Mom's Perfect Roast Turkey

"This is the anti-saw-dust tasting, forget the pop-up thermometer bird cooker! Hence, we toss the thermometer altogether. Cooking the bird "upside-down" uses gravity and allows the juices to cook inside the breast meat, giving it a tender deliciousness that is hard to duplicate when cooking for a golden-brown-colored turkey breast skin. With my family, we prefer meat to skin and so after letting the turkey rest, carve in kitchen and set on buffet-style platter or large plate, removing fat and skin as preferred. This recipe is also great if you want a less-stress Thanksgiving as all it is is washing the bird, sticking it in a pan, and into the oven with a timer. Feel free to make other preparations while the bird is cooking for when the bird is out of the oven. Bird can be made up to a day in advance and reheated easily. If you like moist turkey breast meat, use this recipe. Meant for any size or type of turkey. No bags or basting, ever! Also great for students away from home for the holidays. This is not the turkey recipe if you want a Norman Rockwell picture. This is for cooking a great bird."
photo by a user photo by a user
Ready In:
1 beautifully moist bird


  • 1 whole turkey, any type
  • 1 dash cooking spray


  • Defrost turkey, if necessary.
  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Open turkey package, (try this in a clean sink) removing turkey giblets and other interior cavity elements along with thermometer. Unless you want to make gravy or cook these elements, throw them away, noting the exact poundage of the bird (cut off the label with this on it if necessary and reserve for time calculations later). Leave the skin on the turkey for roasting.
  • Wash (rinse) turkey inside and out, making sure that any stray feathers are removed.
  • Place turkey breast-side down in a foil-lined rectangular cake pan (depending upon size of bird, use a 9x13 pan) or foil-lined roasting pan. Also take into consideration that some juices and fat will melt during roasting time and may fill up the pan a bit around the turkey unless put on a roasting rack in the pan. (No one likes to clean up turkey mess, but if you're out of foil, spray pan with cooking spray to have easier cleanup later. I prefer to use a disposable foil pan so that I can discard entire mess after Thanksgiving is over.).
  • Place turkey with pan into oven, about in the middle (enough space needed for bird to fit), and not so close to heating element that anything burns.
  • Do not change oven temperature. Cook for fifteen minutes per pound. (Example: 20.2 pound bird would be: 20.2x15=303 minutes. 303/60=5.05, so you would need to cook the bird for five hours, and one to three minutes.).
  • Take out of oven, and let rest for at least 15-30 minutes. The juices will need to settle back into the bird. If you cut it immediately, you will have a dry bird. Basting is only required when you overcook the meat (aka meat thermometer), or if you want a particular flavor to the turkey (basting with stock, juice of some sort, butter mixture, BBQ sauce, etc.) Turkey, when done well, may be nice with seasonings, but has a great flavor on its own. If you left in the meat thermometer, you should not see it pop out. The bird is still safe to eat and YUMMY!

Questions & Replies

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  1. Tried this on Sunday evening w/a 12 lb. turkey--outstanding! Mine actually looked kind of brown. However, you are so right about the moist and tender meat. No fuss, but really tasty turkey! Thanks!
  2. It is like we grew up in the same house. A TURKEY IS JUST A LARGE CHICKEN! Keep it simple. You nailed it. My only further recommendation is to cook it in a roaster so you have the oven for casseroles and reheating.
  3. You are absolutely right that cooking it breast-down is the only way to go. The flavor is just soooo much better. I have no idea who decided breast-up was the "right" way, but shame on them! I'm not giving this a rating because I do actually put a couple of carrots, celery stalks, and onion in the cavity of the bird. I also smear it with either olive oil or butter and sprinkle salt, pepper, and sometimes some rosemary or thyme on the outside. I think that adds a huge difference to the overall flavor and only takes about 5 minutes of effort. I did want to add support for the cooking method, though, as it is really the best. No basting is nice as well!


I'm a recently graduated college student with passions for soups, stews, and making artisan-style bread. Also want to learn how to make pasta.
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