If you were shocked to learn that you could roast a frozen turkey, you’re in for another surprise: You can roast that turkey while you sleep, too.
At a typical roasting temperature (around 325ºF), a large turkey can take upwards of four hours to roast. Add in pulling the bird out of the fridge beforehand to take off the chill, rest time, and carving, and you’re looking at nearly six hours. If you aim to serve your turkey around lunchtime, this means starting things at 7 a.m. If you can feel your blood pressure rising just thinking about it, don’t fret, there’s an easier way: roast the turkey overnight.
The unconventional cooking method of roasting a turkey while you sleep might seem crazy on the outset, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Cooked low and slow, turkey is tender, juicy, and pretty hard to mess up.
How to Cook a Turkey Overnight
- When you’re starting to think about going to bed, preheat your oven to somewhere between 170-180ºF. If your oven temperature does not go this low, set it to its coolest setting; anything up to 200ºF is fine. Pull the turkey out of the refrigerator, season it with salt and aromatics, and rub the outside with butter. Set a rack in a roasting pan, fill the pan with about a quart of water, arrange the turkey breast-side up on the rack, and wrap the pan tightly in aluminum foil.
- Roast the turkey while you sleep and get ready in the morning (as long as 9-11 hours). Don’t worry about basting; the low temperature and moisture from the water will cook it gently.
- Remove the foil and take the turkey’s temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Your end goal: a temperature of 160ºF in the breast and 170-175ºF in the thigh. Keep roasting at a low temperature until it is getting close to these numbers, around 155ºF. Remove the pan from the oven and turn up the heat to 475ºF. Once preheated, roast the turkey until the skin has browned and it is 160ºF in the breast and 170-175ºF in the thigh, about 15-30 minutes.
- Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Carve and serve!
We tested this with a 14-pound turkey, and it took 10-1/2 hours for it to come to 155ºF, and another 15 minutes for the skin to brown and the temperature to read 160ºF. Do note that smaller birds may dry out a bit if cooked for this long, and don’t take very long to roast to at a conventional temperature, eliminating the problem this overnight method solves. This technique might make sense, however, if you’re roasting a turkey in the neighborhood of 16-20 pounds. For the most freshly-cooked bird possible, plan to tuck in to your Thanksgiving meal around lunchtime.