How to Cook a Turkey in a Roaster Oven

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4 minutes
October 3, 2022
Carole JonesJump to Recipe

The best way to manage your oven space on Thanksgiving is to learn how to cook a turkey in a roaster oven because it frees up your oven for those pies, rolls, and side dishes! An electric roaster oven is a must-have piece of kitchen equipment for the holidays and my recipe and video tutorial will create the perfect turkey every time.

And YES, you can get that beautifully browned skin in a roaster oven 🙂

how to roast a turkey in a roaster oven

For way too many years, I fought the battle for oven space and schedule on Thanksgiving Day. It is HARD to get it all on the table at one time, still hot and looking delicious. To finally win that battle, I made two major changes in my Thanksgiving prep:

  1. I created a master Thanksgiving Cooking Schedule & Oven Timing Planner. Get your free copy!
  2. I moved my turkey into an electric roaster oven.

When your oven is taken up for 3-5 hours on the turkey, it then becomes a mad dash to get everything else done either before or after. Lose that craziness and switch to a roaster oven!

how to cook a turkey in a roaster oven

How long to thaw your turkey

It isn’t hard to properly roast a turkey but it has to be completely thawed first, and that takes time. It is best to let your turkey thaw slowly in the fridge the week before the big feast.

The general formula is to allow 24 hours to thaw for every 4 pounds of frozen turkey. So to save you some time doing the math…

12 pounds72 hours = 3 days
14 pounds84 hours = 3 1/2 days
16 pounds96 hours = 4 days
18 pounds108 hours = 4 1/2 days

Remember that these are just estimates. I always like to add an extra 12-24 hours just to be safe! Yes, you can “speed defrost” a turkey in cold water, but that requires changing the water every 30 minutes and the risk for contamination is just too high for my comfort.

raw turkey with seasonings

When is the turkey done roasting?

Yes, many turkeys come with those handy little red pop-up indicators, but I don’t trust them….at all. Spend $15 bucks and get a proper food thermometer because it is perfect for more than just turkey! Once you know an exact temperature of your cooked proteins, you will stop overcooking them and be amazed how much better of a cook you have become 🙂

The only way to know a turkey is fully cooked (and not overcooked!) is with a temperature reading…which is very simple to do. For the breast meat, insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat, running parallel to the ribs. That reading should be 165 degrees.

You need to check the thigh meat as well, which should be at 175 degrees. Once you have reached those temperatures, remove the turkey from the roaster and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Don’t skip the resting!

Resting your finished turkey before carving is very important, but the step most new cooks skip because they want to eat now 🙂 Giving the finished bird time to sit after allows the meat to reabsorb the juices. If you skip it, they will all dribble out and you will have a dry turkey.

Also, it is important that you don’t tent the bird with foil while it rests or it will make the skin soggy. It will still be a perfect hot temperature after the resting period.

How to Cook a Turkey In a Roaster Oven Video

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How to Cook a Turkey in a Roaster Oven

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Easy, step by step recipe for the perfect roast turkey in an electric roaster oven!

  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 1 turkey 1x

Ingredients

Scale

1 thawed turkey

3 onions, peeled and roughly chopped

20 baby carrots

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons butter, divided

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 1/2 teaspoons pepper, divided

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Instructions

  1. Remove the rack from the roaster oven, place on the lid, and preheat to the highest temperature available on your model.
  2. Determine your total cooking time by multiplying the weight of your turkey by 15 minutes per pound.
  3. Remove turkey from the packaging, untuck the legs, then remove the innards from both ends. Do not rinse.
  4. Place turkey on the rack, handles facing up. 
  5. Combine onions, carrots, celery, 1 Tb salt, 1 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp poultry seasoning, and 1 Tb butter. Place half the mixture into the turkey cavity, then re-tuck the legs.
  6. Spread 2 Tb butter on the outside of the turkey, the sprinkle on remaining 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.
  7. Place rack into the hot roaster, sprinkle remaining veggies around the turkey, and replace the lid. Cook on highest temperature for 30 minutes. Do not open the lid.
  8. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees and cook for the remaining amount of time from your calculations you did in step 2. Do not lift the lid.
  9. Turkey is finished when the breasts reach 165 degrees and the thighs 175 degrees.
  10. Let rest 20-30 minutes before carving.
  • Author: Carole Jones
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 oz
  • Calories: 43
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 16 mg
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 9 g
  • Cholesterol: 26 g

Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

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