Roast Turkey

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Why start with a higher temperature? Poultry skin turns brown because it sautés in the thin layer of fat beneath it. If you start the bird at a low temperature, a lot of this fat will simply melt and run away. Starting with high heat gives you a deep brown bird, while the lower finish delivers moist, evenly cooked meat.

Serves10 to 12

Cooking MethodRoasting


Total Timea day or more

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free


Taste and TextureCrisp, Juicy, Meaty, Salty, Savory


  • 1½ cups kosher salt
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • One 6-ounce container of frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 gallon water
  • One 16- to 18-pound turkey
  • 1 gallon of ice cubes
  • Canola oil
  • 1 large pot
  • 1 large cooler with lid
  • Paper towels
  • Roasting rack
  • 2 disposable aluminum roasting pans
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Probe thermometer


  1. To brine the turkey: dissolve the salt, sugar, and juice concentrate in 1 quart of hot water. Cool the solution with 3 quarts of cold water. Remove the giblets (and any other foreign matter) from the turkey interior and place in the cooler. Pour in the brine mixture to cover. If the bird is not completely submerged, add more liquid. (Since I don’t want to weaken the solution, I use canned chicken broth.)

  2. Cover with ice, close the lid, and soak the turkey for 6 to 8 hours. (Exact soak times will vary per your taste. Start with 6 hours and make changes to subsequent birds.)

  3. When the bird has ½ hour left to soak, move the oven rack to the lowest level and preheat the oven to 500°F. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the turkey liberally with canola oil. (Be sure to get all the nooks and crannies around the wings.) Discard the brine and thoroughly wash the cooler. Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside 2 disposable aluminum roasting pans.

  4. Roast at 500°F for ½ hour. Remove the bird from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

  5. Cover the turkey breast with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil folded into a triangle. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast (push it right through the foil) and set the thermometer to 161 F. A 16-to 18-pound bird should arrive at the target temperature in 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover the bird and the pan loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Turkey Rules

  1. Stuffing is evil. Traditional stuffings soak up meat juices, meaning a potential for the presence of salmonella unless the temperature of the stuffing reaches 165 F. That increases the cooking time of the turkey, which means dry meat. If you cannot live without stuffing, cook it in a casserole dish then spoon it into the cavity prior to serving.

  2. Basting is evil. Skin is waterproof, so flavor and moisture will not soak through it. Besides, you have to open the door to baste, which lets heat out of the oven. That increases the cooking time of the turkey, which means dry meat—so don’t do it.


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