Stress-Free Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

You can roast a picture-perfect turkey, easily.

Want a Thanksgiving turkey that looks more like this …

… than this?

No problem! (Yah, you bet this is right out of the Stress-Free Quick & Easy Thanksgiving Dinner “Show Me How” Step-By-Step Video and Picture Book Recipe book you can check out by clicking either Amazon or iTunes.)

First, a couple tips:

This is the easiest, fastest, and most stress-free way I know to roast a turkey weighing up to 15 pounds (most turkeys sold weigh 12-15 pounds). It requires using HIGH heat (450 degrees), roasting the turkey breast side down until the last 30 minutes of cooking (to preserve the moisture and tenderness of the low-fat breast meat) and NOT filling the turkey with stuffing, which otherwise only adds more cooking time and causes the meat to dry out.

I HIGHLY recommend using an ovenproof meat thermometer, like one shown in the equipment picture below, to ensure safe cooking doneness. They’re inexpensive and very easy to use. I avoided buying one for far too long until a butcher who has provided excellent advice very kindly suggested recently I’d make a mistake otherwise. I listened—and obeyed—and haven’t looked back since.

Fridge to Finish Time: Plan about 4 1/2 – 5 hours to prepare a 12-15 pound turkey as follows: 1 hour to let the turkey warm at room temperature for more even cooking, about 2 hours to roast at 10 minutes per pound (using the HIGH oven heat method shown here), and at least 30 minutes after roasting to let the turkey rest before carving.


(for at least 12 people)

12-15 Pound Turkey (For a frozen turkey, see HOW TO THAW A FROZEN TURKEY directly below the ingredients picture)

Cooking Spray

Garlic Salt (can be substituted with Garlic Powder)

Italian Seasoning


Ground Black Pepper


I do not recommend using a microwave oven to thaw a frozen turkey, even though that method is sometimes suggested on the turkey packaging label, because using the microwave oven will begin the cooking process and will therefore have a negative, toughening effect on the finished cooked turkey. Instead, I recommend the following two methods: one that’s most hands-free but requires more time and another that’s quicker but requires a little more attention.

MOST HANDS-FREE METHOD TO THAW A FROZEN TURKEY: Leave the frozen turkey in its original packaging, put it on a plate or in a bowl to contain condensation, and let the turkey thaw slowly in the refrigerator. The only drawback with this method is time. Plan on 2-3 days thawing time for a 12-15 pound turkey.

QUICKEST METHOD TO THAW A TURKEY: Leave the turkey in its original packaging, put it in a big bowl or pot, and fill the pot with cool tap water. Change the water and turn the turkey over every half hour to hour or so, and plan on 30 minutes thawing time per pound—about 6 hours total thawing time for a 12 pound turkey, 7 1/2 hours for a 15 pound turkey.


Measuring Cup

Paper Towels

Potholders or Folded Dish Towels

Roasting Pan

Roasting Rack (optional—keeps the turkey out of the fat as it cooks)

Large Fork

Sharp Knife

Large Cutting Board

Ovenproof Meat Thermometer


1. Note the weight of the turkey on the packaging label, and calculate the total cooking time in minutes by multiplying the weight of the turkey in pounds by 10 minutes per pound. (The turkey photographed here weighed 12.37 pounds. I discounted the .37 pounds and multiplied 12 pounds by 10 minutes for a total cooking time, using the roasting method shown here, of 120 minutes.)

2. Take the turkey out of its packaging in the sink.

Remove the giblet bag and neck, stored individually or separately in either or both the hind or neck cavity, and …

… use a sharp knife to cut away excess skin at the top of the turkey’s neck, if necessary (the skin piece isn’t always that big that it needs to be cut back).

3. Rinse the outside of the turkey and …

… both the neck and hind cavities with cool tap water, and …

 … pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

4. Put a roasting rack (optional) in a roasting pan, and spray both the rack and pan with a light, even coat of cooking spray. I recommend using cooking spray even if either or both the rack and pan are Teflon coated to make cleanup later as easy as possible.

5. Stand the turkey in the roasting pan, and add a good shake of the following ingredients to BOTH the neck and hind cavities:

Garlic Salt (or Garlic Powder)

Italian Seasoning


Ground Black Pepper

6. Sprinkle garlic salt (or garlic powder), Italian Seasoning, paprika and ground black pepper first on the breast side and then …

… on the bottom of the turkey, and …

… leave the turkey breast-side down to rest at room temperature for 1 hour to allow for more even cooking.

7. After 1 hour, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees (230 degrees Celsius).

8. When the oven temperature reaches 450 degrees, put the turkey in the oven, and set a timer for 30 minutes less than the total cooking time. This will be the number of minutes the turkey will cook breast-side down. (As noted in step 1, the total cooking time for the turkey shown here was 120 minutes. I subtracted 30 minutes from the total cooking time and set the timer for 90 minutes or 1 hour and 30 minutes, as shown in the photo below, for breast-side down cooking time.)

9. When the timer sounds, CAREFULLY use potholders or folded dish towels to remove the breast-side down turkey from the oven.

Then CAREFULLY use a large fork and large knife (or kitchen utensils of your choice) to lift and …

… turn the turkey breast-side up. (The roasting rack marks imprinted on the turkey breast in the photo below will fade during the 30 minutes of breast-side up cooking.)

If you’re using an ovenproof meat thermometer (which I highly recommend), insert it in the thick section of breast meat next to the thigh muscle WITHOUT touching any bone so that the thermometer is set in the turkey

… about like this.

10. Put the turkey back in the oven, and set a timer for 30 minutes.

11. When the timer sounds, CAREFULLY remove the turkey from the oven with potholders or folded dish towels, and …

 … check it for doneness. Turkey meat is safely cooked when it has reached an internal temperature of at least 180 degrees and the breast meat is white and leg meat is grey throughout with no runny red liquid, which you can see by making a cut in the turkey where the thigh and breast join as shown in the bottom right picture below. (Compare these two pictures with the two Unsafely Cooked Turkey pictures that follow.)

If, however, the temperature on your meat thermometer (if you’re using one) is less than 180 degrees or any of the meat is still red or pink with red runny liquid when you cut into the turkey where the thigh meets the breast, as shown in the bottom right picture, keep cooking the turkey until the meat looks as shown in the Safely Cooked Turkey pictures above.

12. When the turkey is safely cooked, transfer it from the roasting pan to a cutting board, and …

… let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes both to let the meat juices inside settle and make the turkey safer to handle before carving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Got Mashed Potatoes?

Read more in Best Meal Ever on The Good Life.

Images courtesy of Bruce Tretter

About Bruce Tretter

Bruce Tretter helps people feel comfortable making practical, flavorful and quick & easy meals for themselves---even if they’ve never boiled water---through Gotta’ Eat, Can’t Cook step-by-step picture book and short video directions. He’s a father of 3, Former Naval Intelligence Officer, current school board member, and avid cyclist.


  1. looking at that turkey made me so damn hungry. looks damn tasty

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