How to cook a turkey in a roaster answers all your questions about cooking a picture-perfect golden brown turkey in your electric roaster every single time.
If you want to free up your oven when making holiday dinner, I’ve got all the tips and tricks on how to cook a turkey on a roaster.
COOKING TURKEY IN A ROASTER
If your kitchen has a single oven, you’ve likely already experienced the frustration of making a holiday meal. Baking the turkey in the oven ties it up giving side dishes zero access.
Move over single oven! There’s a new kid in town: the electric roaster oven, here to make holiday meals much easier and more manageable.
When cooking your electric roasted turkey, you can make preparing a holiday meal less daunting, so let’s talk about this smart and effortless way to do it! \
WHAT TO LOVE
- You can plug an electric roaster oven in anywhere. Heck, to free up counter space in the kitchen, I’ve cooked a turkey in my roaster oven right on top of my dryer – no worries.
- The initial prep for the roaster turkey is the same as what you’d do for an oven turkey – you have to do nothing special or extra.
- Make Thanksgiving easy this year by cooking your turkey (or ham) in a roaster oven.
- Turkey, fully thawed, rinsed, neck and giblets removed from the interior
- Aromatics, citrus, and fresh herbs for the cavity – onions, oranges, lemons, garlic, cut in half
- Celery and carrots (I used these to fashion a “rack” for my turkey to rest on, but you can also put these in the cavity of the turkey if desired
- Baking powder, optional
- Seasoned salt
- Chicken or turkey broth
- Get beautifully browned by adding baking powder to the oil used to brush the exterior of the turkey.
- Thaw your turkey 2-3 days ahead. Never cook a frozen turkey.
- Always cook your turkey by internal temperature, never by time or color. A fully cooked turkey will be 165 degrees F. in the breast and 180 degrees F. in the thigh.
- Don’t open the roaster too often since this will delay when the turkey is finished cooking. Every time the lid is removed, the roaster loses about 25 degrees F. in temperature.
- Don’t touch a bone or the bottom of the roaster with your thermometer. This can give you a false read.
- If you place the turkey onto a platter to present at your holiday table, replace the herbs with fresh ones for a clean look.
TURKEY IN A ROASTER OVEN
Preheat the electric roaster to 450 degrees F. or it’s highest temperature. Place the roaster rack into the bottom of the roaster.
If you’re using the celery and carrots to make a cooking rack, lay the veggies side-by-side across the bottom of the roaster.
Insert the orange, lemon, onion, and garlic halves into the turkey’s cavity. Add a few bundles of fresh herbs, allowing them to protrude from the turkey’s cavity.
Place the prepared turkey onto the cooking rack in the roaster, breast-side-up.
Combine the olive oil and baking powder in a small bowl until smooth. Using a silicone pastry brush, spread it all over the exterior of the turkey.
Make sure to get down into all the nooks and crannies of the turkey skin.
Sprinkle the oiled turkey with seasoned salt all over. Cover the roaster with the lid and let the turkey roast for 30 minutes.
Remove the roaster lid, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F. Add the broth to the roaster slowly since the roaster has just been cooking at 450 degrees.
Hot steam may be produced when the broth is added to the bottom of the roaster.
Continue roasting the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 180°F in the thigh and 165°F in the breast when tested with an instant-read meat thermometer.
Carefully lift the turkey from the roaster oven to a large cutting board. Cover with foil and allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
If you plan to make turkey gravy, strain the drippings that remain in the roaster to use for the gravy.
APPLE CIDER TURKEY BRINE
I love to get the most out of my turkey by allowing an apple cider turkey brine to permeate and flavor the meat. A good brine makes the meat juicy and flavorful, even when it’s overcooked a bit.
I’ve had lots of turkeys in the past that we overcooked, but since they had been brined, they were still moist and juicy.
CAN YOU BRINE A FROZEN TURKEY?
Yes, you can put a frozen turkey into brine. It just needs to be defrosted enough to remove the bag of giblets and neck from the turkey’s cavity.
The turkey will finish defrosting while in the brine. Always keep the turkey and brine refrigerated to keep it at a safe, chilled temperature.
HOW LONG TO COOK A TURKEY IN A ROASTER
When tested with an instant-read meat thermometer, plan to cook unstuffed turkey for 10-12 minutes per pound, or until it reaches 165 degrees F. in the breast and 180 degrees F. in the thigh.
- 7 to 8 pounds – 1 – 1.5 hours
- 12 to 13 pounds– 1.5 to 2 hours
- 15 pounds – 2 to 2.5 hours
- 18 to 20 pounds – 2.5 to 3.5 hours
Remember! It’s always best to cook the turkey by internal temperature, not time!
A safe internal temperature for a fully cooked turkey is 165 degrees F. in the breast and 180 degrees F. in the thigh when tested with an instant-read meat thermometer.
HOW TO PREP A TURKEY FOR ROASTING
Plug the roaster in and turn it to 450 degrees F. Cover the roast and allow it to preheat.
Remove the packaging and rinse the turkey under cool running water.
Remove the turkey neck and bag of giblets from the turkey cavity. You can throw these out or set them aside to make gravy, if preferred.
Place the turkey onto a large, rimmed baking sheet. I use paper towels to pat the turkey exterior dry, then proceed with the steps above.
HOW TO SEASON A TURKEY IN AN ELECTRIC ROASTER
You can season a turkey in any way you prefer when using an electric roaster, just as you would when cooking a turkey in the oven.
Some home cooks like using brines, herb butter, and special seasoning blends to season their turkeys.
I like to brine my turkeys and apply seasoned salt all over the exterior.
HOW OFTEN TO BASTE TURKEY
I never baste my turkey because I brine it before I begin the cooking process.
However, some cooks prefer to brine their turkey every 30-40 minutes as it cooks electric roaster oven.
Remember that whenever you remove the roaster lid to baste the turkey, the heat is escaping, cooling off the interior. This can lead to a longer cooking time until the turkey is done.
Keeping Turkey Warm in an Electric Roaster
The best way to keep your turkey warm in the electric roaster is to cook it ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator once it has cooled.
Then, when you are ready to serve your turkey, slice it up and lay it in your electric roaster to serve with a drizzle of turkey or chicken broth.
Turn your electric roaster to 325 degrees until the turkey is warm throughout, then turn the roaster down to the lowest warm setting.
You can cook your turkey and reheat it safely for up to three days before serving.
CAN I PRECOOK A TURKEY FOR THANKSGIVING?
Precooking a turkey before the Thanksgiving meal is an absolute no-brainer. I cook my turkey ahead of time and let it cool before slicing it.
I place the slices of turkey, dark and white meat, into a large casserole dish and place it into the fridge.
When it’s time for my holiday dinner, I remove the casserole turkey dish from refrigeration and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes to remove some of the chill.
Reheat the turkey, covered, in a 325-degree F. oven until it is warm throughout.
Or, you could also place the cooked turkey directly into the electric roaster set to 325 degrees. Turn the roaster to the warm setting once the cooked turkey is fully warmed.
HOW TO GET CRISPY TURKEY SKIN IN A ROASTER?
Because a turkey cooks in moist heat when using an electric roaster, it is pretty difficult to get really crispy skin.
Some cooks say that they turn the heat up high to 425-450 degrees F. and cook the turkey breast-side-down during the first 30 minutes to get a crisped, brown skin.
After 30 minutes, the roaster is turned down to 350 degrees F. The turkey is then turned breast-side-up to finish cooking.
You can easily get turkey skin that is deeply golden brown (nice!) when cooking in an electric roaster without any trouble.
HOW DO YOU GET A TURKEY GOLDEN BROWN IN A ROASTER?
Truth be told, a turkey cooked in a roaster oven will never be QUITE as browned and beautiful as a turkey cooked in a conventional oven.
However, there are a couple of things you can do to achieve some pretty darn good browning:
- Add 1 tsp. baking powder to 2-3 Tbs. olive oil, then brush this mixture all over the skin of the turkey before cooking it.
- Be sure the roaster is preheated to the very highest temperature before putting the turkey inside to cook. Let the turkey cook at 30 minutes at this high temperature to let it brown and crisp before turning the temperature down to finish cooking.
- Brush some browning sauce all over the turkey skin before cooking it in the roaster oven. Browning sauce is something my Grandma Lucille and my Grandma Elsie used a lot back in the day and the brand was Kitchen Bouquet. You can find browning sauce in the grocery department that’s near the prepared and dry gravy mixes. Use according to the package directions.
CAN YOU USE A TURKEY BAG IN A ROASTER?
A turkey bag is not for use in an electric roaster because an electric roaster is smaller in size than a conventional oven.
It could wind up resting directly on the roaster’s bottom, sides, or top, causing it to melt, possibly releasing unsafe chemicals into the food.
CAN YOU USE A ROASTER LINER WHEN BAKING A TURKEY?
Since this recipe instructs to cook the turkey at 450 degrees F. for the first 30 minutes to get crispy skin and lots of browning, do not use a roaster liner.
Electric roaster liners are safe and suitable for roasting meats or poultry, as long as they are not used at temperatures above 400 degrees F.
WHICH SIZE ROASTER OVEN IS BEST FOR COOKING MY TURKEY?
Typically, electric roasters range in size from 16-quart-capacity to 22-quart-capacity.
As a rule of thumb, a roaster can hold the weight of it’s capacity plus four additional pounds. As an example, a 20-quart-capacity roaster can hold and cook a 24 pound turkey.
I have a 22-quart-capacity roaster and it fits two smaller turkeys side-by-side or one large turkey nicely.
CAN AN ELECTRIC ROASTER BE TOO BIG FOR A TURKEY?
All cooking appliances (including conventional ovens) produce foods that taste better when filling at least half to two-thirds as they cook. Otherwise, the food inside can easily overcook.
HOW BIG OF A TURKEY DO I NEED?
I like to aim for about 1. 5 lbs. of turkey per person when purchasing a turkey.
Yes, this sounds like a lot of turkey per person, but you must factor in bones and big eaters.
If you want to make sure you have some turkey for leftovers, (yay – turkey sandwiches!) figure 2 lbs. of turkey per person when you shop.
If you have ten people to feed and want leftovers, go for that big 20 lb. turkey.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO THAW A TURKEY?
The best, safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Since it will take 24 hours for every 5 lbs. of turkey, you can see that we need to plan a bit.
If you have a 15 lb. turkey to cook in your roaster, it will take at least three full days to thaw completely in the fridge, probably more like four days.
DOES A ROASTER OVEN COOK A TURKEY FASTER THAN A CONVENTIONAL OVEN?
An electric roaster and a conventional oven will cook very similarly. My experience using my roaster oven has been that foods seem to cook more quickly!
I believe this is because it is smaller than my conventional oven. The lid is also very tight fitting and helps the electric roaster retain heat better.
IS IT SAFE TO COOK A STUFFED TURKEY IN A ROASTER?
Yes, you can safely cook a stuffed turkey in a roaster.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A RACK FOR MY ROASTER OVEN?
Us an aluminum foil rope rolled into a coil and placed onto the bottom of the roaster, or vegetables (such as celery and carrots) placed side-by-side over the bottom.
Place the turkey directly on the foil rope or the vegetables to cook.
DO YOU NEED TO ADD BROTH TO AN ELECTRIC ROASTER TO COOK A TURKEY?
I always add a couple of cups of broth to my roaster when cooking my turkey. I add this once I turn the roaster down from 450 degrees F. to 325 degrees F.
Adding broth to the roaster probably means the turkey will steam as it cooks. Therefore the skin may not be as crispy as when you are cooking it in a conventional oven.
But it helps keep the turkey meat nice and moist as it cooks.
HOW TO REHEAT LEFTOVER TURKEY
You can reheat leftover turkey in the microwave or by placing it into a baking dish. Add a splash of broth over the meat, then place the turkey into the oven at 300 degrees F., covered, and warm until hot throughout.
Remove the meat from the turkey bones and store the leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Leftover turkey also freezes well and will keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
WHAT IS AN ELECTRIC ROASTER OVEN?
An electric roaster is a large and versatile cooking device (usually 16-22 quarts in capacity) that cooks food by distributing the heat throughout the chamber. Think of it as a small portable oven!
An electric roaster’s cooking time and temperature settings are the same as when cooking in a conventional oven. A roaster often cooks food a bit more quickly since it is smaller.
It’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s use and care manual for the recommended temperature settings and time allowances.
BEST SIDES FOR A TURKEY IN A ROASTER
- Not a fan of Brussels sprouts? Air Fryer Maple-Bacon Brussels Sprouts will convert you. This healthy vegetable is made extra tender and crispy in the air fryer, tossed with maple syrup and crumbled bacon.
- Baked Pull-Apart Stuffing Ring is Thanksgiving dressing that’s loaded with pork sausage, biscuits and herbs.
- Ricotta Creamed Corn with Bacon – talk about a fabulous side dish that’s a real crowd pleaser! Sweet tender corn in a velvety cream sauce, then topped with crispy bacon.
- Oh, Sweet Potato Crumble, how I adore thee. This sweet potato casserole is a switch hitter – serve it as a side dish or serve it as a dessert…the choice is yours.
Leftover turkey to use up? Try Tropical Turkey Salad for a refreshing chilled salad your family will enjoy.
How to Cook A Turkey in a Roaster
- 20 lb. turkey completely thawed
- 1 orange cut in half
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 1-2 onions cut in half
- 1 head garlic cut in half horizontally, optional
- 6-8 ribs celery, for making a cooking rack in the roaster
- 6-8 whole carrots, for making a cooking rack in the roaster
- fresh herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Seasoned salt
- 2-3 cups chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth
- Preheat the electric roaster to 450 degrees F. or it's highest temperature. Place the roaster rack into the bottom of the roaster. If using the celery and carrots to make a cooking rack, lay them side-by-side across the bottom of the roaster.
- In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and baking powder until smooth. Using a silicone pastry brush, spread it all over the exterior of the turkey, being sure to get down into all the nooks and crannies of the turkey skin.
- Insert the orange, lemon, onion, and garlic halves into the cavity of the turkey. Add a few bundles of fresh herbs, allowing them to protrude from the cavity of the turkey.
- Place the prepared turkey onto the cooking rack in the roaster, breast-side-up. Cover the roaster with the lid and let the turkey roast for 30 minutes.
- Remove the roaster lid, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F. Add the broth to the roaster, taking care as you add it since the roaster has just been cooking at 450 degrees – there may be steam involved when the broth is added to the hot roaster.
- Continue roasting the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 180°F in the thigh and 165°F in the breast when tested with an instant-read meat thermometer.
- Carefully lift the turkey from the roaster oven to a large cutting board; cover with foil and allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
- If you plan to make turkey gravy, strain the drippings that remain in the roaster to use for the gravy.