24 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Roasting a Turkey

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Though other options are available (goose, duck, capon, even tofurkey), most people who cook Thanksgiving dinner roast a turkey.

For much of the year, when we eat turkey, it’s in the form of sliced deli meat or maybe burgers or sausages (or one of those jumbo salt-brined drumsticks that are popular concession foods at Disney parks). As a holiday centerpiece, though, nothing but a whole bird — theoretically roasted to a succulent golden brown — will do.

And how hard can that be? You buy a bird, put it in a roasting pan, stick it in the oven, consult one of those minutes-per-pound charts, set the temperature and the timer, and then wait for the perfect result, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, while roasting a turkey is a fairly simple process, like most simple tasks, it’s only simple if you know how to do it right.

The United States is the largest turkey-producing country in the world and the largest exporter of turkey products. Roast turkey is such an iconic holiday food in this country that there are whole websites dedicated to revealing everything you need to know about the holiday bird. 

Even digests of turkey lore don’t always cover all the bases, though — and there’s a lot of conflicting information (and misinformation) out there about exactly how to best produce a beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving bird.

Turkey is generally one of the least expensive parts of a holiday meal. The most recent USDA figures show an average price of 75 cents per pound for frozen birds this year (so a 12-pound example, big enough to generously feed eight, would only cost $9). Fresh birds and specialty choices — like organic or wild turkeys — typically cost more, though they still won’t break the bank. (Here is how the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner has changed since the 1940s.)

Though your holiday turkey may not cost a lot, you don’t want to mistreat it. 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous top cooking websites and considered the recommendations of some of America’s best chefs to come up with this list of common errors made by home cooks when roasting a turkey, together with advice on how to avoid them. 

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for friends and/or family, you’ve got enough details to be concerned with without worrying about the main course. Here are 14 mistakes to avoid when throwing a holiday party.