How To Roast a Turkey Upside Down

updated Oct 19, 2023
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How To Roast a Turkey Upside Down

Roast your turkey upside down for moist (yes, even the white meat) and tender turkey at the same time, every time.

Serves10 to 12

Prep20 minutes

Cook2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes

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Angled view of a whole roasted turkey in a black pan.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

Roasting a large turkey for Thanksgiving can be a challenge for even the most seasoned home cooks. Beyond the logistics of storing and thawing a 10-plus-pound orb of frozen poultry and figuring out the per-pound per-person math, you’re also battling two types of meat. The light, tender breast meat is prone to overcooking, while dark meat portions of the bird needs extra time.

A simple solution is to flip the bird over and roast the turkey upside down. This technique protects the white meat from drying out, and cooks the thigh meat faster. The best part is that roasting a turkey upside down is just as simple as it sounds.

Quick Overview

Cooking Turkey Upside Down

Roasting a turkey upside down guarantees moist and tender white and dark meat every time. Simply flip the turkey upside down on the roasting rack, so that the thighs cook faster and baste the breast meat with their juices. Finish under the broiler for extra-crispy, browned skin.

Why Roast a Turkey Upside Down?

If the biggest complaint on Thanksgiving day is that the turkey is too dry, why not flip the narrative (literally).

  • Faster roasting. The dark meat on top cooks faster in this exposed position.
  • White meat that doesn’t dry out. By roasting turkey upside down, the breast meat is protected from the oven’s searing heat by the rest of the bird.
  • No basting required. While the turkey roasts, the rendered fat and juices drip down onto the breast meat, slow-basting the bird to juicy perfection.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

How to Roast a Turkey Upside Down

Roasting a turkey upside down isn’t all that different from your classic roasted turkey recipe.

  1. Thaw and prep the turkey. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed the day of roasting. Remove the neck and giblets and liberally salt the turkey. Stuff the turkey with an onion, an apple, and some fresh herbs if you’d like, but these are purely for the way they perfume the kitchen while roasting.
  2. Flip upside-down on a roasting rack. Place the turkey breast-side down in a roasting rack. Place the rack in a roasting pan.
  3. Roast the turkey. Start the turkey in a hot oven, 400°F, for 30 minutes to encourage browning, then lower the temperature to 325°F for the duration of the cooking time.Plan on 13 minutes of roasting for every pound of turkey.
  4. Take the turkey’s temperature. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the turkey’s temperature in both the breast and the thigh. (Make sure to avoid touching the bone.) When the thermometer hits 165°F, take the turkey out of the oven.
  5. Rest the turkey. Rest the turkey for 20 to 25 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
  6. Broil. Just before carving, flip the turkey breast-side up and broil to crisp and brown the skin.

A Tip for Extra-Crispy, Browned Skin

Rather than turning the turkey over in the last 30 minutes of roasting, turn to the broiler. Once the turkey has finished cooking and rested, flip the turkey breast-side up and broil until the skin is crisp and browned.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

How to Serve an Upside-Down Turkey

Remove the roasting rack to a cutting board or baking sheet to rest while you make gravy with the drippings. If your turkey is still upside down in the rack, remove the thighs first, then flip to remove the drumsticks and breasts. If the turkey is turned breast-side up and broiled, carve the turkey as you normally would.

How To Roast a Turkey Upside Down

Roast your turkey upside down for moist (yes, even the white meat) and tender turkey at the same time, every time.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes

Serves 10 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 1

    small apple

  • 1

    (12- to 15-pound) turkey

  • 3 tablespoons

    kosher salt

  • 6 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 4 sprigs

    fresh rosemary

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Chef's knife

  • Cutting board

  • Roasting pan

  • Roasting rack

  • Kitchen twine (optional)

  • Instant-read thermometer

Instructions

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  1. Thaw the turkey, if frozen. Thaw 1 (12- to 15-pound) turkey in the refrigerator. Allow about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. A 12- to 15-pound turkey will take about 3 days to thaw.

  2. Prepare the aromatics. Peel and quarter 1 medium yellow onion. Quarter and remove the core from 1 small apple.

  3. Prepare and salt the turkey. Remove the giblets and neck from inside the turkey's cavity. Mix 3 tablespoons kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl, then season the turkey inside and out. Set the turkey on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Place the onion, apple, 6 sprigs fresh thyme, and 4 sprigs fresh rosemary in the cavity of the turkey. Place the turkey breast-side down in the roasting rack. Let sit at room temperature 2 hours before roasting.

  4. Roast the turkey. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above it, and heat to 400°F. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes to darken and crisp the skin. Reduce the heat to 325°F and roast the bird for 2 hours more.

  5. Finish the turkey. Begin checking the temperature of the turkey after 2 hours of roasting at 325°F. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the turkey's temperature in both the thighs and the breast. The turkey is ready when it registers 165°F for the thighs and 160°F for the breasts.

  6. Rest and carve. Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest for 20 to 25 minutes before carving.

  7. Broil to crisp and brown the skin. Turn the oven on to broil. Flip the turkey so that it is breast-side up, then broil until the skin is crisp and brown, about 10 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The turkey can be salted up to 2 days in advance and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 hours before roasting.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.