Thanksgiving Roast Turkey: Stuffed or Unstuffed

Thanksgiving roast turkey recipe

​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

  • Total: 4 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 4 hrs
  • Yield: 1 Turkey (16 to 68 Servings)

It's easy to roast a stuffed or unstuffed turkey for Thanksgiving or for any occasion. Before roasting your turkey, ensure that you know the difference between stuffing and dressing. This recipe, from ​​"Blue Ribbon Country Cookbook"​ by Diane Roupe, makes a 3/4- to 1-pound serving per guest.

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Watch Now: How to Roast a Perfect Turkey

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this roast turkey dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and roasting.

How to Prepare a Turkey for Roasting

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for turkey
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  2. Do not stuff the turkey until you are ready to roast it. When you are ready to roast, rinse the outside and cavities of the bird under cold, running water. Then place the turkey on several layers of paper towels to drain it. Using additional paper towels, pat the outside and cavities dry.

    Pat turkey
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. Cut away and discard any fat remaining.

    Cut fat
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  4. Sprinkle the cavities liberally with salt and pepper.

    Prep turkey
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How to Stuff a Turkey

  1. With the turkey breast-up on the cutting board, use a tablespoon to stuff the neck cavity loosely with dressing.

    Stuff turkey
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  2. Pull the neck skin over the dressing and fasten it to the body with a poultry skewer.

    Stuff
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  3. Rotate the bird around so that the legs are facing you and you can see the other, larger cavity. Stuff the dressing loosely, because the dressing expands during cooking.

    Stuff more
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How to Truss a Turkey

  1. Pull the legs close to the body and tie the ends with a cotton string and folder the wingers under the bird. This will provide a platform for roasting.

  2. If the tail has been left on the bird, tie the legs to the tail to partially close the body cavity.

    Truss a turkey
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. Some frozen turkeys are packed with a metal clamp to secure the legs, in which case it is not necessary to tie the legs with string.

How to Season a Turkey

  1. Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a wire rack in a shallow roasting pan.

    Season turkey
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  2. Brush all of the exposed surfaces with vegetable oil. Sprinkle liberally with your choice of herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.

    Brush with vegetable oil
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  3. Insert a meat thermometer into one of the inner thigh areas near the breast, ensuring that the tip of the thermometer does not touch the bone.

    Insert thermometer
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How to Roast a Stuffed Turkey

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. 

  2. Cover the turkey loosely with extra-heavy aluminum foil, leaving space between the bird and the foil. Lightly tuck the foil around the front, back, and sides of the bird. Do not add water to the pan. Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit and the juices run clear. (Check this guide for roasting times.)

    Cover with foil
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. The roasting time may vary up to 30 minutes, depending on the bird and the oven. Use the meat thermometer to check the temperature of the dressing. The center of the dressing inside the bird or in a separate baking dish must reach 165 F to ensure food safety.

  4. Remove the aluminum foil about 30 minutes before the turkey is done to complete the browning of the bird.

    Remove foil
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  5. When done, remove the turkey from the oven and place it on a serving platter or carving board; cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil and let it stand 10 minutes before carving it.

    Roasted turkey
    ​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  6. Meanwhile, make the turkey gravy. Remove all of the dressing from the neck and body cavities before carving the turkey. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat.

    Make gravy
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How to Roast an Unstuffed Turkey

  1. Follow the previous instructions, omitting the stuffing.

    Ingredients for unstuffed turkey
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  2. Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 180 F.

    Season turkey
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  3. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

  • You can refrigerate a whole, fresh–not frozen–turkey safely for up to two days after you buy it before roasting.
  • If using a frozen turkey, make sure that you safely thaw your frozen turkey before you begin roasting it.
  • Many commercial turkeys are packed with a disposable thermometer inserted into the breast, which will pop up when the bird is done. Instead, insert a standard meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh when you place the turkey in the oven; this is a much better way to determine when the turkey is done.