How To: Cook a Turkey in a Turkey Roaster

How to cook a turkey in an electric turkey roaster.

Recipes, Turkey | December 22, 2016 | By

We’re deep into the holiday season; the season of cookies, eggnog, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pies, and, of course, roast turkey. I always end up making a few roast turkeys between November and December and there is one trick I absolutely swear by: cooking my turkey in an electric turkey roaster oven. Before I got married, I had never heard of a electric turkey roaster, but when I got one as a wedding gift I was intrigued. I tried it once, and I’ve never cooked a turkey in a traditional oven since!

Buying an Electric Roaster

If you are not familiar with what exactly an electric turkey roaster is, it’s basically a smaller version of a regular oven, powered by electricity. I always think of it as a cross between a Crock-Pot and a toaster oven.
I own a Sunbeam brand 16 quart electric turkey roaster oven that can cook a turkey up to 16 pounds. I’ve owned it for over five years, I use it a few times a year, and it still pretty much looks and works as if it’s brand new. It can be used for way more than just cooking turkeys: cooking two whole chickens at once, making large amounts of baked potatoes, stew, chili, meatballs, ribs, roasts, sauces, hams, casseroles, pies, or pretty much anything for a large group. Some models come with removable serving dishes – something I really think is worth buying. They’re great for serving at parties, and even if your roaster doesn’t come with serving dishes, you can buy them separately.
Prices for electric roasters generally range from $30 to $130, depending on size and quality. Bird size maximums generally range from 16 to 28 pounds. I swear by my electric roaster, but there are a few pros and cons to consider: 


  • Frees up oven space for other delicious dishes
  • Turkey generally cooks faster than in a traditional oven
  • Low maintenance – set it and forget it (with a thermometer), no basting


  • It’s harder to brown the turkey and get that classic, roast turkey color and crispy skin. You can use browning sauce for color or put the turkey in your regular oven for the last half hour of cooking for crispness. I personally don’t care too much about color because I always cut up my turkey up before serving, and no one in my house eats the skin.
  • It’s pretty big and can take up kitchen space –  I keep mine in the original cardboard box in the garage when I’m not using it.

Buying & Thawing the Turkey

Buying and thawing a turkey is pretty easy, but there are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Make sure you don’t buy a turkey that’s too big for your roaster. I once got ambitious and bought a huge turkey from Costco, prepared it, and as soon as I put it in my roaster I realized it to was too large for the lid to close!
  • Not sure what size turkey you need for your party? Buy 1 pound of uncooked turkey per guest.
  • Not sure of the best way to thaw a turkey? The folks at Butterball are pros and they have a comprehensive guide for safely thawing a turkey.
  • I run my fridge cold. When I made this 16 pound turkey, I found some ice crystals in the cavity even though it had been in my fridge for 5 days. If your turkey still has ice crystals when you’re ready to cook it, don’t worry. As long as the meat feels thawed and the turkey is pliable it’s still ready to cook, it just might take slightly longer.

Preparing and Cooking The Turkey

To cook a turkey in an electric roaster, all you really need is the turkey and 1/2 cup of melted butter. Of course all the extras make it great, but if all you have is butter, it’s still going to turn out really well. That being said, there are a few extra steps that will help you guarantee a great turkey every time.
How to cook a turkey in an electric turkey roaster.
Start by pre-heating the roaster to 400 degrees while preparing the turkey. Remove the neck and giblets and make sure the turkey is properly thawed. I recommend placing it on the turkey roaster rack while you prepare it (something I forgot to do in this picture) to make things easy. 
Stuffing is my favorite Thanksgiving side, but I don’t cook my stuffing in the turkey cavity for sanitary reasons. Instead I stuff my turkey with slices of apple, onion, and celery to add flavor and discard them after cooking. I make my stuffing a casserole dish and I think it turns out better that way. After stuffing the cavity, slide a few pats of butter in between the skin and meat at the top of the bird.
How to cook a turkey in an electric turkey roaster.
Create the browning sauce mixture and use a pastry brush to cover the turkey with the browning mixture. The browning sauce is for color only, so if you don’t want to use it just use plain melted butter instead. Then season the turkey generously with salt, pepper, and whatever other seasoning you prefer (I use Italian seasoning.) When the turkey is prepared, pick up the turkey using the rack and place it in the roaster oven. Pour a can of chicken stock into the roasting pan. This step makes your turkey extra juicy and ensures you’ll have enough drippings for tons of homemade gravy.
Insert the thermometer, place the lid on the roaster, and cook at 400 degrees for 1 hour. After 1 hour, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and cook until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.
No one in my family eats the skin of the turkey, but if you want your turkey to have a crispy skin wait until your bird is about 1/2 hour away from being done, take the lid off, carefully remove the roasting pan from the roaster oven with the bird inside and place the pan in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and cook without the lid until the desired internal temperature is reached.
How to cook a turkey in an electric turkey roaster.
A meat thermometer is a necessity when cooking a turkey. I have a Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer/Timer. I love it because I can plug it into my turkey, and set it to go off when it reaches a desired temperature so I can set my turkey and forget about it until the alarm goes off. I can also see the current temperature, and a timer keeps track of how long the turkey has been cooking. I don’t have to lift the lid at all to check the temperature, so my turkey stays nice and juicy. I set my thermometer to go off when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, and it’s done!
Once the turkey is done cooking, remove it from the roaster, tent the turkey with tin foil and wait 20 minutes before carving.
How to cook a turkey in an electric turkey roaster.              “

How To: Cook a Turkey in a Turkey Roaster


  • 1 thawed whole turkey, giblets and neck removed
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, sliced into pats
  • 1 tsp browning sauce (optional)
  • Seasoning of your choice (I use poultry seasoning or Italian seasoning)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 apple, cut into slices
  • 1/2 onion, cut into slices
  • 2 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • Special equipment
  • Electric turkey roaster
  • Meat thermometer


  1. Remove the rack from the turkey roaster and preheat roaster to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the rack on a large tray (to catch any liquid) and place the turkey on the rack.
  3. Stuff the turkey cavity with sliced apples, onion, and celery.
  4. Separate the skin at the top of the bird from the meat and slide the pats of butter in between the skin and the meat.
  5. Make the browning sauce mixture by mixing together the melted butter and the browning sauce.
  6. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the turkey with the browning sauce mixture. (This step can get messy, so be careful!)
  7. Generously season the turkey with salt, pepper, and the seasoning of your choice.
  8. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat, avoiding the bone.
  9. Pick up the rack, and gently place the rack and the turkey in the turkey roaster.
  10. Pour 1 can of chicken stock into the roaster and close the lid.
  11. Cook at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
  12. After 1 hour, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and cook until the turkey's internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. (Cooking times will vary depending on turkey size.)
  13. Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the roaster using the rack. Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 20 min before carving.
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How to cook a turkey in an electric turkey roaster.


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