How to Roast a Turkey (the Easy and Cheap way!)

Wondering how to roast a turkey? We’ve got an easy roast turkey recipe that always turns out perfectly moist, plus a free printable turkey cheat sheet!

How to Roast a Turkey

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY FREE PRINTABLE

Need a turkey cheat sheet to make sure you’re prepared? I’ve made you a free printable with everything from choosing the the size, to thawing, roasting, and checking for doneness.

Turkey Cheat Sheet Free Printable

You can download the printable here! Then read on for lots of detailed information about different thawing methods. And of course, lots of information on how to roast a turkey the easy and cheap way.

Want to skip all the details? Here are step by step instructions to follow.

THANKSGIVING WITH DAD

If you need an easy roast turkey recipe for Thanksgiving you’ve come to the right place! One of my favorite childhood memories is helping my dad with the Thanksgiving and Christmas bird each year.

Remove neck and giblets from turkey

With 35 years of turkey roasting under his belt, and the analytical mind of an engineer, my dad has tried and tested a myriad of roasting techniques. Here’s the method that is the easiest and cheapest way to get a great result every time.

GETTING A GOOD DEAL ON YOUR TURKEY

The first thing I learned from my dad is that cooking the perfect turkey starts with some research.

A lot of local grocery stores have great deals on their turkeys, but you really need to carefully look at the stipulations for the sale price.  

Some grocery stores give away FREE turkeys if you spend a certain amount. You can save up your monthly grocery shopping as well as holiday shopping to meet that minimum.

You will want to choose a turkey that weighs one pound for every adult. Or two pounds per adult if you have big eaters or want leftovers.

HOW TO THAW A TURKEY

Roasting turkey in a bag

Once you get your turkey, if it’s frozen, you need to plan ahead for thawing.

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY: THAWING A TURKEY IN THE BATHTUB

For years, my dad and I would thaw the still wrapped turkey in the bathtub.

I’d get to fill the bath with cold water the night before, and in the middle of the night I would check on the bird each time I got up to use the restroom.

In the morning Dad would whisper, “Diana, wake up, it’s turkey time.”

How to Cook a Turkey in a Bag

I’d follow him into the bathroom in my slippered feet and push my pajama sleeve up as high as it could go to pull the bathtub plug.

We have since learned that the bathtub method is not the safest for thawing. The outer layer of the can reach unsafe temperatures before the inside is thawed. So here are some safer options.

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY: THAWING A TURKEY IN BRINE

My dad’s new favorite way to thaw a frozen turkey is in a brine.  He’s tried different recipes and brining mixes, but says if money is an issue just go with a cup of kosher salt in your water.

You will need a refrigerator with lots of space to thaw a turkey in brine.

  1. Fill a bucket or large dish tub with your brine.
  2. Place the unwrapped bird, breast side down, in the brine.
  3. Put the whole tub in the refrigerator.
  4. Let thaw 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds.

Brining adds flavor and moisture to the meat.  But I’ve made and eaten a lot of great turkeys without brine so if you’re pressed for money or time, you can skip it.

Easy Roast Turkey

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY: HOW TO THAW A TURKEY IN THE FRIDGE

The easiest way to thaw any whole poultry is simply placing it in the fridge. Just be aware it takes several days to thaw this way.

  1. Leave the bird packaged in the wrapper.
  2. Place it in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.
  3. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator and thaw 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds.

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY: HOW TO THAW A TURKEY IN WATER

The fastest way to thaw your bird is in a cold water bath. It is time intensive though, because you need to change the water every 30 minutes.

  1. Securely wrap your packaged turkey so no water can enter.
  2. Place in large bucket or sink filled with cold tap water.
  3. Change the cold water out every 30 minutes.
  4. Plan on thawing your bird 30 minutes for every pound.

Best Roast Turkey

HOW DO YOU MAKE A MOIST TURKEY?

While techniques like brining, or cooking breast side down, can help your bird stay moist, they aren’t fool proof. The best way to make a moist turkey is to cook it in a roasting bag.

If your bird is not completely thawed inside, just rinse the cavity with running water until all the ice is washed away.  

Make sure to remove the giblets, neck, and any other parts that are loose or in the little baggie in the cavity.

Roast Turkey Recipe

HOW TO COOK A TURKEY IN A BAG

Once your bird is rinsed and empty, it’s time to prepare the next key to an easy roast turkey, and that’s the roasting bag.  My dad has tried to cook a turkey without a bag three times, and each time he’s done it we’ve all complained (including him!).  

Turkey Roasting Bags

You can find the roasting bags in the plastic baggie and aluminum foil section of the grocery store.  Another nice thing about roasting bags is that they have directions!  If you’re nervous about roasting your first turkey, they walk you through it.

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY IN A BAG STEP BY STEP

  1. The first step is to put a pinch of flour in the bag and shake it around to coat the bag so it doesn’t stick to your bird.
  2. Set the bag in a roasting pan (more about roasting pans later!).
  3. Once your bag is resting in the pan with the bag opening hanging over one side, begin placing circles of onion and stalks of celery in the bottom of the bag.  This provides a bed for the turkey to rest on so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, and adds flavor.
  4. Carefully put your bird into the bag resting on the vegetables.
  5. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to preheat your oven to 325°F.
  6. Reach into the bag to coat the skin with olive oil or butter, and season with salt and pepper. Our recipe at the end of the post uses a delicious lemon thyme butter!
  7. Use the twisty tie that came with the roasting bag to seal the bag.Carved Roast Turkey
  8. Make a few 1/2 inch slits in the top of the bag.
  9. Put your turkey in the oven.  Make sure that you’ve taken out the top rack in your oven so that your bag doesn’t melt on the top heating element (yes, voice of experience speaking!).
  10. Cook according to the cooking chart on our free printable on How to Roast a Turkey.
  11. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature before you remove the turkey from the oven. It should read 165°F in the breast and stuffing, and 180°F in the thigh.
  12. Once it’s done, have someone help you hold the bag over a large bowl.  
  13. Cut one corner off of the bag and let the juices drain from the bag into your bowl.  These drippings are what you’ll strain and use to make gravy.
  14. Slip the turkey from the bag onto a platter, and let rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
  15. Now you have the choice of serving your bird on the platter garnished with some seasonal fruit and herbs, or slicing it to bring to the table.

THE BEST TURKEY ROASTING PAN

Oneida Roasting Pan

My absolute FAVORITE roasting pan is the one from Oneida! It’s super sturdy, easy to carry, and comes with a roasting rack.

If you don’t have a roasting pan, and you’re on a tight budget, check places like dollar stores and thrift stores before buying a foil one in a grocery store.  

In a pinch, the foil roasting pans work great for one time use.

Even though they’re less sturdy, you’re using a bag to hold the juices in so you don’t have to worry about pouring boiling turkey juice all over your feet. You can also carry the foil pan on a sturdy tray.

Thanksgiving Dinner Table

HOW LONG TO COOK A TURKEY AT 350

Most instructions for roasting a turkey cook it at 325°F. So that’s how I cook my birds now, unless I’m slow roasting them.

But the Reynolds oven bags actually have their cooking time chart for 350°F. You can check out their chart if you’d like to cook your turkey at 350°F. I find it to only be about 30 to 45 minutes faster at 350.

IS TURKEY DONE AT 165 or 180?

So is turkey done at 165°F or 180°F? The answer is both!

HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY: FINAL COOKING TEMPERATURE

  1. You should check the temperature of your bird in three different places.
  2. The thickest part of the thigh should read 165°F.
  3. The thickest part of the breast should read 180°F.
  4. The stuffing (if you stuffed your turkey) should also be 180°F.
  5. Use a digital thermometer to get a faster and accurate read.
  6. Poke the meat thermometer right through the bag to get to the meat.

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey

I know there are a lot of tips out there on how to roast a turkey. But if you’re looking for easy and cheap, and still want a delicious bird, give the bag method a try!

PIN TO SAVE HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY FOR LATER

Don’t lose the post! Save the pin on How to Roast a Turkey. You can leave a comment on the pin, with a photo of your turkey. We love seeing your handiwork!

How to Roast a Turkey

How to Roast a Turkey
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Resting Time
15 mins
Total Time
3 hrs 20 mins
 
Wondering how to roast a turkey? We’ve got an easy roast turkey recipe that always turns out perfectly moist, plus a free printable turkey cheat sheet! The recipe lists 10 servings, but it depends on the size of your bird. A 10 pound turkey will feed 10 adults. Go bigger for leftovers or big eaters! Recipe adapted with permission from Genius Kitchen.
Course: Main
Keyword: how to roast a turkey, roast turkey, roasted turkey, whole turkey
Servings: 10
Calories: 460 kcal
Author: Diana Johnson
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp all purpose flour
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and sliced into circles
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon juiced and zested
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leave
  • 1 fresh turkey see the post for thawing instructions if needed
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 whole lemon halved
  • 1 Yellow onion quartered
  • 1 head garlic halved crosswise
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Place the flour in a turkey roasting bag and shake around to coat the inside of the bag.
  3. Set the bag in your roasting pan with the bag opening hanging over one side.
  4. Place circles of onion and stalks of celery in the bottom of the bag.
    Roasting turkey in a bag
  5. Melt the butter on the stove in a small saucepan.
  6. Add lemon juice and zest, and teaspoon of thyme leaves to the butter. Mix and remove from heat.
  7. Remove giblets and neck from turkey, then wash your bird inside and out. Remove any excess fat or pinfeathers left on the bird.
    Remove neck and giblets from turkey
  8. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels, then season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper (you can skip the seasoning if you brined your bird).
  9. Stuff the inside of the turkey with the fresh thyme lemon halves, onion, and garlic.
  10. Carefully put your bird into the bag resting on the vegetables.
  11. Reach into the bag to brush the turkey all over with the lemon thyme butter.
  12. Use the twisty tie that came with the roasting bag to seal the bag.
  13. Make a few 1/2 inch slits in the top of the bag.
  14. Put your turkey in the oven, making sure the bag is not touching any part of the oven.
    How to Cook a Turkey in a Bag
  15. Cook according to the weight of the turkey. Follow the unstuffed turkey cooking time as there is still air flow inside the turkey with the aromatic ingredients inside.
  16. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature before you remove your turkey from the oven. You want it to be 165°F in the breast and stuffing, and 180°F in the thigh.
  17. Once your bird is done, have someone help you hold the bag over a large bowl.
  18. Cut one corner off of the bag and let the juices drain from the bag into your bowl. You can strain these drippings to make some amazing turkey gravy.
  19. Slip the turkey from the bag onto a platter, and let rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
    Roast Turkey Recipe
Recipe Notes

Nutritional values are estimates only. Note that the nutritional values contain they full half pound of butter. That butter is on the skin and in the drippings, so you can reduce calories by eating white meat without skin, and skipping the gravy made from the drippings.

Nutrition Facts
How to Roast a Turkey
Amount Per Serving
Calories 460 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 35%
Saturated Fat 9g 45%
Cholesterol 209mg 70%
Sodium 300mg 13%
Potassium 655mg 19%
Total Carbohydrates 3g 1%
Sugars 1g
Protein 56g 112%
Vitamin A 9.8%
Vitamin C 11.5%
Calcium 4.4%
Iron 13.3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Wondering how to roast a turkey? We’ve got a step by step easy roast turkey recipe that always turns out perfectly moist, plus a printable turkey cheat sheet! Everything from choosing the size, to thawing it, and and roasting it. Its your complete guide to Thanksgiving turkey.

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4 thoughts on “How to Roast a Turkey (the Easy and Cheap way!)”

  • Thanks Kelly! I had so much fun setting up that shot. LOVE my new camera, my photography abilities have been growing in leaps and bounds since purchasing it.

    Heather I actually cooked the turkey on one day and photographed it another on my lunch break when the light was good (took up lots of room in my fridge!) so we didn’t really know what day we’d be eating it. Next time!

  • Oh yeah, I like white meat if it’s juicy and tender and flavorful, but if it’s not cooked well that doesn’t happen so then I like the dark meat 🙂
    Typically I’ll eat the white meat by itself or with gravy or in sandwiches and use the dark meat in pastas, soups, etc because it has stronger turkey flavor.

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