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Turkey Basics

 Cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey can be intimidating for some. Add to that the multitude of cooking methods online, and it can be downright overwhelming! These step-by-step instructions are practically foolproof – you’ll be cooking like a seasoned pro in no time!

Turkey Cooking Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Remove giblet pack and neck from cavity of the turkey. Season cavity with salt and pepper, plus your favorite seasonings.
  • Place turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in your roasting pan.
  • Pour 1 cup water or turkey broth into the bottom of your roasting pan.
  • Place turkey in the center of the oven and roast uncovered according to the timetable below:
Whole Turkey Roasting Table
Unstuffed at 350º F
6 to 8 lbs.2 hours
8 to 10 lbs.2 to 2 1/2 hours
10 to 12 lbs.2 1/2 to 3 hours
12 to 14 lbs.3 to 3 1/2 hours
14 to 18 lbs.3 to 3 1/2 hours
18 to 22 lbs.3 to 3 3/4 hours
22 to 25 lbs.3 1/2 to 4 hours
25lbs. and over3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours
Turkey Breast Roasting Table
at 350º F
4 to 5 lbs.1 1/2 to 2 hours
5 to 7 lbs.1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours
7 to 9 lbs.2 to 2 1/2 hours
9 to 11 lbs.2 1/4 to 3 hours
11 lbs. and over3 to 4 hours
Turkey Roll Roasting Table
at 350º F
Wrap in foil for the first half of cooking time, then unwrap for the last half to ensure a nice crisp skin.
3 to 5 lbs.1 1/2 to 2 hours
5 to 7 lbs.2 to 3 hours
7 to 9 lbs.2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours
9 lbs. and over3 to 4 hours

Testing for Doneness

The most accurate way to test for doneness is with a digital probe, placed into the center of the thigh muscle. It should register 165° F. The breast temperature should be slightly higher than the thigh when done. If you have no thermometer, push the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the turkey (inside the thigh muscle where the leg joins the body). Rotate your knife halfway; if the juices that come out have a red tinge, continue cooking. If the juices are clear of golden in color, the turkey is done.

We suggest roasting all poultry unstuffed. This will ensure your bird is cooked to perfection. Turkeys that are stuffed usually wind up overcooked because the heat can’t circulate, causing the turkey to dry out. If you want the flavor of the turkey in your stuffing, buy extra turkey backs and wings to make a roasted turkey broth. You can ask for the backs to be chopped to make them easier to handle.

Roasted Turkey Broth


  • Back and Wings from 1 turkey, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • Salt, to taste


  •  Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • In a roasting pan, add chopped turkey back and wings, onion, celery and carrot.
  • Roast for about an hour, using digital probe to test for doneness (165° F is safe for poultry).
  • Remove meat from the pan and pick the meat from the bones, discarding the skin.
  • Scrape up the brown bits that formed in the roasting pan. Add water, bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour.
  • Add picked meat and salt to taste. Reduce for another 20 minutes.
  • Note: Use about 2 cups of broth to moisten stuffing, and 6 cups of broth to make gravy. Bake stuffing in a separate pan, if possible.

Roasted Turkey Gravy

Turkey Gravy


  • 6 cups turkey broth
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 6 tbsp. fat from turkey in roasting pan
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  • Pour fat and other liquid from roasting pan into a heatproof measuring cup, bowl, or gravy fat separator. Let cool until fat rises to the top and separate.
  • Use the roasting pan that your turkey or turkey was roasted in, or the pan that the parts were roasted in to make the broth. Place this roasting pan on the stove over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the roasting pan (This helps give the gravy a rich brown color an enhances its taste).
  • Add fat to the roasting pan and heat, then sprinkle flour over fat, a little at a time, and whisk together until smooth.
  • Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles, about 3 or 4 minutes. While stirring with a whisk, slowly add broth. Bring to a medium boil and reduce to simmer until desired consistency is reached.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

Special Notes:

  •  For Fat-Free Gravy: Omit fat, turn burners slightly lower, and stir flour in roasting pan until brown, scraping sides of pan. Add broth slowly, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Simmer 1 or 2 minutes to thicken. Serve and enjoy.
  • If you’re using disposable pans, use 2, fitting 1 pan inside another for extra strength.
  • Elsie’s Recommendations: Use a Cephalon-style non-stick roasting pan to get those nice, browned bits to make gravy with. Use a digital probe to ensure the turkey is cooked thoroughly to a safe temperature and not overcooked.