  • Kathy Frye

    Solution to have both smoked turkey and delicious gravy…remove breast from rest of turkey; roast the legs, wings & back the normal way. Smoke the breast by itself…brined or not, as you wish. Now you have the best of both. Happy Thanksgiving!!

  • Julie

    Ruhlman — You should post the link to your Dad’s recipe for Cranberry Sauce with this article. It is delicious. Julie


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