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How to Cook a Whole Turkey in the Oven

How to Cook a Whole Turkey in the Oven

We know any dinner menu that includes a whole roasted turkey is a thrill, and it’s why many gatherings and special occasions depend on such recipes. But many find cooking turkey in the oven quite tricky, especially when dealing with a whole bird. And when you consider numerous factors like stuffing, bird size, and doneness temperature, you can feel overwhelmed. But oven-roasted turkey is a breeze, provided you know the right steps to take.

How to Cook a Whole Turkey in the Oven

Turkey Nutrition Facts

How to Cook a Whole Turkey in the Oven

Choosing Turkey for Oven-Cooking

Size is the main factor in picking a turkey for oven-roasting, and the great thing is this kitchen appliance will cook any bird. You can select from a typical 10-pounder to a 20-pound bird for oven roasting. But note that the larger the bird, the longer it’ll take to cook.

Choosing the Oven Temperature

A high oven temperature will cook the outside faster, partially cooking the insides. As such, you’ll need to roast the bird such that every part will be evenly cooked. A temperature of 325 to 350F is considered best for oven-roasted turkey. And in some methods, you can heat the oven to 400F, then reduce it to 350F before placing the bird.

Prepping Turkey

Thawing- If you bought a frozen bird, the first step is to thaw it in the fridge. The best way is to set it in a tray in the fridge overnight, but a safer technique is to calculate 24 hours for every 5 pounds. You can also thaw the bird faster by placing it in cold water and changing it every 30 minutes until the turkey is ready.

Cleaning- After the turkey is thawed, you’ll have to remove the neck and giblets. You’ll find them in the bird’s neck and large body cavity. You can discard these items or save them for making gravy. Once the turkey’s cavities are cleaned out, dry the surface with paper towels in preparation for seasoning.

Seasoning Options

Most times, oven-roasted turkey only requires a mixture of pepper and salt added to the body cavity and surface. But some prefer to make a mixture of butter, herbs, and spices and slather it on the body. A more traditional option is to brine the turkey, especially if you purchased a wild bird. And you can choose numerous seasoning options, including rosemary, oregano, basil, black pepper, and thyme.

Cooking the Turkey

Place the bird breast-side up on a roasting rack, and add water to the pan below. If you didn’t use herb butter, you might need to baste the bird with its pan drippings. Most people depend on the turkey juices mixing with the water in the pan, while others use low-sodium broth in place of water.

You’ll be cooking the turkey in an oven temperature of 350F, preheated to 450F, and then lowered just before the bird is placed. And the turkey will need to cook at 13 minutes per pound. If you’re basting, do so every 45 minutes of cooking. And for a more flavorful experience, use melted unsalted butter to baste the turkey for the final 45 minutes.

You’ll want the bird to hit an internal temperature of 165F before setting it down, and you’ll get this by checking with a meat thermometer. Stick the probe into the thickest areas of the turkey- the outer and inner thighs and the breast.


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Once the turkey is done, set it on a carving tray to rest for at least half an hour. This waiting period allows the moisture to redistribute, resulting in moister meat. Carving the turkey too early will cause its juices to run out, leaving the meat dry.

More Tips

  • Don’t truss the turkey, as it’ll cause the thighs to cook slower.
  • Don’t wash the turkey before cooking.
  • Save the pan drippings if you’re making gravy.
  • If you like a stuffed turkey, cook the stuffing separately in another bowl next to it. Instead, stuff the turkey with aromatics, apples, herbs, and lemon.
  • You can also make a bed of onions, carrots, lemons, and herbs for a more flavorful result.
  • If you’re using her butter, make a slit in the breast skin with your finger and rub it into the space. It makes the breast meat juicier.
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Oven-Roasted Turkey (12 Servings)

  • Author: Bobby


  • One whole turkey, 16 pounds, thawed, brined
  • Two cups broth, low-sodium
  • One cup butter, unsalted


Set the turkey on the counter 30 minutes before cooking and empty the cavities of the giblets. Then, position the bird breast-side up on a roasting rack in a pan.

Heat the oven to 450F and set the rack to the bottom-third slide. Then, add the broth into the roasting pan and set the turkey in the oven.

Turn the temperature down to 350F, and let the turkey roast, breast-side up, for 13 minutes per pound. A 16-pound bird will need 3½ hours, but check the meat temperature halfway through the time to predict how fast it’s cooking.

After 45 minutes of cooking, take the bird out (close the door at once!) and baste it with the pan broth. Repeat this method every 45 minutes, and at the last one, use the melted oil instead. If you notice the breast area is browning too fast, cover it with foil before resuming cooking.

Probe the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh to check the internal doneness. You’ll want the bird to register 165F at the outer thigh, breast, and inner thigh areas. If any of these regions isn’t at said temperature, return the bird to the oven for another 20 minutes.

Once the turkey is fully roasted, rest it for 30 minutes on the table before carving.

You can also follow this video instruction for more oven-roasted turkey ideas.