How To Cook A Turkey In A Roaster: Simple Steps For A Perfect Holiday Meal

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.


How to choose the best 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 Sunvivi 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 roast Leg of Lamb. 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.

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 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: 

 What is the best turkey to buy 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.

How to prepare a turkey for electric 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.


Cooking a Turkey in a Roaster

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.  


Cook a Turkey in a Roaster

How to make 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 in a roaster

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.  



Back to blog