Barbara Kafka

Roast Turkey

(From Roasting: A Simple Art)

With winter here and the holidays coming on, it is good to know that there is an easier than normal, quicker and better way to roast a turkey. The white meat stays moist; the dark meat cooks thoroughly and the skin is crisp.

Many Thanksgivings have proved the high heat method to be ideal. A fifteen pound turkey at room temperature takes two hours. However, it may take several hours for the turkey to reach room temperature. While the turkey is sitting out, cover it loosely with a towel otherwise the skin will dry out. I prefer a fifteen pound turkey as it isn't too heavy for me to handle. It usually gives lots of good leftovers and is generally available. Try to find a fresh turkey that hasn't been doctored up with injections of fat and or water. They are not needed.

Remove the giblet bag from the interior of the bird. Remove the wing tips. Put everything except the livers into a pan; cover with water; bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. By the time the bird is at room temperature and roasted, the gravy will be done. Remove the wing tips. Chop the cooked gizzards, heart and neck meat and return to liquid. Season. Use the liver in the dressing/stuffing or add to a freezer container of livers and milk.

Make sure there is a pan big enough for the turkey without its touching the sides of the pan. Do not truss.

Use a solid pan without high sides. Do not use disposables. They are dangerous with the heavy weight. Consider whether the bird should be stuffed or the stuffing served as a dressing separately baked. If stuffing, about twelve cups are needed for a fifteen pound bird which will allow the big cavity to be stuffed and some more stuffing to be crammed under the skin flap at the neck. I don't stuff because there are real safety questions about the bird and its stuffing sitting out at room temperature.

The oven must be very clean before roasting, or cooking at this high temperature will cause unpleasant smoke. In any case, turn on the fan or open a window. Don't put the oven rack too high or the skin on the breast will get over-cooked. For a twenty pound turkey the rack should be in the lowest position. Always put the legs in first. Dark meat takes longer to cook.

If the top skin seems to be getting too dark, slip a doubled piece of aluminum foil on top of it. Don't move the turkey. Use an oven mitt to protect the hand. Remove the foil with the same oven mitt ten minutes before the turkey comes out.

Large turkeys are most easily removed from the pan by holding them with two pot holders which will need to be washed. Get out a large stock pot to boil up the carcass and leftover bones for turkey soup.

Basic Roast Turkey Timings at 500° F.:

Weight Stuffed Unstuffed
9 to 10 pounds 1 hour 45 minutes 1 hour 15 minutes
12 pounds 1 hour 50 minutes 1 hour 20 minutes
15 pounds 2 ½ hours 2 hours
20 pounds 3 ½ hours 3 hours

Roast Turkey--Fifteen Pounds


Serves 10 to 15

1 15-pound turkey, room temperature, use giblets and neck for gravy, liver for stuffing

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup water, Turkey Stock or Chicken Stock (preferably homemade)

Place oven rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F.

Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat dry. Sprinkle the outside with the pepper. If stuffing, stuff cavity and crop, securing openings with long metal skewers. Do not truss.

Put turkey in a 18×13×2-inch roasting pan, breast side up. Put in oven legs first. Cook until the leg joint near the back bone wiggles easily, about 2 hours. Remove the turkey to a large platter. Let sit twenty minutes before carving.

Pour off grease from roasting pan and put pan on top of the stove. Add the water or stock. Bring to a boil while scraping vigorously with a wooden spoon, loosening all the crispy bits in the bottom of the pan. These add intensity to the gravy. Let reduce by half. Serve on the side in a sauce boat or add to giblet gravy.


Return to Recipes