When it comes to big holiday feasts, one oven just isn’t enough, and I always find myself trying to sort out the intricate timing of roast turkey, stuffing, rolls, and any roasted or baked vegetables. I sit down with recipes and a schedule and plan it all out. If the turkey is done too early, it sits and gets cold and loses that wonderful fresh-from-the-oven juiciness while waiting for the rest of the dishes to finish.
Of course my grandmothers only had one oven, and even with so many of us to feed at Thanksgiving or Christmas, they somehow managed it. My mom’s mother eventually bought one of those roaster ovens that will cook a whole turkey, ham, or other large piece of meat on the counter top, leaving the other oven free for the rest of the dishes. Their kitchen was small, so the turkey roasted in the basement while she and Mom worked on the rest of the meal.
Grandma gave up cooking big meals several years ago and I was the fortunate recipient of her big roaster oven. We’ve tried turkeys and hams in it and have cooked with it just about everywhere, including the front and back porch when I just need the extra room in the kitchen. One thing I’ve learned about cooking turkeys in the roaster oven is that the skin doesn’t brown the way I like if I cook at the recommended 325° F. Last year my sister sent me a note about cooking at 500° F for the first 30 minutes then cooking at 325° F until done, and I thought that was a flash of brilliance. The skin browns and crisps and seals in the juices, and that extra blast of heat shaves a little off the overall cooking time.
I highly recommend doing this with a thermometer, the digital kind with a probe connected. This allows you to monitor the internal temperature and remove roast the turkey at precisely the right time. We’ve tested with both the thermometer and the little popup timers that some turkeys come with, and the digital thermometer always signals ready about 5 to 10 minutes before the popup timer. Since the residual heat will continue to cook the bird for a little while longer, this can mean the difference between moist and juicy or dry meat. Cook time is based on weight, so the cook time and total time are subject to variation based on the size of your turkey. Make sure to read the label and follow the directions.
And of course feel free to rub and season with whatever you like, this is just how we like it.
[Updated November 2016.]
Roast Turkey in a Roaster Oven
- 18 or 22-quart roaster oven with rack
- digital thermometer/timer
- wooden cutting board or other heatproof surface
- whole turkey (10 pounds or larger (up to 18 pounds for an 18-quart roaster oven, and up to 24 pounds for a 22-quart roaster oven))
- 6 large sage leaves
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ lemon
- handful of fresh thyme
- handful of fresh parsley leaves
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Place the roaster oven on a large wooden cutting board or other heat-safe surface. It's going to get hot, so leave plenty of room around it. Remove the rack and the inner liner and put the lid back on. Preheat the roaster oven to the hottest temperature, usually 450° to 500° F.
- While the oven heats, prepare the turkey. Remove the neck and giblets and use the neck to make turkey broth for the gravy. Loosen the skin around the turkey breast and tuck one large sage leaf under the skin on each side. Pat the skin back down. Rub the turkey all over with the olive oil. Tuck the lemon half into the rib cavity and stuff in the thyme, parsley, and rosemary. Place the turkey on the rack in the roaster oven liner. Sprinkle the kosher salt and black pepper all over the bird. Insert the thermometer probe deep into the thigh muscle, but not touching the bone. Leave the probe cable hanging outside the liner.
- Place the liner and turkey in the preheated roaster oven and cover. Connect the probe cable to the digital thermometer and set the temperature alarm for 165° F, the minimum safe internal temperature recommended by the USDA. You can set it higher according to your personal preference. Cook for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325° F.
- When the internal temperature reaches 165° F or your preferred temperature, turn off the oven and lift the bird onto a cutting board or platter. Leave the temperature probe in and cover the bird with foil. Allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the juices to soak back into the meat, then remove the herbs and lemon, and carve.
Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says
Such a beautiful platter of turkey. Mine never looks quite as good once I start cutting into the bird!
Your turkey certainly looks delicious. I've thought about buying one of those roasters for years, but I wonder if I will only use it for turkey?
I use mine for soooo many things! Throw a few pork roasts in it - you will find you have never had it as moist and juicy before! Then, after the roast dinner, put the rest of the meat back in the next day with a ton of bbq sauce for delicious pulled pork! Or, if you are into mexican food, it is great for prepping the pork and chile for tamales, or carne adovada. You can also devise a shelf unit for steaming the tamales. I have used it for large parties to make corn on the cob. It has also fed green chile chicken stew to half the campground at the Telluride Blues and Brew Festival in Colorado, Sept 2010. I LOVE mine! I have had it for four years and just today I am cooking a turkey in it for the first time - kinda doin a test to see if I want to use it for the turkey come holiday time.
Kathy - Panini Happy says
I hadn't heard of a roaster oven before, but I'm sure it's especially useful this time of year! Oven space definitely comes at a premium. 🙂
Susan McKnight says
The size of the bird is 23#. I need to know how many hours beforehand to put the turkey into this ROASTER. That is all I am asking.
Hi Susan. The timing calculation for roasting a turkey is 15-20 minutes per pound for a standard oven with an open pan. The roaster oven is more like a convection oven (without a fan), so in my experience the turkey cooks faster. I have not tried a bird that large in my Nesco, so please double check cooking times on the Butterball website. Happy Thanksgiving!
They have been around forever and are simply wonderful! You can often pick one up around black friday for about $20!!
I LOVE my Nesco roasting oven and after the first time I cooked my turkey in the oven I've never done another one in my oven. That was about 18 yrs ago now. I was amazed at how moist the turkey was coming out of the Nesco. I always thought it may be because it's such a smaller area and the moisture stays so close to the bird. The skin not being brown was always one thing that bothered me since I LOVE the browned crisp skin but I just decided I'd rather have the super moist bird than the crispy brown skin.
I use mine all the time and in fact, I own two of the largest ones and two of the smaller 6 quart sized Nesco ovens. Aside from the turkey, they are awesome for almost everything. I found a Paula Deen recipe a few years ago for a smoked bbq pork and have always done that in my oven. Amazing and perfect every time.
I'll have to try the bumping up of the temperature and see how that works for me too. Thanks for that tip.
Susan McKnight says
I find so many contradictory info here on cooking times. We have a 23 lb turkey that we are stuffing. We need to know what time to turn the Nesco on. I see there is l recipe for 400 degrees for 1 hour.
Then 350 till done. That tells me nothing. How many hours total so we can plan please?
It then says if finished too early reduce temp to 200 till time to serve........ PLEASE HELP ASAP. Thank you!
Hi Susan. The recipe recommends using a digital thermometer and Step 4 specifies the minimum internal temperature for a cooked turkey. This is based on weight, so cooking times will vary based on the size of the bird. Hope this helps!
Barry smith says
The vintage Westinghouse Roaster is the only way to do a large bird or roast. They tend to cook faster than the times listed in minutes/pound. My suggestion on any recipe is do a trial run before getting down to serious business.
Also, if you have a really fresh bird, it can cook faster. It’s best to have finger food as people visit, and have everything else staying warm in an oven until the turkey is done, then turn on peas to steam on the stove if you’re having those, while you make the gravy.