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How to Cook a Turkey in a Roaster

Learn how to cook a turkey in a roaster oven and make the most flavorful, delicious and moist turkey. Free up your oven space by cooking the turkey in an electric roaster.

Roasted turkey on a white platter with an electric turkey roaster behind it on a dining table.

Your oven is full enough on Thanksgiving and other holidays lets free up some space by cooking the turkey in a roaster oven. Let me show you how to cook a turkey in a roaster. My family has been roasting turkeys this way for decades! This is hands down the best way to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

My parents are part of a camping club and every year they would always have a big turkey dinner at the end of the season. Now campers don’t have the biggest ovens (if they have an oven at all) so they would cook the turkey in an electric roaster oven. The turkey was so moist, flavorful and delicious that my parents started cooking turkey in a roaster at at home for thanksgiving. That had to have started over twenty years ago.

Looking for other ways to cook a turkey? Did you know you can air fry a turkey. It’s another one of our favorite ways to cook a turkey. The crispy skin is out of this world. Don’t forget the side dishes. Try this broccoli casserole with Ritz crackers or apple sausage stuffing.

Turkey Roaster

This Hamilton Beach roaster oven is very similar to the one we’ve been using for years. The newer version is just slightly larger to hold up to a 28 lb turkey. If you are looking for more of a budget option or smaller this 18 Qt roaster oven is a great choice.

Partially cooked turkey in an electric roaster.

Roasted Turkey Ingredients

  • Turkey- Must be completely thawed if you bought a frozen turkey. Also check to see what size turkey your roaster will fit.
  • Butter- We like to use this Herb Butter Turkey Rub.
  • Fresh Herbs- Rosemary, thyme and parsley are great for poultry seasoning.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cold Water- To add to the roasting pan.

How long does it take a turkey to thaw?

How long to cook a turkey depends on the size of the bird. The rule of thumb is 4-5 pounds per day. Meaning a 15 pound turkey will thaw in 3 days where a 20 pound turkey will take 4 days to thaw in the fridge. The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator.

Before roasting your turkey take it out about an hour before so it’s at room temperature before roasting.

Rubbing butter under turkey skin in a roasting pan on a white counter.

How to Prep a Turkey Before Roasting

Before roasting they turkey make sure to remove the bag of giblets and neck from the cavity of the turkey. Some people will then wash the turkey (more like rinse). This can be controversial and we have debated this a lot in our family. Whether you wash it or not make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel.

Carefully and gently loosen the skin away from the turkey breast and legs using your hand. Make sure not to rip the skin this is important for keeping the moisture in. You are creating pockets so you can spread half the herb butter rub all over your turkey. I promise you this is the most difficult part of the recipe but take your time with it. With the other half of the butter rub it on the outside of the turkey. Season the outside and the turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Note: You can add olive oil to the outside of the turkey to help crisp the skin.

Uncooked turkey in a roaster pan with a herb butter on it.

How Long to Cook a Turkey in a Roaster Oven

The cooking time for a turkey in a roaster is going to depend on the weight of your turkey. In a roaster oven you should cook a turkey 13 minutes per pound at 350º F for an unstuffed turkey.

Stuffing the turkey makes the cook time longer. Instead I make this apple sausage stuffing in a baking dish separately.

How to Cook a Turkey in an Electric Roaster

  • Preheat the roaster oven to 400º F
  • Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.
  • Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Rub herb butter under the turkeys skin and on the outside of the bird.
  • Salt and pepper the outside of the bird and in the cavity.
  • Add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the pan. (This is optional. For a crispier skin omit the water. We add it to have enough drippings to make gravy with).
  • Place the whole turkey on the roasting rack breast side up.
  • Roast turkey for 30 minutes at 400º F.
  • After 30 minutes lower the heat to 350ºF. Total roasting time should be about 13 minutes per pound.
  • Baste turkey every hour.
  • The turkey will be done when the internal temperature is 165º F. You can check this with a meat thermometer in the breast or the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Remove turkey from the roaster and let rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving.
Yield: 12 Servings

Roaster Oven Turkey

Turkey Roaster

Roast a turkey in an electric roaster oven to save oven space this Thanksgiving or holiday. How to cook a turkey in a roaster oven to make the most flavorful, delicious and moist turkey.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 48 minutes

Ingredients

  • 15-20 lb Turkey, thawed
  • 3/4 Cup of Butter Softened (1.5 Sticks)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Chopped Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chopped Fresh Sage
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chopped Fresh Rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Cups of Water

Instructions

  1. Preheat the roaster oven to 400º F
  2. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.
  3. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Rub herb butter under the turkey's skin and on the outside of the bird.
  5. Salt and pepper the outside of the bird and in the cavity.
  6. Add 2 cups of water to your roaster. (This is optional. For a crispier skin omit the water. We add it to have enough drippings to make gravy with).
  7. Place turkey in the roaster breast side up.
  8. Roast turkey for 30 minutes at 400º F.
  9. Lower the heat to 350ºF after 30 minutes. Total roasting time should be about 13 minutes per pound.
  10. Baste turkey every hour.
  11. Internal temperature of the turkey should be 165º F when done. You can check this with a meat thermometer.
  12. Let turkey rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 21535Total Fat: 850gSaturated Fat: 252gTrans Fat: 12gUnsaturated Fat: 544gCholesterol: 12391mgSodium: 11798mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 3238g

Nutrition values are estimates only.

Perfectly cooked roasted turkey on a white platter on a wooden dining table.

Don’t throw out your turkey carcass.

I repeat don’t throw out the turkey carcass. You want to save it to make turkey bone broth. So many people throw out the turkey carcass. But don’t throw it out. It’s filled with vitamins, collagen and nutrients that make for a great bone broth. Here’s my favorite tried and true way to make turkey bone broth.

I hope this was helpful we love cooking the turkey in an electric turkey roaster for the perfect turkey who needs a regular oven! Enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey.

Cooked turkey on a white platter with a turkey roaster behind it on a dining table.

Leftover Turkey Recipes

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