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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
How to Roast a Turkey or Chicken
- 1 whole turkey or chicken
- 1 stick butter
- fresh thyme
- fresh rosemary
- fresh sage
- 1 whole lemon , cut into wedges
- salt and pepper
- 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.