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How to Roast a Turkey or Chicken

How to roast a turkey or whole chicken. These tips will help you prepare your holiday bird with ease!  We’ll walk you through all the steps in detail to help make perfectly moist turkey!

Get Chef Becca's tips for roasting a whole chicken or turkey, and how to make delicious gravy!

Thanksgiving is less than 2 weeks away, so it’s time to bring out the arsenal of main dish recipes. Because so many people fix poultry for holiday meals, here are my tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken.

There are lots of ways to roast your Thanksgiving bird. Some people prefer putting the meat into a brine for a couple of days prior to roasting. I talked about how to do that last year, in this post. 

Making the perfect Brine for Roasted Turkey

A brine is a salt water solution, so it’s probably not the healthiest preparation for those with high blood pressure, but it sure is danged tasty! Meat that’s spent some time in a brine is usually very juicy and tender after cooking. This does however require an extra step and planning ahead.

So we’ve decided to use the tried and true method of trussing and basting my bird.  For flavor in my herb roasted chicken were butter, onion, lemon, poultry seasoning, and fresh herbs.
Get Chef Becca's tips for roasting a whole chicken or turkey, and how to make delicious gravy!

Tips for roasting do little good, unless you know how to truss a bird!

Massage the bird with very soft herb butter inside the cavity, between the skin and the breast meat, and all over the exterior skin. Then, fill the cavity with some wedges of lemon or orange, a fresh wedge of onion, and some fragrant, fresh poultry herbs.

Our favorite herbs to use – springs of thyme, rosemary, and some sage in my turkey  Once that’s done, sprinkle a little bit of dry poultry seasoning over the top of the bird and you’ll be ready to truss the bird closed.

How to truss a turkey for proper roasting

Trussing a bird – when it’s trussed, the wings are tucked in against the body, and the legs are together, closing the cavity of the bird. This allows steam to form inside the cavity, creating a wonderful sauna room for fresh spices, herbs, and citrus. Heavenly magic will happen in there!

How to truss a turkey –  You’ll need twine, someone to hold the twine (since your hands will be gunky with raw poultry), and something to cut the twine with. Oh, and you’ll want to use cotton twine (it doesn’t melt and stick to the meat like other materials can). To make the job easy peasy, just get a Perfect Cut Twine Dispenser (affiliate link). This handy little number helped out big time, since I was home alone when I made this roast chicken dinner.  It even comes with a spool full of cotton twine.Get our tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken. Learn how to prepare the bird for the oven, how to truss, how to baste, and how to make delicious gravy

Basting the bird while it cooks

As the bird cooks in the oven, you’ll want the breast meat to stay moist. That’s where basting with melted butter comes in.

Since you slathered your bird with butter before cooking, there’ll be a wonderful mixture of butter and poultry fat forming at the bottom of the roasting pan. Use a basting bulb to soak up and disperse over the top of the bird once or twice during cooking.

How often to baste a chicken – Twice during a cook time of 90-minutes should be enough while it cooks..  

How often to baste a turkey –  the cooking time will be longer, so a guide of basting every 45 minutes should be plenty. 

Get our tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken. Learn how to prepare the bird for the oven, how to truss, how to baste, and how to make delicious gravy

How long to roast a turkey or chicken and how to make sure that you don’t overcook it. 

To avoid a dry bird, I recommend using a cooking thermometer. There are loads of them on the market, in all price ranges. This one is my personal favorite (affiliate link). It has a probe that you fit into the thickest portion of the breast. It will stay in the bird and read the temperature all during the cooking process. 

Because of carryover cooking, the bird will continue to cook after you’ve removed it from the oven, bringing it to a food-safe temperature for serving of 165 degrees F.

Cooking Time DOES VARY depending on if you are cooking chicken or turkey. A turkey does take longer to roast and therefore it’s a little difficult to say exactly HOW LONG to cook it. Which is why we recommend a cooking thermometer. General rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 20 minutes per pound, but again that can vary.

When you’re transferring the bird from the roasting pan to the cutting board, you need to be really careful, because it’ll be very hot and very slippery, too. One of the safest ways to work the transfer is with two large serving forks or a poultry lifter.

 Get our tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken. Learn how to prepare the bird for the oven, how to truss, how to baste, and how to make delicious gravy

Resting the Bird and Making the Gravy!

Allow your chicken or turkey to rest on a cutting board for at least 15 minutes before carving it. This will allow the juices in the bird to settle into the meat. If you carve it too soon, the juices will all end up on the cutting board, leaving your poultry dry. Sad day.  Don’t let that happen!

While your bird rests, pour the contents of the roasting pan into a fat separator like this one (affiliate link). The strainer at the top will catch big pieces of fat and food, allowing the juices down into the separator. The plug in the spout forces the fat to separate from the juices. They’ll rise to the top after a minute or so. Then, pull the plug out and pour the separated juices into a saucepan for making a delicious pan gravy.

This is also the perfect time to put the biscuits and dinner rolls into the oven!

Get our tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken. Learn how to prepare the bird for the oven, how to truss, how to baste, and how to make delicious gravy

Now you have tips for how to roast a whole chicken or turkey!

It’s time for you to put some juicy bird into your stomach, and some amazing kitchen tools into your life.

Is there anything that you struggle with when preparing Thanksgiving dinner? Do you need tips for roasting other types of meat?

Leave me a comment below and I will try to help!

Get Chef Becca's tips for roasting a whole chicken or turkey, and how to make delicious gravy!

How to Roast a Turkey or Chicken

These tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken will help you prepare your holiday bird with ease!  We'll walk you through all the steps in detail to help make perfectly moist turkey!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Course Dinner, Main
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • 1 whole turkey or chicken
  • 1 stick butter
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh sage
  • 1 whole lemon , cut into wedges
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Massage the bird with softened butter inside cavity, between the skin and the breast meat along with all over the exterior skin.
  • Add lemon wedges, thyme, rosemary, sage and some salt and pepper into cavity of turkey.
  • Tuck the wings against the body and tie the legs together with cotton twine.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Stick cooking thermometer into thickest part of the turkey. Bake until internal temperature reaches 165F. Basting the turkey every 45 minutes.
Tried this recipe? Mention @itsyummi or tag #itsyummirecipe!
Get our tips for roasting a whole turkey or chicken. Learn how to prepare the bird for the oven, how to truss, how to baste, and how to make delicious gravy

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20 Comments

  1. Thanks Chef Bec for all the tips. I’ve never tried roasting a whole chicken let alone a turkey. I can’t wait to try this as soon as possible!

    1. Hi Allie!
      I didn’t start trussing poultry until I learned how to d it in culinary school. I had no idea how much moisture was escaping from the cavity of the bird. It’s a night and day difference in the taste and texture! P.S. That OXO Twine dispenser is crazy awesome… even for craft ribbons and things like that 🙂

    1. I’m happy that my tips are helpful to you, Sydney! Making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time can be daunting. Just remember to plan ahead, take your time, and most of all, enjoy the process! I’m sure that your meal will be a smashing success!

  2. Great tips, Chef Bec! I’m thinking a big roasted turkey will help me forget that winter has returned. Of course, winter never really leaves for you up there on the tundra, does it? Haha! Either way, love this post!!

    1. Fighting off the cold weather definitely requires some serious intervention, and I think a whole roasted bird is just the ticket! Oh, and you’re right, Dave.. for the past few years, there have been just two seasons in northeastern Wisconsin: Winter and Polar Vortex. I’m ready for a trip down south to see Shashi or something!

    1. Truth be told, Dorothy, I’m horrible at roasting a full bird too. People think I create these posts for my readers, but in reality, they’re my permanent bookmarks to use every Thanksgiving 😉

  3. Every time I think I know how to do something I come hear and learn something new. I’ve never trussed, didn’t realize there was a good reason to.
    HAPPY 4th! Wow!

  4. I enjoyed the pics/posts – we’re hosting and there’s going to be 3-4 cooks in the kitchen, I know I need to be prepared and the information you shared will really help – Happy Thanksgiving

  5. Becca – thank you for this tutorial – My bird is in dire need of trussing so that it is more PG when it comes out of the oven – cos in it’s NC-17 rated spread eagle style – it leaves people blushing! GAH! And awesome giveaway! Thank you for hosting – hope you have a wonderful weekend!!!

    1. Oh for the love of an appropriately dressed bird, please truss responsibly, Shashi! The world is graphically violent enough without spread eagle turkeys everywhere! 😀
      Have a glorious weekend, my friend!

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