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High-Heat Roast Turkey

Turkey is traditionally roasted at 325° for historical reasons, but you actually get better results with the high-heat method pioneered by Barbara Kafka, roasting at 500°, in half the time, and with a lot less work.
Note that this recipe is purposely missing steps involving salting (dehydrates), basting (unnecessary), and stuffing (blocks the flow of heat).
There are also instructions on how to make gravy, which you can safely ignore if you want.
Prep Time1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 50 minutes
Resting time30 minutes
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: turkey
Servings: 1 turkey


  • 1 large, 1" deep aluminum or stainless steel roasting pan (18"x13" or 18"x20"; don't use disposable aluminum)
  • 1 wire rack (that fits the pan; ideally same height as the pan)
  • 1 large saucepan (optional, for gravy; 4 quart or more)
  • 3 temperature probes (or an instant thermometer, or nothing)
  • 2 pot holders
  • 1 pair of oven mitts
  • 1 kitchen shears
  • 1 roll of paper towels
  • 1 medium spoon (not a tablespoon, not a teaspoon, but the one in between that you use for like desserts and stuff)
  • 1 sink stopper
  • 1 spice grinder or mortar & pestle (optional, to grind the fennel & rosemary)
  • 1 strainer (optional, for gravy)
  • aluminum foil


  • 1 14-22 lb turkey (if frozen, get it a week before)
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • ½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tbsp dried marjoram
  • ½ tbsp dried tarragon
  • ½ tbsp dried basil
  • olive oil
  • 1 qt chicken stock (optional, for gravy)



  • Note: this recipe should work for 14-22 lb turkeys, but that's a lot of difference for roasting and thawing. Do the math below to figure out your turkey's times.
  • If you're getting a frozen turkey, figure out how long to thaw it in the fridge: a day for every 4 lbs, so roughly 3-5 days. Use it within 4 days after thawing.
    If you have less time than needed, fill up a sink or bathtub or bucket or something with tap water and leave it in there 30 minutes per pound, so 7 to 11 hours. Change the water every half hour or so.
  • Figure out how long to roast the turkey for, by multiplying its weight in pounds by 5 minutes. This recipe is for 14-22 lb turkeys, so roasting should take somewhere between 1:10 to 1:50 hours. We'll call this ROASTING-TIME later in the recipe.
    Also note that this recipe uses the convection mode that many ovens have. If your oven doesn't have convection mode though, multiply the weight by 8 minutes per pound, so ROASTING-TIME would then be 1:50 to 3 hours.
  • The turkey needs to rest for a half hour after roasting, and prepping takes about 70 minutes so so add 100 minutes to your ROASTING-TIME, and that's the total time — and how much before the meal time you should start cooking.
    For example, if you have an 16 lb turkey, the ROASTING-TIME is 80 minutes (18×5) and with the 100 other minutes for prep and rest times, it's 180 minutes total, or 3 hours. So if you want to eat at 3pm, you would start this recipe at noon.

Initial prep (15 minutes)

  • About 1 hour and 15 minutes before placing the turkey in the oven, or somewhere between 2:40 and 4:30 before serving it, clean a sink all over with soap and water.
  • Rinse it very well
  • Stop the sink with the stopper
  • If you're making gravy, get the large saucepan and put it next to the sink
  • Take the turkey out of the fridge and put it in the sink
    1 14-22 lb turkey
  • Get the kitchen shears
  • Cut the turkey out of its bag or casing
  • Remove the giblet bag from the turkey's smaller cavity and the neck from the larger cavity and either throw them away, or place them in the large saucepan if making gravy
  • Remove excess skin around the cavities, so it doesn't block airflow, as well as the tailbone (a.k.a., "pope's nose") that's dangling there
  • Cover the turkey with tap water
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes to warm up to about 50ºF.
    If it turned out to still be a little frozen after you opened it, let it sit for longer. Putting it in the oven when it's too cold will result in the legs and wings burning before the breast is cooked.

More prep while the turkey's warming (30 minutes)

  • If you're making gravy, add 6 cups of water to the large saucepan with the neck and giblets, then simmer for about 1 hour, or until the 6 cups reduces down to 4 cups, losing about a third of the liquid.
  • Clean the oven well, to prevent stuff in there, especially at the bottom, from causing smoke during the high-heat roast.
  • Make the herb mix: if you have a spice grinder or mortar & pestle, get them and grind the fennel and rosemary. If not, just use them as they are.
    1 tbsp dried rosemary, ½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • Put all the spices in a mixing bowl
    2 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tbsp dried rosemary, ½ tbsp dried marjoram, ½ tbsp dried tarragon, ½ tbsp dried basil, ½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • Stir to mix them well
  • Make a lot of room within reach of the sink that they turkey's in
  • Get the 18x13x1 roasting pan, put the wire rack in it, and set it next to the sink
  • Get the bottle of olive oil and your herb mix and set them next to the sink also
  • Get the medium spoon and set it next to the sink also
  • Tear off 3 panels of aluminum foil
  • Set all five by the sink also

Dry the turkey (15 minutes)

  • After the 30 minutes warming time is up, drain the sink
  • Rinse the turkey inside and out under cool, running water
  • Get the roll of paper towels
  • Wipe the sink dry, so it doesn't get the turkey wetter.
    We'll be dressing the turkey in the sink, but you can also do it on a cutting board or counter or whatever, if you don't mind working on a less-contained environment with a slippery bird, and probably making a bit of a mess.
  • Pat the turkey completely dry, inside and out, with the paper towels, to avoid steam build-up.
    This will take a lot of paper towels and like 10 minutes. Get into every nook and cranny, without like destroying the turkey or anything, and including in backbone cavities. You'll have to wipe the bottom of the sink a couple more times since the turkey will get it a little wet.
    The turkey will still feel kind of wet because it's cold and a little slimy, but you're done when you can take a dry paper towel and pat it all over, inside and out, and end up with a mostly dry paper towel.

Oil the turkey (5 minutes)

  • Generously pour oil on top of the turkey
  • Pour a small puddle of oil into each of the 3 aluminum panels
  • With your hand, spread the oil all over each aluminum panel
  • Also with your hand, spread the oil and rub it in all over the turkey's top side, legs, wings, smaller cavity, and any other surface you can find
  • Flip the turkey over and cover its back side with oil too
  • Pour oil in the bigger cavity and rub it all up in there too
  • The turkey should now be fully oiled all over, in all its nooks and crannies and every exposed surface

Final prep (5 minutes)

  • Sprinkle the inside and outside generously with the herb mix, covering it all over
  • Take the medium spoon and shove it in vertically in the bigger cavity such that it's secure.
    This keeps the cavity open, preventing its opening from collapsing due to the heat, and cutting off air flow to the backbone.
  • Take the turkey out of the sink and place it on the wire rack, which is in the roasting pan, breast side up.
  • If you can do it without blocking the air flow through the bird, tie the legs together somehow — purely for a nicer presentation.
  • Tear two of the panels into two halves, so that you have 1 big one and 4 smaller ones
  • Take each of the 4 smaller aluminum panels, put their center on the tip of each turkey leg and wing, and crumple each panel around the end of the leg or wing, to keep them from separating and burning due to the high heat.
  • Tuck the wings in and make sure the turkey does not touch the sides of the pan, to avoid boiling it.
  • Take the bigger aluminum panel and drape it over the turkey breast, tucking it in securely around the cavities so as to not block airflow
  • Add 2-4 cups of tepid water (or chicken stock) to the roasting pan, to catch drippings so they don't smoke
    1 qt chicken stock
  • If you're using temperature probes, insert one into the breast, and one in each leg, in the meatiest parts, and almost to the bone but not touching it
  • For a 14-17 lb turkey, place the oven rack on the second level from the bottom. For a 17-22 lb turkey, place it on the lowest level.
    (If the rack is too high, the skin on the breast will burn.)
  • Place the roasting pan into the cold oven
  • Heat the oven in convection mode to 500°F, so the turkey heats with the oven instead of being shocked.

Roasting (about 1.5 hours)

  • About 45 minutes before the end of the ROASTING-TIME you calculated in the Math section above, put your oven mitts on and take the aluminum foil off the breast — leave the ones on the legs alone
  • Check the liquid in the pan: if it's looking a bit dry, add more water or chicken stock
  • Roast the turkey for roughly the remaining ROASTING-TIME, until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, and until the temperature probes or instant thermometer reads 160° in all three places.
    The turkey will continue to cook, warming 5-10° more after taking out of the oven.
  • Leaving the rack in the oven, take the turkey out using the two pot holders — which will need to be washed after.
    It's best not to try to take it out with the rack, because there's a high risk of it sliding and falling on the floor.
  • Place it on the serving platter
  • Remove the medium spoon from inside the bigger cavity
  • Tent it with some aluminum foil and let it cool for about a half hour before carving
  • Take the roasting pan out of the oven

If making gravy with the grease from the roasting pan (while the turkey cools)

  • Scrape the bottom of the roasting pan vigorously with a wooden spoon to loosen the crisp bits in the bottom of the pan, which make the gravy more flavorful
  • Pour the grease from the roasting pan into the large saucepan (that should now have about 4 cups of stock from the neck and giblets) or vice-versa
  • Bring to a boil on high heat
  • Let the liquid reduce by about 2 cups — or by a third to half, depending on how much grease you had — over the course of 20-30 minutes
  • Strain into a sauce boat


Adapted from Food52, The New York Times, and Chef Marc’s recipe.
Herbes to Provence adapted from The Spruce Eats.