Mom's Roast Turkey

Serves: 12

Mom's turkey breast was never dried out, but always tender and full of flavor. She buys the best turkey she can find (organic, free-range, etc.) and cooks it breast side down.

Yield: Serves 10-12
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:


1 turkey, approx. 15 lbs.*
juice of a lemon
salt and pepper
olive oil or melted butter
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
1 to 2 carrot
1 bunch of parsley
sprig several of fresh rosemary, thyme


Defrost turkey in refrigerator, if needed. Plan on about 5 hours of defrost time for every pound of turkey. A 15 lb frozen turkey should take 75 hours, or a little over 3 days, to defrost. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2-3 hours prior to cooking to allow it to come closer to room temperature. It will cook more quickly and evenly.

Remove giblets and rinse turkey inside and out. Save giblets to make turkey gravy, if desired. Pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400°. Rub the inside of the cavity with lemon juice. Rub about 1 tablespoon of salt inside the cavity. Add the onion, parsley, carrots, and celery inside the turkey. Cut vegetables to fit, as needed. Cover with foil or use metal skewers to secure the vegetables. Add a few sprigs of parsley into the neck opening. Cover with surrounding turkey skin and skewer closed.

Rub with olive oil or softened butter all over the outside of turkey. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously on all sides.

Place turkey breast down on rack over a sturdy roasting pan that is large enough to catch all the drippings.

Place inside the preheated over, uncovered. For the 15 lb turkey, start the cooking at 400°F for the first 20 minutes to brown it. Then reduce the heat to 325°F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce the heat further to 225°F until done, anywhere from a half hour to an hour or more. Cooking time is approx. 13-15 minutes per pound. The breast will not brown, since it is down. If you want a browned breast, turn the turkey over, breast side up when you have about 45-60 minutes left to cook.

Start taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, inserted deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh, an hour and a half before the turkey should be done. You want a resulting temperature of 170°F for the dark meat (thighs and legs) and 165°F for the white meat (breast). The temperature of the bird will continue to rise once you take it out of the oven, so take it out when the temperature reading for the thigh is 165°F, and for the breast 160°F. If you don't have a meat thermometer, spear the breast with a knife. The turkey juices should be clear, not pink.

Once you remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a cutting board, tent it with aluminum foil to keep it warm, and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn the turkey breast side up to carve it.


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