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Slow roasting the turkey: a homily

I slow roast my turkeys, and I think you should, too. Especially if you're cooking a big one.

It all started with chickens. Why, I wondered, are rotisserie chickens so much better than the ones I cook at home? Why do they pull apart into big delicious chunks of meat rather than being held together by tight, stringy pieces of connective tissue? Does the rotisserie have magical powers? Isn't it pretty much just a heat source with a rotating skewer? Gee, I thought, I know how to deal with connective tissue. Cook it low and slow, like a braise. So I cooked a chicken for 8 hours or so at 250 (without any liquid, in a regular roasting pan). The skin was definitely not great, but the meat was epic. Incredibly tender, and the juiciest roast chicken I'd ever made. Why don't people do this? I wondered. What an unimaginable travesty that most people cook their roast chickens at 350 or 450. I can't find any evidence that salmonella makes a heat-resistant spore or toxin, but I think part of the reason is that people are concerned about food safety. Also, nobody likes rubbery, anemic chicken skin.

It was the Amish who solved the food safety problem and the disappointing skin problem in one fell swoop: start the turkey in a hot oven and then turn it down before the meat gets hot enough to start losing moisture or toughening up. I cooked this year's 20-ish pound work-turkey at 450 for an hour, then 250 for 7 hours. It was . . beyond words: picture-perfect brown on the outside (I didn't take a picture, because I am dumb) and just shy of fall-apart tender on the inside: you could slice it into nice-looking pieces, but you could cut it with a fork once it was on your plate. I think the slow roasting gives good results for two main reasons. First, protein gets tough at high temperature. Second, you lose less moisture as steam. Basic science tells us that temperature is the average kinetic energy. In a hotter oven, the distribution of kinetic energy is less even. In, say, a 350 degree oven, when the probe tells you it's 160 or 165 inside, in small spots, especially near the surface, it's much hotter than that. Not only do the hot spots get tough, but the temperature inside the turkey doesn't have time to equalize before the moisture molecules evaporate out of the turkey. The bigger the bird, the worse the effect. In a 250 degree oven, you get less of that phenomenon. It seems strange, but you can cook the turkey to temperatures that by intuition should result in a dessicated, horrible bird- think 200 degrees internal- and instead end up with a bird that's moister than a bird cooked to 160 using the normal methods. One could argue that this method is safer- it takes almost 165 degrees to be sure the bacteria are dead, but you can't cook it extra in a hot oven because you'll dry out the breast. With slow roasting, every nook and cranny of the bird is well over 165, and for a longer time. One caveat, though, is to suck out the juices from the bottom of the pan now and then. By the same logic that the moisture evaporates out of the turkey less, it travels less distance from the turkey before cooling back to liquid, and so it pools in the pan. Too much moisture in the pan will make the bottom of the turkey soggy, and will hinder the browning of your drippings. A side benefit of this method is that you have at least a good hour where the turkey is perfect, and it doesn't need to rest quite as long when taken out of the oven. This results in more flexibility with your meal time.

This sermon ends with a call to action. I believe deep in my gut that this is how poultry was meant to be roasted, and I want the world to know. I'm not a religious gal, but this, this was preordained. Roasting a turkey in an unusual method probably sounds scary- it would be horrible if you ruined an expensive turkey and didn't have one to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. So, how about a baby step? How about slow roasting a chicken some time this week? It'll mean a late dinner if you're starting it after work, but remember that you can cook it in a 450 degree oven until the temperature is 100 or so, and then turn the oven down to 250 and let it work its magic. I think once is all it will take to get you hooked. If you've read this far, you have my sincerest respect, and I hope you'll join the revolution.

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  1. i'm not a religious gal either, but you held me until the end! and you're not alone - fellow Hounds have voiced their appreciation in the past for low & slow turkey:

    i know ATK/CI did a feature on it once too. if i was doing a whole bird this year and not just a breast, i'd join the revolution ;)

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet


      I guess I should clarify that I discovered it in the Columbus sense. . .

      And should maybe also add, after reading lots of safety concerns on the linked thread, that there are options. You might want to turn down the oven when a chicken gets to 100 inside, because it heats up so fast, but with a big turkey, you can probably go to 120 or 140 before you turn down the oven, to no ill effects. So, you can leave it at 450 for extra time and cover it, or keep it at 350 for a while afterwards, and probably be in the danger zone for the same amount of time as you would cooking it through at 350, or not much longer. The 450 for an hour then 250 was born of the fact that I had to start it in the middle of the night to be ready at lunchtime, and was too lazy to wake up any more times to cover/uncover it or change the oven temperature.

      1. re: jvanderh

        I guess I should clarify that I discovered it in the Columbus sense. . .
        i hope you didn't take my post the wrong way! i meant it as a positive thing, to point out that you're in good company.

        as for the safety concerns, i'm in the camp that it's not much of an issue if you're smart about it. maybe this will make some of the more conservative cooks feel better:

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          No offense taken, ghg.

          That was an interesting read. C. Perfringens is a nasty, horrible bugger- it's been tormenting my fella's dog for months and months. It took four antibiotics to kick it- I'm not surprised it can survive in a turkey *shudder*

    2. I am in sync with you on the slow roasting method but there's a couple of points you may want to re-evaluate.
      The rotisserie chicken you get from the supermarket "take out" is slow roasted but it is also on a rotisserie and that promotes a more even distribution of moisture in the meat during he cooking process.
      Most of the moisture lost from your bird remains in the baking vessel as drippings. From there, as its temperature increases, it will begin to evaporate. Moisture lost as steam is lost to either the outside environment (oven vent) or condensed to find its way to the baking vessel along with the drippings that don't evaporate. The moisture inside the bird can only be lost as steam if the inside of the bird reaches 212 degrees at sea level.
      The center of the breast at the minimum temperature of 160 degrees will mean, as you stated, that the meat closer to the surface is at a somewhat higher temperature, but I've never found a better method for determining when the bird was ready for removal from the oven so using a digital thermometer is all I can offer as advice to my students.
      Although I would agree with your statement "... protein gets tough at high temperature", once it gets past that temperature the fibers tend to relax (think braise) as the gelatinous molecules do their magic. I believe you make that point with "It seems strange, but you can cook the turkey to temperatures that by intuition should result in a dessicated, horrible bird- think 200 degrees internal- and instead end up with a bird that's moister than a bird cooked to 160 using the normal methods."
      Thanks for sharing what you learned from your experiences; and I enjoy your style of writing.

      1. <<<A side benefit of this method is that you have at least a good hour where the turkey is perfect, and it doesn't need to rest quite as long when taken out of the oven. This results in more flexibility with your meal time.>>>

        I really want to try this on my bird this year but I am not sure I understand this part.
        I need to manage my "oven time". In the standard 350 degree method, it is pretty easy to figure out how long it will take- and you can take it out a little early and let it rest for an hour while using the oven for the other dishes.

        With this method.......???? Does the Turkey NOT need to rest? Does it matter if you leave it to rest on the counter anyway -so you can have the oven back? At 250 degrees, is there a hour per pound formula?

        Thanks for your post!

        1 Reply
        1. re: sedimental

          Cool, a potential convert! I planned on a good couple hours more than if you were to cook it at 350 throughout. I cooked my 20 lb turkey at 450 uncovered for one hour and 250 covered for seven more. The nice thing is that you can tweak it based on the time you have, because it's really only the oven temp toward the end of the cooking time that matters- just cover if it gets too brown. We ate it about 40 minutes after it came out, and it was definitely still hot. If you're making a much smaller one, an hour of resting might be too long. I might wrap a towel around the roasting pan or something to hold in some heat, or plan to cook it in big heavy cast iron.

        2. I do the reverse - low slow roast at 250 or so, breast down. Then flip it, and continue slow and slow for a while until it's nearly cooked. Then baste with butter or ghee and roast at 400 until skin is done.

          And I brine the turkey for 12-24 hours with kosher salt before roasting. Simple and easy. Usually I also stuff the turkey with homemade stuffing but that's optional.

          1. Interestingly, I got this in my email the other day and thought I'd give it a try: slow cooker turkey http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/slow-coo... Since I have an old 1-temp Crock Pot, I will start it in the oven for an hour, then go to the Crock Pot -- I'll use the crock in the oven then transfer to its heater.

            5 Replies
            1. re: travelerjjm

              I think that technique sounds good, but are you using the small 6 lb turkey breast they describe? That sounds like way too much time, since a crock pot on low is around 250F, and I cooked a 20lb turkey in that time. I think it would be falling apart completely.

              1. re: jvanderh

                I was thinking of putting a remote probe thermometer in and seeing how it goes. My turkey breast is a bit bigger than theirs I think. I also think my cooker runs closer to 200 or less -- I live at 8500ft and it takes a while to get water to boil (196). But yeah, it sounded like a long time.

                1. re: travelerjjm

                  I think an hour in the oven is too long, too. I'd go until it looks nicely browned or until it's 100F inside, whichever comes first. I think that will be more like 30 or 40 minutes. This is a bone-in, skin-on breast, right? Slow roasting is no good with really lean, well-trimmed meat. If your eating time is flexible, it sounds like a great experiment.

              2. re: travelerjjm

                To report back: The Crock Pot was about a half inch too small in diameter, so I did it in the oven. About 60 mins at 300, then about six hours at 200, until it reached 170F. My wife said "wow, turkey I actually *like*!" To be fair, she liked my smoked turkey, too, but otherwise she is not a turkey lover.

              3. I have a relatively small turkey (10.4 lbs) and I am not going to stuff inside the bird. Does anyone have any idea of how many minutes per pound I should plan on? I have ONE very small oven and it will be a juggling act to get everything cooked in there...unless we want to eat in stages (we don't). I need to have an approximate dinner time which I realize can vary but I don't want everyone sitting around getting too drunk (cranberry martinis!) waiting for dinner. Nor do I want them to have to go straight from the front door to the table. I am doing the 3 day salt rub.

                8 Replies
                1. re: sparkareno

                  You may wish to get an inexpensive chafing dish to help you to cook things and keep them warm afterwards outside your one oven. Any Sam's Club, Walamart, Target, etc has these racks and sterno cans. They are inexpensive and invaluable for a party or get-together.

                  1. re: jkling17

                    good idea but I won't go near any of those stores today. Also, my house is very tiny so no storage space. And that still wouldn't solve the problem of telling people what time to come over.

                    1. re: sparkareno

                      >> And that still wouldn't solve the problem of telling people what time to come over.

                      Oh well that IS something that I can help with. Guests that come bearing alchohol may start to arrive at 2:30pm. Everyone else may feel free to arrive at 4:30. :-)

                  2. re: sparkareno

                    I'd say around 5 hours, all told. As mentioned to travelerjim above, for a smaller bird/part of a bird, you might want less time at 450. I'd go until it looks nicely brown or until it's 100F inside, whichever comes first. I think that will be closer to 40 minutes. Then 250 for four more hours or so. Keep an eye on the temperature- if it's climbing too slowly, cover the bird and turn up the oven for a while. If you're approaching 165 in the thigh and not ready to eat, turn the oven down to its lowest setting. Travelerjim also mentioned a crockpot. If you have a trustworthy one, I think that would be a good option for the low & slow part. I've used balled up tin foil to keep meat from sitting in the juices. If you're going to need a good hour to prepare the rest of the meal, I'd take precautions to keep your turkey warm during that time- either roast it in something heavy with a good lid, or wrap it in towels when it comes out.

                    The cranberry martinis sound great!

                    1. re: sparkareno

                      Here is a chart for you, sparkareno. This chart is for 30 - 1 hour at 475° uncovered, then covered for 250°. Hope the chart comes out readable; I've had to play around with it to get in what to me appears to be the proper format. Well, I can see it doesn't come out exactly aligned, but I think you can tell be looking what heading goes with what is underneath it. If not, just ask, please.

                      Size Time at 475°F Time at 250°F Resting Time Total Preparation Time

                      10 lbs. 20 minutes 3 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 4 hours

                      11 lbs. 20 minutes 3 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 4 hours 20 minutes

                      12 lbs. 20 minutes 4 hours 20 minutes 4 hours 40 minutes

                      13 lbs. 20 minutes 4 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 5 hours

                      14 lbs. 20 minutes 4 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 5 hours 20 minutes

                      15 lbs. 20 minutes 5 hours 20 minutes 5 hours 40 minutes

                      16 lbs. 20 minutes 5 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 6 hours

                      17 lbs. 20 minutes 5 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 6 hours 20 minutes

                      18 lbs. 20 minutes 6 hours 20 minutes 6 hours 40 minutes

                      19 lbs. 20 minutes 6 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 7 hours

                      20 lbs. 20 minutes 6 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 7 hours 20 minutes

                      1. re: Wtg2Retire

                        Wtg2retire, You are AMAZING!

                        Have you done turkey this way before? I am excited to try it!

                        1. re: Wtg2Retire

                          Those times looks about right! Very cool. Where did you find it?

                          1. re: Wtg2Retire

                            Thank you for the chart--yes it is very easy to read.!!

                        2. Well, so far in the 20 minutes that my turkey was @ 475....the skin burned & I set off the smoke alarm. LOL. I guess the apple juice mixed w/butter that I rubbed on it did it. Now it is covered.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sparkareno

                            Oh dear. I rubbed butter on mine and didn't have any problems. Hope it turned out ok!

                          2. Reporting in..........
                            I roasted a 17 lb Turkey in a 475 oven for 40 minutes, then a 250 oven for about 5 1/2 or 6 hours or until 170ish in the thigh and breast both. I cooked the stuffing separately but filled the cavity with an orange, lemons and herb package in cheesecloth. Roasted over some veg, white wine and butter.

                            It was terrific!!!! Tender and juicy, we cut the white meat with a fork. Best of all, I didn't have to worry if it was done all the way through. Every part of it was up to temp and could hold there for hours without drying out.

                            This is my new way to cook Turkey from now on. It took longer but was much less hassle by far!

                            Note: next time I might roast it at 450 instead, 475 was a bit hot and I don't know that it needs to be that hot for that nice mahogany color.

                            1 Reply
                            1. Last weekend's America's Test Kitchen touched on both slow roasting turkeys and dry-brining them. They said the best way is to keep it at the low temperature for the whole time. They did a side-by-side and the bird that was cooked at a higher temp at first and later lowered was overcooked on the outside (inside was fine). The constant low temp bird was the same temperature inside and out. And they dry brined the bird. It was easier than wet brine and just as juicy.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pdxgastro

                                my last turkey i followed these directions.
                                turkey was great, not dry at all, breast and thigh meat perfect. i did miss the stuffing in the bird and only birds under 20# are recommended. also the defrost time was a little off but that could be my fridge was too cold. otherwise this method works great and it is the way i will do my next bird soon.

                              2. Can I revive this wonderful thread to ask whether it's worth brining the turkey for added flavor before slow roasting? Thanks!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: makinitgreen

                                  Yes, it's worth it. But read the label carefully. Frozen/injected/basted and Kosher birds don't need brining.

                                  For more details:



                                  1. re: makinitgreen

                                    It's a lot easier simply to "dry brine" - that is, just salt - the turkey.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      This is how I roast any poultry. Been doing it this way for years.
                                      IMO 250F is still too high. Note at the end Heston simply puts the bird back in a screaming hot oven for a couple of minutes. Result? How many M. stars does he have?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgU-Wy...
                                      A couple of years ago his restaurant was voted the best in the world. Got to be a good reason. One of them would be he knows how to cook perfect poultry. This method works exactly the same for turkey.

                                    2. re: makinitgreen

                                      So sorry not to have seen that this thread was resurrected! I haven't been too impressed with brining, but I like to presalt also, if I have the time, especially if it means giving the skin a chance to dry out before roasting.

                                    3. I am tempted to try this this year but I have a couple of questions.

                                      1. Is it necessary to cover the turkey to achieve good results?

                                      2. How long does it take for the oven temp to drop from 450 to 250?

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Westminstress

                                        Just try this once please.
                                        Wet brine turkey over night. Pat dry.
                                        Rub S&P NO butter/oil.
                                        NEVER EVER cover a 'low and slow' bird. You'll end up with a stewed/steamed horrible result!!!!!
                                        Into a preheated 200F oven. Yes I said a 200F oven. NO HIGHER!
                                        After an hour or so check temp with thermometer in thickest part of the thigh. Do this about every half hour until the internal temp is 150F. Now remove from oven and tent lightly for al least an hour. Yes, an hour. Crank up the oven to screaming hot. Carefully put bird back into the oven and watch as the skin turns a golden color. This will only take a few minutes. Remove and rest again for another few minutes. Carve and enjoy the best turkey you will have ever eaten.
                                        Literally everyone I have been able to try this method one time has NEVER cooked any bird any other way again. That's a promise.
                                        You are likely reluctant to try this with a large expensive bird like a turkey so try this exact same method with a chicken and you'll see/taste for yourself.

                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                          how many hrs per pound? People will need that information to consider doing this....

                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                            When one removes the bird at 150 internal temp, can I wrap in foil and then more insulation (e.g. a towel) to hold it longer than an hour? How long can it be safely held before crisping the skin?

                                            1. re: travelerjjm

                                              I did a turkey crown (just the breasts) low and slow last year (I posted a report with details if you're inclined to have a look) - I did just that, foil and a few kitchen towels - the uncarved half of the breast was still good and hot after we ate and got around to slicing the leftovers.

                                              1. re: travelerjjm

                                                Removing the bird at 150F will result in some 'carry-over' Maybe a few degrees. Understand that at this point the bird is done and could be eaten.
                                                Do not wrap the bird up tight in foil. You'll likely screw up the top skin layer and the carry-over could raise the internal temp higher than what is optimal for a juicy bird. Just lightly tent it with tin foil.
                                                The purpose of 'resting' the bird is for all the connective tissues and protein strands in the meat to slowly relax and draw back any moisture they have squeezed out during the cooking process. The only reason to put the bird back in the screaming hot oven is to crisp the skin so it will 'look pretty'. None other.

                                            2. re: Westminstress

                                              Sorry to have missed this. With a really huge bird, I sometimes find that the wing tips or the top of the breast are getting too brown before I want to turn the oven down, so I cover those little spots in foil.

                                            3. How do I get this recipe for a 15 lb turkey

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Garyphill

                                                It's a method more than a recipe. Roast until your bird hits temperature.

                                                1. re: Garyphill

                                                  My friend is a chef and he cooks his 15lb turkeys in a deep baking pan between 210-230 degrees for about 9-10 hours overnight, then he adds an additional hour at 350 degrees or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. It has to reach this temperature internally for food safety purposes. If you do not have a baking thermometer, as I don't either, stab the inner thigh, if the fluid runs clear it's done, if it is pink or any color other than clear it is not done yet. I cook mine this way too, hope it helps out.

                                                2. Here's the recipe as my Dad always did - perfection.
                                                  Pour boiling water all over the bird and cavities to sanitize.

                                                  Butter the outside of the bird and salt and pepper

                                                  Pour 1 cup of cooking oil in the cavity then stuff with bread stuffing

                                                  Put breast side down in roasting pan, put in 300 degree oven for 1 hour then turn down to 185 and roast one hour per pound.

                                                  Flip bird and crisp skin a bit at 300 till browned

                                                  Remove, let rest and be in heaven!

                                                  1. I have another question: I'm going to be cooking the turkey at home and then I have to transport it 15 minutes away to my friend's house where we'll be eating. What's the best way to do this? Do I crisp up the skin when I get there and then carve it? Do I need to let the bird sit after I crisp the skin if I've already let it sit at home? How do I keep it warm? I would just drive the turkey over to my friend's house and cook it there, but she needs her oven, and I also have a baby, so the logistics are a little messy. Thanks in advance!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: makinitgreen

                                                      I'm so sorry to have missed your question. Hope everything worked out.

                                                    2. I have been slow roasting turkeys for over twenty years now. The first time I slow roasted a turkey was simply by experiment and I have never cooked one any other way. I hear people talk about rotisserie turkeys, fried turkeys, etc. but I think the slow roasted is by far the juiciest and best turkey you can ever eat. This recipe is a lot of work and time but I feel it is worth it.

                                                      This is my recipe:
                                                      I thaw the turkey in the refrigerator.
                                                      I begin my turkey prep on Monday night before Thanksgiving.
                                                      Mix light, low to no salt Cajun seasonings, 1 stick of unsalted butter (not margarine), 1 clove garlic, water and just a touch of olive oil in a mixing bowl. Go easy on the seasoning because turkey will be injected 3 different times. I remove the turkey from the refrigerator, unwrap and clean. I save the giblets and neck for turkey and sausage gumbo on Friday (not getting that recipe). Place turkey in roasting pan with roasting rack. Turkey must be elevated above the bottom of the pan about 2 inches. I prefer a flat pan rack vs. a V shaped rack. Inject mixture into turkey. Inject very slight amount of mixture into a lot of areas of turkey. I usually inject about every 2 inches of breasts, thighs, legs, and wings. Cover using aluminum foil and place in refrigerator. Do not let turkey warm to room temperature. Butter solidifies in turkey while in refrigerator. As the turkey slowly cooks, butter slowly melts into turkey meat.
                                                      Tuesday night, remove turkey from refrigerator and inject using same injection mixture as on Monday night. Cover and place in refrigerator. Do not let turkey warm.
                                                      Wednesday afternoon, remove turkey from refrigerator and inject slightly with same mixture. Take remaining injection mixture and add 1 to 1-1/2 cups of honey and poultry rub in mixing bowl. Using a basting brush, brush honey mixture onto outside of turkey. After brushing turkey, add 2 cups of water to mixing bowl and mix with remaining honey mixture. Pour remaining mixture into bottom of roasting pan. Add more water to bottom of roasting pan until liquid is about 1 inch deep in pan. Cover turkey making sure not to let foil touch top of turkey. Keep foil about 2 inches away from skin of turkey. Place turkey in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
                                                      Calculate cook time based on weight of turkey. Need to allow 40 minutes to 50 minutes per pound. A twenty pound turkey takes me about 14 hours to cook. Time also depends on size and type of oven, conventional, convection, etc. Experimenting with time beforehand is best.
                                                      Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
                                                      Place turkey directly from refrigerator to oven. Do not remove foil.
                                                      Cook turkey for 2 hours.
                                                      Remove foil from turkey and baste using bulb type baster. After basting turkey, use baster to suck juice from cavity and mix juice in bottom of pan. Do not re-cover turkey.
                                                      Baste turkey every hour in this manner until thigh temp reaches 150 degrees. Do not let fluid in bottom of pan get below 1/2 inch deep or above 1 inches deep.
                                                      Raise oven temperature to 425 - 450 degrees. Begin basting turkey every 15 minutes until skin is golden brown and turkey temp is 165 - 170 degrees (measured at thigh bone).
                                                      Remove turkey and let rest uncovered for 15 - 30 minutes. Resting time is for ease of carving. Turkey can be eaten straight from oven.
                                                      Strain turkey drippings from bottom of roasting pan to make turkey gravy.
                                                      Fold and place large towel under carving board (turkey will be so juicy, juices will flow off carving board (I didn't figure this out until about year 5).
                                                      Carve turkey and serve.

                                                      At Christmas I will try a Cajun apple wood smoked bacon injected turkey.

                                                      1. Low and slow cooking has always paid off when I've barbecued, so I tried this for Thanksgiving. Took a leap of faith, 16.25 lb. bird, stuck a quartered lemon and large chopped onion in cavity, rubbed with butter, salt and pepper, stuck it in preheated 450 degree oven for 40 minutes, then turned down to 235 degrees for about 7.5 hours, let rest out of the oven about 30 minutes. Never opened the oven door until it was done (hence no basting), and never covered it. Best (and easiest) turkey I've ever made by far -- succulent, tender, brown crisp skin, delicious! This method works GREAT! Amen.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: veritus1

                                                          I'm glad to hear your leap of faith worked out!

                                                          1. TYTYTYTY...I have been trying...:)) Trying to tell people and my other half this for years.

                                                            My mother use to do the turkey just before she goes to bed....turn it down then cook it all night. We usually had dinner about 3-4 pm. And the turkey was ALWAYS PERFECT.

                                                            Everything was cut up the day before and on the "DAY" only had to turn on the top of stove and everything was always done at same time....NO second guessing

                                                            So Last year hubby roasted turkey as I said and as I KNEW would happen. The turkey fell off the bone before even getting it to the platter. And I stood behind with smile on my face wanting to say "TOLD YOU SO" :)

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: SSimboo

                                                              Ya it's hard to be a Prophet in the wilderness.
                                                              I've preaching low and slow for forty years.
                                                              My method is just a bit different:
                                                              I brine overnight in salted water.
                                                              Into a preheated 200F oven. No nothing on it. Some lemon wedges stuffed inside for when I deglaze.
                                                              When the bird reaches an internal temp of about 145F I remove for a few minutes (You don't have to do this part) then crank up the heat to screaming hot (You can just leave the bird in the oven if you want.) Turn oven light on and watch as the skin turns a nice golden brown. Remove the roasting pan.....with the bird in it. Lightly tent for about an hour. Carve>serve.

                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                I think I may head downstairs and get my bird into some salt water. I've become totally sold on brining chicken breasts this year! I'll go a little easy on the salt, as it's only Tuesday.

                                                              2. re: SSimboo

                                                                I'm going to try this method this year!

                                                                My bird will be around 15 lbs, and we usually eat at around two. I'm trying to figure out when to put it in the oven. The appearance of the skin is not a big deal.

                                                                Any advice appreciated!

                                                                1. re: nrthshr

                                                                  Per the chart wtg shared in 2011 (wow, time flies) you should be looking at something like 20 minutes at 475F + 5-6 hours at 250F.

                                                              3. I've done this for years it works and people always ask how I keep the breast meat so moist. I also inject mine with melted butter and I do baste the birds quite often

                                                                1. So as I read this thread, and contemplate what approach to take with this year's behemoth (20+ lbs., what was I thinking?), I am struck by the two different approaches. And, apologies, but there is a lot of "leave it in until . . . " which makes sense of course, but isn't as helpful on the planning front when one is trying to figure out when to put the darn thing in the oven (at whatever temp!) for a 3 pm dinner.

                                                                  So . . .

                                                                  High heat first for some time (an hour? 40 mins? The chart below suggests 20 mins?), then down to 250 for several hours. Resting time of up to an hour, more or less? Still trying to get an estimate of minutes/lb.


                                                                  Low heat for an unspecified amount of hours until internal temp is 145-150 (internal temp where - in the cavity? thigh? or is it breast?), then remove and blast the oven in order to put it back to crisp the skin. Again, any suggestions on minutes/lb? Resting time of ?

                                                                  I'm prepare to do either, just want to figure out timing. Thank you!

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                                    I roasted an 18lber last year-450F for 20 minutes, 225F for 5.5 hours, 2 hour rest

                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                      Thank you. Two hours at the end! That was one well-rested bird. But the total is fitting with my guesstimates.

                                                                      1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                                        Fourunder taught me the magic of the long rest, this year it's going to be rested 3 hours

                                                                    2. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                                      Preheat oven to 200F.
                                                                      Start at about 8:00 AM
                                                                      Room temp. turkey.
                                                                      For a 20 pounder it will take maybe four/five hours. BUT!!!! Everything depends on the quality/age/sex/breed of the turkey.
                                                                      Don't worry.
                                                                      The bird will be cooked through well before 3 PM.
                                                                      You MUST rest the bird for at least an hour for a bird that size.
                                                                      It's a common rookie mistake/myth to think the bird must be screaming hot just before it's carved at the table. The plate and mashed and veg. and gravy should be HOT!
                                                                      The turkey not so much.

                                                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                                                        Thank you, this is helpful. I've actually done a number of Thanksgivings, but always with a different turkey treatment - and I can state with authority that those birds have never ever been hot!

                                                                        1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                                          According to several posts above, I think it may be more like 6 or 6.5- and that's for a hotter oven. Will it be a big deal if dinner is an hour later?

                                                                          1. re: jvanderh

                                                                            You want to rest at least an hour

                                                                            1. re: jvanderh

                                                                              No, of course not. But I will HEAR about it. "You said we were eating at 3! We all got here on time! We did what you TOLD us to do!" Family. Can't live with them, can't leave them by the side of the road when you are done with them.

                                                                              I am getting the sense that low and slow is pretty forgiving, and the bird in my fridge looks so nice, I'm just not going to fret about it anymore.

                                                                        2. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                                          It’s interesting that fldhkybnva and I used the same method but my bird was a little smaller, cooked 2 hours longer, and was still extremely moist. One advantage of the low and slow method is that less moisture leaves the bird while it cooks, so there’s more leeway in how long you can leave it in the oven without drying it out. While I do check to make sure the internal temperature is high enough that I won’t kill my guests, an important factor for me is how easy do the legs move around when I shake them - I like them to move very easily, no stiffness. Once it reaches that point, time to remove the bird from the oven and let it rest.

                                                                          1. re: veritus1

                                                                            That was my grandma's "trick." She never used a thermometer, "just wiggle the leg." And yes, it retains moisture incredibly well I literally have no drippings. I also left the bird at room temperature for several hours beforehand so perhaps that made a difference and do a 450F high heat blast for 30 minutes first.

                                                                        3. Fifty two years doing Thanksgiving!!.... Preferred method: Slow, overnite cooking. Turkey size 22+ Lightly Stuffed!!! (I do cook extra stuffing separately) Turkey is marinated for 2 days in the fridge. The night before thanksgiving, at about 10:30 pm put the turkey in Preheated oven at 450o for one hour. Lower Temp to 350, baste and cook for another hour. Baste and Lower Temp to 225 baste and go to bed. At 5 a.m. Check the turkey. If done. Take out of the oven, and remove the stuffing immediately. Right before serving time rebaste and reheat covered in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Although I use a meat thermometer inside the bird, my infallible test is to check the thigh for donness, the old fashioned way. Also inserting the blade of a thin knife in the thigh joint to check if the juices come clear. I place an oven thermometer inside the oven to make sure the oven temperature is correct. As proof of the "turkey" our family of 20 strong, is all alive and well and in 52 years has never had food poisoning from my slow roasted stuffed Thanksgiving big bird. I hope it Works for you!! Happy thanksgiving!! trydntru

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: trydntru

                                                                            Oh dear God...

                                                                            While anyone who's read any of my stuff over the years knows I am far from a food-safety alarmist -- in fact I am just the opposite -- while I'm a huge fan of slow-roasting and can even get on board with an overnight cook in a home setting, I really would not suggest that anyone put stuffing inside the bird when doing this. That one family has managed to escape fatalities with this method is remarkable but not convincing evidence that this is safe.

                                                                          2. Question from a first timer………

                                                                            The bird will be around 16-18 lbs, unstuffed and we usually eat at around 3pm.

                                                                            I can't decide if I should aim to throw it in at the lowest my oven will go ( 200f I think) at around midnight Wednesday night or (not room temp) around 7am on Thursday morning. Also do I use the "bake" mode or one of the convect things? Shockingly, nobody in my family really cares about the final color of the skin. I seem to be the only one who likes it. I do have a probe thermometer and several other thermometers.

                                                                            I'm picking it up at my local meat market tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. And I'm in good shape with the sides. Most of them are prepped and will need only a reheat at the end.

                                                                            My inclination is to go with the early morning strategy. I guess because I figure I can turn the heat up if I need to, but that would defeat the purpose, so I don't want to. But I'm open to persuasion.


                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: nrthshr

                                                                              I'm so tickled to see this thread resurrected. I'm afraid I'm clueless about convection, so I'm hoping someone else can help you there. I have to admit, that although I'm generally militantly opposed to any kind of strenuous domesticity, if it works out best to start the turkey in the middle of the night, I will generally do so. I find it easiest to have the bird sitting in the pan, salted and otherwise prepared before bed, so that I can stagger into the kitchen and be back asleep within 60 seconds.

                                                                              1. re: nrthshr

                                                                                If your open to spatchcock, I find that spatchcock cooks faster. I never cooked at 200 F. Only 16 lb spatchcock turkey at 450 F (first 20 minutes), then 275 F. Finished in around 2.5 hours.

                                                                                When reading posters' cooking times, remember to keep in mind whether they are cooking whole or spatchcock. My guess is you have enough time even starting at 7 am, if you spatchcock. I do not know about whole (guess is probably still have time).

                                                                                1. re: nrthshr

                                                                                  Cooking a turkey at 200 degrees is a recipe for food poisoning.

                                                                                  The reason most low and slow recipes start out with high heat, followed by very low heat is to kill pathogens. It also browns the bird.

                                                                                2. I generally smoke a small turkey or a large breast as I noted earlier. However, my wife decided that all we needed this year was a half breast (about 3#). So an overnite brine and slow smoke and cook seem impossible, but we loved that smoked taste.

                                                                                  I do have a stovetop smoker in addition to my big Bradley. Should I brine for just a couple hours and try to cook in the stovetop one, or is there a better way?

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: travelerjjm

                                                                                    The Bradley is terrific. You could smoke a couple of hours for the smoke flavor and finish in the oven. Just use the Bradley as a cold-smoker. Then roast in the oven the usual way.

                                                                                    Or do the Bradley for the whole process. Just use a remote digital probe thermomter and pull when the breast hits 150 internal.

                                                                                  2. I see that this thread is somewhat active, so here goes..

                                                                                    Using an Oster turkey roaster, I want to place my 16 lb turkey inside at about 175-180 degrees for an hr per pound or so.
                                                                                    Q1: is my math correct?

                                                                                    I was hoping to place a butter mixture under the skin and lemon/onion/garlic inside. And just walk away.
                                                                                    Q2: Should I add any water?/mixture okay?

                                                                                    In my research, some cook the turkey for 40 min to an hr in the oven first, but as much as I love brown, crunchy skin, I don't want to overdo it.
                                                                                    Q3: will I still have crunchy skin if I don't precook?
                                                                                    Q4: can I start with it upside-down and flip (halfway through?)?

                                                                                    I read through all of the comments and it seems like you have a great group of knowledgeable people here. Happy Thanksgiving!

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: amsd2dth

                                                                                      1. Why so low? I would raise to 200-225F

                                                                                      2. I have never added water and it's been fine.

                                                                                      3. The initial high heat is to kill pathogens not necessarily the skin so I wouldn't skip it. Also without a high heat initial blast I've noticed the skin gets an odd leathery character. For crunchy skin you really should do a high heat 450F at the end as well if you like it really crispy.

                                                                                      4. Sure, just be careful :) I do the high heat breast down then flip

                                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                        Just read that on another site. Totally makes sense now. :)

                                                                                        We are eating around 4:00. I had come across another recipe that used this temp so it was a starting point for me to start my research. I'm definitely down for 200 or so.

                                                                                        If I leave the lid on (with the exception of flipping), can I start it tonight late (9ish) and let it go until then?

                                                                                        Thanks for the quick reply! I'm excited to try this.

                                                                                        1. re: amsd2dth

                                                                                          I would do 225F, you can always let it rest longer

                                                                                          9pm to 4pm would be absolutely too long - at 225F it's approximately 15 minutes per lb. I cooked a 20 lb turkey last year it took 4.5-5 hours.

                                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                            Got it. Thank you for your help :)

                                                                                      2. re: amsd2dth

                                                                                        175 is an invitation for food poisoning !

                                                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                          Yeah I'm going to go with the 225* recommendation. To explain, this is where I started in my researching journey (ending with you guys): http://www.splendidtable.org/story/th...

                                                                                          1. re: amsd2dth

                                                                                            Interesting, I still would never go down that low I actually set my oven to 170F (door open) for the final rest...

                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                              "Because the oven temperature is no hotter than you want the bird to be at perfect doneness, it cannot overcook." is why I started trying to cross-reference the recipe. I'm glad I did.

                                                                                              1. re: amsd2dth

                                                                                                An oven is not a sous vide apparatus :)

                                                                                      3. Reading all the comments I'm more confused! I have a 28lb bird that will be stuffed. What time should I put it in to slow cook it? Normally I put a 22lb bird in at 7am to eat at 2:30 on 325 and I always hear its not cooked enough?!? Now with 28lbs I'm lost!

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Jemmette

                                                                                          I would not slow cook a stuffed bird. For a 28 lb unstuffed bird at 225 F estimate 15 minutes per lb with at least an hour to rest.

                                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                            Hope you all can help me??While no one in my family likes the breast our guests do so I halfed the breast dry seasoned all the individual Turkey parts [legs and thighs] and am getting ready to slow roast as you all recommend my question to you is this do I add the breast at the beginning of the process???or do I wait??and for how long,the breast halfs only way a couple of pounds each.I thank you all ahead of time.Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

                                                                                        2. i have been doing this for 24 years. i even stuff my bird and yes it is a big one 25 pounds plus i put it in my oven at 1 am thanksgiven morning at 245 and let it go as i sleep until 7 am i baste my bird then take off extra juices but one thing i do differently to keep the juices in my bird and not in the pan is i stuff my bird with DRY STUFFING no moister at all. al the birds juices get deep into the bird and the stuffing is to die for, have a good one folks try it