What's the best way to roast a turkey? That depends. The high heat method (see "High Heat Roasting" box at right) saves time, but you have to have a scrupulously clean oven that won't set off your smoke alarm and you have to cook the stuffing separately.
If you like stuffing your bird (or cooking the stuffing in a casserole next to the turkey) and don't mind taking things slow, follow the traditional 325-degree route (also explained in the box, at right). We like the start high-finish low method below, which also works for a turkey breast. When buying a turkey, allow 1 to 11/2 pounds per serving.
8 servings with plenty for leftovers
Roasting a turkey by starting at a high temperature then turning it down yields crisp skin and moist meat. The total cooking time should be 2 to 21/2 hours for a 12- to 14-pound bird, but it can vary, depending on your oven. To be sure, rely on the internal temperature.
MAKE AHEAD: Place the raw turkey, in its original wrapper, in the refrigerator breast-side down so the juices flow to the white meat, which will make the breast meat more moist. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before roasting.
12- to 14-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed
Salt (optional; see directions)
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (if using a fresh turkey; omit for a turkey that was frozen)
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-third position. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold running water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Generously season the inside and underside with salt and pepper. (If using a kosher or self-basting bird, omit the salt.)
If using a frozen turkey, skip this step. If using a fresh turkey, or if you like a particularly buttery taste, loosen the skin over the breast by running your hand just under the skin. Reaching with your fingers as far as possible, carefully loosen the skin over the legs. Gently push about 6 tablespoons of the butter under the skin, using your fingertips to carefully spread the butter over the breast and leg meat. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter evenly over the outside of the turkey.
Place a rack in a roasting pan (if possible, use a pan that is not much more than 2 inches larger than the turkey on all sides) and place the turkey on the rack.
Roast for 30 minutes. It should begin to turn golden brown.
Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and loosely cover (tent) the turkey with a large piece of aluminum foil. Continue roasting, basting the turkey, if desired, with the pan drippings every 30 minutes or so.
Start checking for doneness after about 2 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven when a meat thermometer inserted into the inside of a thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees. (The internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees after you remove it from the oven.)
Transfer the turkey to a carving board and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. Reserve drippings in the roasting pan for gravy (see Turkey Gravy recipe, below).
Per serving (based on 12, including butter): 651 calories, 92 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat, 324 mg cholesterol, 11 g saturated fat, 289 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber
Easy Roast Turkey Breast
6 to 8 servings
A turkey breast is ideal for a small group or to supplement a full bird. It takes only about 90 minutes to roast, depending on your oven. And you don't have to worry about keeping it moist while waiting for the rest of the turkey to finish roasting.
MAKE AHEAD: Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes ahead.
Adapted from "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook" (America's Test Kitchen, 2005).
One (6- to 8-pound) bone-in turkey breast, brined if desired (see "Brining Works" box, below left)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a V-rack with nonstick spray oil and set it inside a roasting pan.
Pat the turkey breast dry with paper towels. Loosen the skin by running your hand just under the skin and use your fingertips to spread 3 tablespoons of the butter under the skin. Place the turkey breast in the rack. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and brush it over the breast. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the water into the roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes.
Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and roast for about 1 more hour or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees. (The temperature continues to rise after the turkey is removed from the oven.) Transfer to a carving board and let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
Per serving (based on 8): 428 calories, 71 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 226 mg cholesterol, 6 g saturated fat, 179 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber
Recipes tested by Judith Weinraub; e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org