How to Cook a Turkey in a Roaster

Karen Frazier
Homemade roast turkey in pan

Using a roaster oven to cook your turkey can be a life saver if oven space is limited and you want to cook a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Fortunately, prep in one of these ovens is easy.

What You'll Need

Before you cook your turkey, you'll want to prepare it as you like it. In lieu of a recipe, you'll need the following:

  • 1 turkey (double check to make sure you get a turkey that is the right size for your roaster oven
  • Paper towels
  • Softened butter or olive oil
  • Pastry brush
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 lemon, unpeeled and halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • Meat thermometer
  • Turkey baster

Before Roasting

Before you roast, do the following:

  1. Remove the giblets and neck from inside of the turkey.
  2. Using paper towels, pat away any excess moisture from the surface and inside of the turkey.
  3. Using a pastry brush, brush the butter or oil all over the outer surface of the turkey.
  4. Season the outside and inside generously with sea salt and pepper.
  5. Put the sprigs of rosemary and thyme, the lemon, and the onion inside of the turkey.

Roasting

Roasting your turkey is a two-stage process. First, you want to roast it on the highest temperature your roaster goes, which is usually about 450 degrees Fahrenheit to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes to start to brown the outside. Then, reduce the temperature of the roaster oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and roast according to the time table below.

Turkey Position

Place the turkey on the rack in the roaster oven. It should be breast-side up.

Roasting Time

Cook the turkey until a thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the thermometer probe is not touching the bone, or it may read falsely high. Using a digital thermometer with a probe is a great way to work here because it allows you to read the thermometer without opening the lid and allowing heat to escape, which can slow cooking time.

Roasting in a roaster oven usually requires about 15 minutes per pound, plus the original 30 minutes at the higher temperature. The following chart shows approximate cooking times for varying sizes of bird.

Turkey Weight

Approximate Cooking Time
(including 30 minutes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit)

8 pounds 2 1/2 hours
10 pounds 3 hours
12 pounds 3 1/2 hours
15 pounds 4 1/4 hours
20+ pounds

5 1/2 hours or longer

Resting

After cooking, allow the turkey to rest, tented with foil, for 20 to 30 minutes. Resting the turkey helps keep it juicy by allowing the juices to work back into the meat. If you carve it too quickly, the turkey will dry out.

Roaster Drippings

Use the drippings to baste the turkey while it cooks. This will keep the turkey moist and enhance browning. Use a large turkey baster and baste approximately every 30 seconds, drawing up the drippings in the baster and squeezing it over the turkey. You can use the drippings from the roaster pan as your source of fat to make a flavorful gravy.

Tips for Cooking a Turkey in the Roaster Oven

For best results, try the following tips:

  • Preheat your roaster oven to its highest temperature for best browning. Put the turkey in after the oven is preheated.
  • Use Martha Stewart's tip for a moist, beautifully browned turkey and soak cheesecloth in wine and melted butter. Place the cheesecloth over the turkey breast and baste the cheesecloth with additional wine and melted butter as the turkey cooks. Discard the cheesecloth in the third hour of cooking.
  • If you cook a stuffed turkey, which you can do in a roaster oven, add about 30 to 45 minutes to your total roasting time.

Save Valuable Oven Space

Using a roaster saves space and power and allows you to cook a turkey on your countertop while you've got pies in the oven. It's an excellent appliance to have on hand, and using it to cook turkey can yield moist, flavorful results.

How to Cook a Turkey in a Roaster