Everything you need to know for perfect turkey in a turkey roaster oven. How long it takes, how to know when it’s done and all of your other questions answered.
The holiday season is one full of cookies, eggnog, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pies, and, of course, roast turkey. I always roast several turkeys between November and December and there is one trick I absolutely swear by: my electric turkey roaster oven.
I didn’t know what an electric roaster oven was until I got married and received one as a wedding gift. After trying it once, I’ve never cooked a bird in a traditional oven since!
Buying an Electric Roaster
An electric roaster oven is 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 recommend the 22-Quart Oster Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid, which can cook a turkey up to 26 pounds. This is an updated and slightly larger version of the roaster I own.
I’ve owned my turkey roaster 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. You can use it 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!
I always use my electric roaster for Maple Glazed Ham. Some electric roaster models come with removable serving dishes, which I really think are worth buying. They’re great for serving at parties, and you can buy them separately too.
How Much Does an Electric Roaster Cost?
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:
Pros of Buying an Electric Roaster Oven
- 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
Cons to an Electric Roaster
- Without a roaster, 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 the color because I always cut up my turkey up before serving, and no one in my house eats the skin.
- The oven is also 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.
How To Buying the Best Turkey for Roasting
Here’s what you should keep in mind when you’re selecting a bird at the supermarket:
- 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. I prepared it, only to realize it too was too large for the lid to close!
- How much turkey per person? Buy 1 pound of raw turkey per guest.
How to Thaw a Turkey
Thawing a turkey is pretty easy, but there are a few tips to keep in mind:
- What’s 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. While defrosting a frozen 16-pound turkey, I found ice crystals in the cavity even after refrigerating for 5 days. If your turkey still has ice crystals when you’re ready to cook, don’t worry. As long as the meat feels thawed and the turkey is pliable, it’s still ready to cook. Simply add a few minutes to the cooking time.
Preparing A Turkey for Roasting
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, you’ll still get a delicious, browned, and crisp-skinned bird.
Start by pre-heating the turkey roaster to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, remove the neck and giblets from the bird and make sure the turkey is thawed. I recommend placing it on the roaster rack for this (something I forgot to do in this picture).
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. Then, I discard the fillings after cooking. I make my stuffing in a casserole dish and cook it in the regular oven. After stuffing the cavity, slide a few pats of butter in between the skin and meat on the top of the bird.
Browning Sauce for Roast Turkey
If you like, you can make a simple browning sauce for your bird by mixing the seasoning packet with melted butter. 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, melted butter works too.
Then season the turkey generously with salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings you prefer (I use Italian seasoning.) Finally, place the entire turkey, rack and all, itto in the roaster oven.
How to Make Moist Roast Turkey
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 into the thick part of the turey thigh and place the lid on the roaster.
How Long to Cook A Turkey
Cook the turkey 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 I know crispy skin is a must for some people. If you want a crispy skin, wait until your bird is about half an hour away from being done, remove the lid, carefully remove the roasting pan with the turkey, and place the pan in a 350 degree preheated oven. Bake without the lid until the desired internal temperature is reached.
Using a Meat Thermometer: What Temp for Turkey?
A meat thermometer is a necessity when cooking a turkey in a roaster. I have a Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer with Probe and Timer, and it works perfectly. If you want a top-of-the-line probe thermometer, I also recommend the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm, rated #1 by Cook’s Illustrated.
I love using the probe thermometer because I can plug it into my turkey, and set it to go off when it reaches the desired temperature. After you set the thermometer, you can 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.
Once the turkey cooks through, remove it from the roaster oven, tent with tin foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
More Holiday Recipes
Se See all of my festive holiday recipes here, including plenty of side dishes to serve with your bird made in an electric turkey roaster.
And for all the leftover turkey, I love to make keto cucumber and turkey sandwiches 🙂
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
- 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
- Probe-type meat thermometer
- Remove the rack from the turkey roaster and preheat roaster to 400 degrees.
- Place the rack on a large tray (to catch any liquid) and place the turkey on the rack.
- Stuff the turkey cavity with sliced apples, onion, and celery.
- 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.
- Make the browning sauce mixture by mixing together the melted butter and the browning sauce.
- Using a pastry brush, generously brush the turkey with the browning sauce mixture. (This step can get messy, so be careful!)
- Generously season the turkey with salt, pepper, and the seasoning of your choice.
- Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat, avoiding the bone.
- Pick up the rack, and gently place the rack and the turkey in the turkey roaster.
- Pour 1 can of chicken stock into the roaster and close the lid.
- Cook at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
- 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.)
- Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the roaster using the rack. Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Disclosures: The author was not compensated by any person or company for the content of this post. The post may contain affiliate links. If you buy a product using these links, we receive a commission. This helps with the cost of publishing recipes on this website.
Photos by Allison McGee, Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock.com, Paul Cowan/Shutterstock.com