Need a great slow roasted turkey recipe you’ll use for years to come, all the information is in this post. You can roast your turkey overnight or begin it in the morning if you choose. if you start the turkey at night, you’ll get to sleep late and have this no fuss turkey beautifully roasted and ready when you are.
How to Roast a Turkey Overnight
I have roasted lots of turkeys. I first started off cooking a turkey the way my mom did it. Then one night, I just knew I was ready for a change. Viola, overnight roasted turkey, and a lot less stress for holiday meals was the answer. This slow-roasted turkey is just the perfect main dish to holiday meals and I have lots of tips on cooking and serving this delicious bird too.
Traditions! There’s nothing more comforting than a holiday tradition, especially after the year 2020 dished up to us, whew! But sometimes you want a new twist on an old favorite. Which is why I decided a few years ago to switch up tradition and opt for an over-night roasted turkey recipe!
After all, with the hubbub in the house and the many side dishes a holiday requires – your oven is going to be busy. Why pull your hair out the morning of trying to balance it all when you can wake up to the smell of crisp, golden-brown turkey ready for your holiday get-together?
And the best part of any holiday meal is the leftovers. I have some excellent ideas for this succulent and juicy turkey you’ll be making – that is if there’s any left once your guests head home. I offer new twists and old tried and true favorites; Instead of plain jane turkey sandwiches, I have Cornbread Waffle Sandwiches with Cranberry Aioli. And getting creative and trying new ways to enjoy leftovers encouraged me to create this one à Left Over Pizza with Turkey and Roasted Cranberries. I have many more to explore!
Now, let’s talk turkey:
A common question I receive about roasting turkey overnight is, “Won’t the turkey get cold waiting for everything else to finish?”
Well, it can BUT hang with me – here’s how it all comes together! (it’ll depend on when you’re serving)
I allow the turkey to rest for at least an hour and then slice it, (do not slice a hot turkey, all the juices run out and leave the meat dry, just like a great steak… rest is key)
So if you’re planning an early mealtime great or I place it all on a platter and cover it with plastic wrap. I store it in the fridge until about an hour before serving. When I’m ready, I allow the turkey to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes (don’t skip this step!), then I put it in an oven which has been pre-heated to 300-350°. It doesn’t take long to re-heat the turkey so keep an eye on it to avoid overheating and drying it out. You can also cover it in foil or spritz it with water (or chicken broth) if you want to be extra careful. Regardless the turkey is the first thing to cool off in a large meal, so keep your gravy HOT and everyone will love it. As long as the turkey is not ice cold, it will be enjoyed and enjoyed again the next day!
Below I walk you through how to make this hassle-free turkey, so without further ado – let’s get to it! Gobble Gobble!
This is how this method was all developed
… It was 1 AM and I had baked all the pies and got everything ready for Thanksgiving day and was exhausted.
The thought of getting up early to put the turkey into the oven was not exciting.
I decided to slow-roast the turkey overnight at a lower temperature than I normally would so that I would not have to tend to it. I knew at a lower temperature it would take longer, but knowing what I do about cookie slow roasted meats are always delicious, so I slept late and the next morning opened my oven…
and the turkey turned out PERFECT!!!
I just knew this method of cooking a turkey would interest anyone who cooks for holiday meals.
OMG, my mind was blown, why hadn’t I thought of that before, all those early mornings I woke up just to put the turkey in and then by the time I served dinner I was exhausted. I slow roasted my turkey’s anyway, but this made it the PERFECT way to roast a turkey!
The meat was juicy and I had plenty of time to let it rest,
and have my oven free for other things! *BONUS!
I have had turkey dinners at other people’s homes and while it was nice, I could never help think to myself how do people think that taking the turkey out of the oven 10 minutes before serving it was a good idea, the turkey needs to rest, the juices settle into the meat and make it irresistible!
Slow roasting is the way to go! Especially if you like to sleep.
Holidays are stressful enough and if you’re doing the cooking, TRUST me you need to start roasting your turkey overnight!
I often get messages asking what my favorite items are to use so I’ve added a few below and HERE is the full list of my favorites.
This is most similar to the turkey roasting pan I use. I’ve had it for years and love it.
These turkey lifters work great, they really help lift heavy turkeys easily.
This is my favorite thermometer, it may seem pricey, but it’s so fast and no more burning fingers when cooking, baking, or grilling! I’ve bought many for gifts and everyone says it’s the BEST Gift EVER!
If you cook, you need the right tools to make your job, easier, more efficient so your meals will be less stressful!
Now if you still want to roast your turkey by getting up at a crack of dawn you’ll need to see this! And it works great whenever you want to be sure you don’t oversleep.
Slow roasted cooking takes time and if you follow the suggestions on the package of the turkey I do NOT feel that is enough time at all to have a delicious turkey.
That is the way to have a turkey cooked but in my opinion, not the best tasting turkey.
The meat will not be tender. It won’t come off the bone easily either.
The best part of the slow-roasting turkey is the delicious juicy results.
I made a 20-pound turkey this week, just to share with you how exactly I do it.
I always make at least a 20-pound turkey, I figure why not have extra turkey. I’m already making it, why not make more. It’s really no more work to cook a 20 lb turkey than it is a 10 or 15 lb turkey.
(for every 2 lbs of turkey more or less than 20 lbs add or subtract an hour to the time of 9 hours)
You can always leave the turkey in longer, I’ve had my turkey in for an extra 3 hours and it was falling off the bone, really it was delicious. Juicy turkey, easy to remove the bones but it didn’t look quite as pretty) but I don’t carve at the table.
I love having the turkey to put in all sorts of meals. And I don’t want to have to “cook” the whole weekend after a Holiday meal and I know I’m not alone.
I use a large roasting pan with a rack. I have also just placed the turkey in the bottom of the pan over top of some scrunched up aluminum foil.
I prefer the rack, it’s sturdier and the turkey itself does not sit on top of the liquid.
Cover the turkey with aluminum foil before placing the turkey into the oven.
I took the turkey out of the oven to show you how it’s going, it has about another hour to go.
- Be sure to check the temperature of the turkey with a thermometer.
- Don’t guess, undercooked turkey is not something you want to serve, the juice of a turkey should run CLEAR, not pink. Carving turkey that is not fully cooked it tough to slice, it’s resistant, that is another clue that the turkey needs more time.
- The fail-proof way to roast a turkey is to use a thermometer.
- The breast should be at 165 degrees and the thighs should be at 170 degrees. (I do prefer when the turkey is at a slightly higher temperature, as long as you are slow roasting the turkey it won’t be dry even with the higher temperature)
- Remove the turkey from the oven, and now it’s time for the turkey to take a rest.
- It’s difficult to carve a hot turkey and it doesn’t carve as well as it does when it’s cooler either.
I do not set a big turkey on the table and begin carving (I think that is something you only see on TV)
You also see people putting a big turkey in the oven frozen or somehow it thaws out in a couple of hours, again only on TV does that seem to work.
The truth is it takes time to thaw a 20 lb. turkey!
Thaw your turkey in cold water or in the refrigerator.
2 days in cold water (I thaw my turkey in a cooler) this is my preferred method. We have a large cooler, I clean it and then fill it with water. Place the turkey inside still wrapped in its original plastic wrapping)and cover it and let it thaw. If I remove it from the freezer midday say that’s day 1 I am ready to roast it late on day 3. (I have thawed a 15 lb turkey in water and it took 4 hours)
or 3-4 days in the fridge. I take it out of the freezer on say day 1 it’s ready to go into the oven the evening of day 4.
If it’s still frozen, fill a clean sink with cold water and let the turkey set it inside, until it’s completely thawed.
Make sure your oven rack is low enough to fit your turkey with equal airspace around the whole turkey, this will ensure even cooking.
This time guide is a guide, be sure your oven is at the temperature for roasting and that you use an oven thermometer to test your turkey. Be sure your turkey is thawed before putting it into the oven.
It is no uncommon for the internal temperature of a well-cooked turkey to be above the recommended temperature while still producing a delicious and juicy turkey, as long as it’s slow-roasted the meat will not dry out.
Turkey slow roasting time resting times
25-26 lb 11-12 hours 2 hours
23-24 lb 9-10 hours 1.5-2 hours
21-22 lb 8-9 hours 1-2 hours
18-20 lb 7-8 hours 1 hour
16-18 lb 6-7 hours 1 hour
14-16 lb 5-6 hours 1 hour
Use the longer time if roasting at 200° and use the shorter time if roasting at 250°
Start the turkey at 400° F for the first hour. If you don’t extend the roasting time by an hour.
I have roasted all sizes of turkeys and used this schedule. I will mention I always estimate I may need an extra hour to cook the turkey,
Example: a 20 lb turkey will take about 10 hours start to finish.
400° for 1 hour
200° for 8 hours, then take the foil off turkey (brown skin at 350° for 15 minutes)
1 hour of resting time
Let’s suppose you are getting close to the time you think the turkey will be done,
And it doesn’t quite have an internal temperature of 165°.
What should you do?
Use an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is holding the temperature you set it to.
Turn the temperature of your oven up 50°. This will increase the heat, but you will still be roasting it at a low temperature of 350-300° which will ensure your turkey will be moist and juicy.
If you want to print this click here
Truthfully, I always make sure I have at least an hour cushion in case I need to cook my turkey longer, remember cooking it at a low temperatures it will not be dry even if you roast it longer.
I have roasted turkeys 2 hours longer than the schedule above without any problems, the bones start to soften a little more and the meat almost begins to fall off the bone, which makes it easier to carve as a bonus.
I always figure it’ll take at least 10 hours to slow roast my turkeys, keep that in mind!
Great GRAVY recipe, you can even make this gravy a day ahead to save time on the last-minute rush of getting the food on the table.
Potato Recipes can be found here:
- Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
- Spinach Artichoke Mashed Potatoes
- Sour Cream and Onion Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Holiday Potatoes
- Easy Cheesy Potato Casserole (made with frozen hash browns)
- The BEST Potato Salad– yes you can serve a dinner on holidays that is cold, you can choose turkey sandwiches if you’d like to, there are NO RULES!
I have LOTS of recipes on my website and hope you’ll have a minute to take a look around. There is a “recipes” tab on the top toolbar of my site to help you locate all the recipes.
TIME and OVEN TEMPERATURES are in the instructions below. (on the printable recipe card for easy reference)
Be sure your oven holds a lower temperature well. If it fluctuates greatly you’ll need to bring the temperature up 50 degrees to be sure the turkey will be done on schedule. When I message people who have had differing results they often say they think it’s their oven. Roasting the turkey at 300 will produce good results. Be sure you cook the turkey long enough and that you have plenty of time to have the turkey rest so the juices absorb into the meat as it cools.
When cooking any items that take a while, having a plan is best.
Be sure to allow enough time, to prep, cook, rest, and slice the turkey. Do not try and RUSH a SLOW ROASTED TURKEY, it’s pointless, and you won’t like the results.
Can I cook the turkey right side up?
Absolutely, you can roast the turkey right side up or upside down, I’ve done it both ways many times with great results, slow roasting a turkey is the foolproof way of ensuring a juicy turkey.
Can I roast my turkey longer without it drying out?
Yes, I have roasted my turkey for an additional 2 hours and it was delicious, that is the bonus of slow roasting.
No matter the size, I typically plan on a 10 hour roasting time myself, the guide above is more specific to turkeys I’ve roasted at the minimum internal temperature, but as I mentioned I like the turkey to be cooked a little longer, the bones weaken, the turkey is easier to pull apart to carve, the meat begins to fall off the bone, the turkey is moist and juicy when you slow roast.
What do I do if my turkey doesn’t seem to be done in the time stated?
As with any recipe, your oven may vary temperature, allow extra time when you plan on cooking something to ensure you have enough time and your turkey is done exactly when you need it to be done. Allow an extra hour, maybe you’ll need to turn the temperature up for the last hour to get it to the desired doneness, and crisp up the skin the last 15 minutes or so. And you do not want to rush the RESTING time, this allows the turkey o absorb the juices and remain moist. Then you’ll carve it.
Is it really safe to roast a turkey and have your oven on all night?
Yes, it is safe, the temperature is low, and the turkey is covered to reduce any risk of splattering. It’ll hold a temperature without anyone opening the oven door and letting the heat out. Even my mom, someone who swore she’d never try my method, did and likes it so much she calls to tell me every time she using this great overnight roasting method.
How long does it take to cook a turkey overnight?
With an average time of 9-10 hours, it’ll depend on the size of the turkey. It’ll slow roast and it’s easy to adjust your cooking schedule if you want to extend it a couple of hours or speed it up the last hour, just bring the heat up a bit and uncover it to crisp the skin.
Can I cook my turkey for 8 hours at 250 instead of a lower temperature?
Yes, just estimate that the turkey will be done an hour or two easier than the schedule I listed above.
How do I make sure my turkey is moist?
Slow roasting ensures it will be moist, turkey the breast down is another great tip for moist white meat.
Where can I find more info on cooking turkeys?
Check out THIS comprehensive post on turkeys, how much you’ll need, how to cook it, different methods, seasoning, air fryer turkey, deep-fried turkey, electric roaster, brining, and other great tips you won’t want to miss.
Be sure to check out my post on turkey thawing for tips, timings, and methods.
Those are even more reasons roasting a turkey overnight is one of the best ideas ever!
- 20-pound turkey
- 2 tablespoon butter
- salt (I prefer coarse Kosher Salt, the meat and drippings don't taste over-salted)
- black pepper
- 4 cups water (32 oz)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Rinse turkey, remove giblets, and neck.
- remove turkey legs from the plastic holder if needed, rinse out the inside of the turkey really well on both ends, the cavity, and the neck.
- Then drain the water out of the turkey.
- Place the legs back into the plastic holder.
- Place thawed turkey on a rack in roasting pan, breast side down (this will ensure juicy turkey breast and not dry meat, the juices run down to the breast)
- most turkeys nowadays have a plastic piece securing the legs, you bake the turkey with that in.
- Alternatively, you can tie the legs together with baking string, or simply tuck them under the bird.
- Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Rub room temperature butter over the top of the turkey
- add salt and pepper.
- Place 4 cups of water into the bottom of the roasting pan
- wrap in aluminum foil
- Place the turkey in the oven,
- Roast the turkey for one hour at 400 degrees
- then turn the oven to 200° (or 250° if your oven doesn't hold a steady lower temperature) and roast 8-9 hours
- otherwise, turn the temperature to 250 degrees
- Roast turkey overnight for 9-10 hours
- *be sure your oven holds a solid temperature at 200 for hours and does not drop below that with an additional thermometer you put in the bottom of your oven. If your oven doesn't hold at 200°- 250°F. Most people don't have their ovens on for 8+ hours at a low temperature, and I've found they don't check them, so you could roast it at 250°.
- Just before you think it's done, you can turn the oven temperature to 350° to brown the skin uncovered if it's not brown yet. This usually takes 20 minutes.
- LONGER is better for slow roasting, having the turkey fall off the bone is far better than undercooked tough meat.
- ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME, if your turkey needs an extra hour plan ahead for that.
- Turkey will stay hot for at least an hour or TWO before carving.
- The temperature of the breast should be at least 165 degrees and the thigh should be at 170 degrees. (but I really prefer when the meat is closer to 180°-185°, as long as it's slow-roasted it will not be dry, the liquid in the pan will help keep it moist, and with the breast down it won't dry out.
- If your oven runs cool, it will need more time to cook.
- If your oven runs hot, it may be done sooner.
You can leave the turkey in the oven longer than the suggested time at 200° the turkey is SLOW roasted so longer is not a bad thing. I've had my turkey in the oven 2 hours without any problems, the turkey bones will start to break down and bit and may fall apart, the meat will really fall off the bone this way.
I start the oven at 400° then turn it down after the first hour to 200°
If you don’t start it at 400° the turkey will need an extra hour.
If your oven doesn’t hold a low temp of ° well roast it at 250° and subtract an hour from the roasting schedule in the post for the weight you’ll be roasting.
Here is the full post if you need to refer to it
I read every comment, but on Holidays you can imagine I’m busy in the kitchen as well, some years I’m available for an immediate response, while other years I’m not as easy to get ahold of, but there are so many questions I’ve answered in the comment area and updated this post to be full of the information everyone has wanted overtime, take a look first, then feel free to message me and I hope to get back to you promptly.
Be sure to see my post on Cooking, Methods, Times, Temperatures, and so much more information on TURKEY’S HERE.
Be sure to pick up a copy of my ebook of over 50 HOLIDAY RECIPES
Be sure to look through my recipe index for more recipes as well. The recipe index tab is at the top of the page.
TO REHEAT the TURKEY: I allow the turkey to rest for an hour. Then I slice it and place it all on a platter and cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. Then about an hour before serving I take it out of the fridge and place it on the counter and unwrap it for about a half-hour, then I put it in a heated oven 300-350° and heat it up, avoid overheating and drying it out by covering it with foil, spritz it with water (or chicken broth) if you feel it’s necessary. The turkey is the first thing to cool off on a large meal, if your gravy is HOT, everyone will love it. As long as the turkey is not ice cold, it will be enjoyed!
Find more HOLIDAY RECIPES HERE