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How To Cook Perfect Turkey In An Electric Roaster Oven

Cooking your turkey in an electric roaster results in perfect, juicy turkey.

Cooking turkey in an electric roaster is honestly a no-brainer — they produce perfectly moist and tender turkey every time, and they keep your oven free so you can use it for other things. Electric roaster ovens also retain moisture better than conventional ovens, making it easier to avoid the tragedy of dry turkey.

In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about how to cook perfect turkey in an electric roaster oven. I’ll start by answering some of the most common questions people have about electric roasters, after which I’ll share the recipe and step-by-step guide to cooking your best Thanksgiving turkey ever!

Electric roaster ovens can cook much more than just turkeys!

Electric Roaster Oven FAQs

What Is An Electric Roaster Oven?

An electric roaster oven is a countertop appliance with a similar shape to a traditional turkey roaster. You can use them to bake, roast, steam, warm, and slow cook many of the same foods you’d cook in a regular oven, and they’re easy to store away when not in use.

Similar to a slow cooker or Instant Pot, electric roaster ovens retain moisture better than other cooking methods, which helps prevent food from drying out. (This sets them apart from conventional ovens, which vent moisture through the door and exhaust vents during cooking.)

Of all the methods I’ve tried for cooking Thanksgiving turkeys, using an electric roaster oven has yielded the most consistently delicious results. On top of making it easy to churn out moist and juicy turkey, I also love that my electric roaster oven frees up my oven for cooking all those tasty side dishes.

You can cook a great turkey breast in an electric roaster, especially if you set a bowl of water in the roaster to keep the meat moist.

How Big Of A Turkey Can I Cook In An Electric Roaster?

Thanks to their domed lids, some large electric roaster ovens can accommodate up to a 25 pound turkey. When you’re shopping for a roaster oven, the size may be listed in quarts, but the product description will usually state how large a turkey it can accommodate as well. (As a point of reference, a 22-quart electric roaster oven will typically fit turkeys up to 28 pounds.)

Do I Need To Add Water?

One of my favorite features of electric roasters is that they’re self-basting, which means that the moisture and juice inside the cooker condenses on the inside of the lid and drips back down onto the turkey. It’s so much easier to make a moist turkey this way, rather than using your turkey baster to do it manually several times during cooking.

So no need to add water — just put your prepared turkey in the roaster oven, put the lid on, and cook!

What’s The Best Electric Roaster Oven?

I can’t speak to the quality and performance of all electric roaster ovens, but I would certainly recommend the one I own! I have the Oster 22-Quart Roaster Oven, which I like because it’s large enough for a 22 lb turkey, has a removable pan and roasting rack for easy clean-up, and offers a wide range of cooking temperatures (150–450ºF).

I’m sure there are plenty of other great brands and models out there though, so don’t be afraid to try another one, as long as it has generally positive reviews!

Once you're done cooking the turkey in the electric roaster oven, you can make the gravy in it too.

Turkey Cooking Times For Electric Roaster Ovens

Turkey WeightCooking Time (Conventional Oven)Cooking Time (Electric Roaster)
10–18 pounds3 hours2 hours
18–22 pounds3.5 hours2.5 hours
22–24 pounds4 hours3 hours
24–26 pounds4.5 hours3.5 hours

The cooking times in the table above are only approximations. The actual cooking time for any particular turkey will vary according to a variety of factors, including the starting temperature of the bird and how often you remove the lid during cooking.)

For that reason, I recommend using a meat thermometer with a remote temperature gauge so you can monitor the temperature without removing the lid of the roaster oven. (Like crockpots, electric roasters are small enough that removing the lid can cause the temperature inside to drop dramatically, so it’s best to leave it alone as much as possible!) Your turkey is done when the internal temperature is 165 degrees F in the breast, and 175°F in the thigh.

I also recommend monitoring the temperature gauge early and often. When I first used an electric roaster oven to cook our Thanksgiving turkey, it cooked quite a bit faster than I’d anticipated based on how big the turkey was! It was lucky that I noticed early on, because I was able to lower the temperature and prevent it from drying out.

Cooking turkey breast, rather than a whole bird? The average cooking time for a turkey breast in an electric roaster oven is about 20 minutes per pound at 375°F. Poultry breast meat is easy to dry out, so you may want to place a small, oven-safe dish of water inside the oven to help keep it moist.

Even the breast meat comes out juicy when you cook your turkey in an electric roaster.

How To Cook Perfect Turkey In An Electric Roaster Oven [Recipe]

You’ll need:

  • Electric roaster oven
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Turkey
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Seasoning salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil or butter

Directions:

Brine your turkey in a large bucket before putting it in the electric roaster.

Step 1 – Brine

Start by brining your fully thawed or fresh turkey. (It’s not technically necessary, but it can help minimize moisture loss during cooking, and it’s traditional!)

Place turkey in a clean bucket, then fill the bucket with cold water and add 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve, then place the bucket in your fridge for 24 hours.

Step 2 – Stuff & Season

Remove the brined turkey from the bucket and rinse with cold water. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels (and make sure to wash your sink out thoroughly with soap and water afterward!)

At this point, you can stuff your turkey, if desired. Fill the cavity with 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey, or fill the cavity with halved lemons and sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage. Spread olive oil or butter (or an oil and butter mixture) generously over the exterior of the turkey with a pastry brush to ensure a crispy, beautiful golden brown skin, then season liberally with seasoning salt (or poultry seasoning), garlic powder, and pepper.

Before putting the turkey in the roaster oven, insert a wired thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.

Step 3 – Roast

Place the turkey into the roasting pan with the breast facing up, then set the pan inside the roaster oven and put the lid on. (No need to use a turkey bag, as the roaster will keep it plenty moist!)

Turn the roaster to its highest temperature — that’s 450 degrees on my roaster, but yours might be different — and set a timer for 30 minutes. (I don’t bother trying to preheat the roaster, because it doesn’t take long to get hot!)

After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees fahrenheit, then continue cooking until the turkey is done. (As I mentioned previously, the total cooking time will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your particular turkey. Starting with an approximate cooking time in mind is helpful, but the best way to know when your turkey is done is using a wired thermometer.)

When you take the turkey out of the roaster oven, tent it with foil and let it rest.

Step 4 – Rest & Serve

When your turkey is done, open the lid and carefully remove the roasting pan by the handles. Tent the turkey with a large piece of aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 20 minutes (or up to an hour) while you make gravy using the drippings in the roaster pan.

You’ll end up with juicy, tender turkey, all while having the freedom to use your big oven for everything else! My family was originally pretty skeptical, but thanks to the delicious results, the whole family now loves this recipe!

If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner, these free checklists will help keep you on track.

More Great Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Download my free Thanksgiving Planning Checklist and Cooking Schedule! These 2 free Thanksgiving printables will help keep you on task and on schedule every step of the way.

Use your Instant Pot to cook Thanksgiving sides and desserts! You can make mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and even pumpkin pie in an Instant Pot, which will help keep your oven free for other things (homemade rolls, anyone?)

Learn the secrets to making the most delicious mashed potatoes, including which varieties to use and how to mash them.

Ditch the canned stuff in favor of homemade cranberry sauce — it’ll elevate your entire meal, and it’s quick and easy to make.

Expecting guests who are gluten intolerant? This gluten-free pumpkin pie cake is a truly excellent GF dessert option that will make for happy Thanksgiving dinner guests!

Turkeys aren't the only things you can cook in an electric roaster oven.

BONUS: Other Foods You Can Cook In An Electric Roaster

While electric roaster ovens are perfect for roasting turkey, that’s not the only way you can use them — in fact, they’re more like slow cookers than you might think! Here are some of my favorite things I’ve cooked in my electric roaster:

Have you tried cooking a turkey in an electric roaster?

cooking turkey in an electric roaster

Perfect Turkey In An Electric Roaster Oven (Recipe)

Jill Nystul
An electric roaster oven makes cooking perfect turkey virtually foolproof. If you're anything like me, your only regret will be that you didn't try it sooner!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Calories 553 kcal

Equipment

  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Electric roaster oven

Ingredients
  

  • 16 lb turkey
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Seasoning salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil or butter or a mix

Instructions
 

Step 1 – Brine

  • Place turkey in a clean bucket, fill with cold water, then add 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.
  • Place the bucket in your fridge and let the turkey brine for 24 hours.

Step 2 – Stuff & Season

  • Remove the turkey and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Stuff the turkey, if desired.
  • Rub olive oil or butter (or a mix) over the exterior of the turkey, then season generously with seasoning salt, garlic powder, and pepper.

Step 3 – Roast The Turkey

  • Place the turkey in the roasting pan breast side up and place the pan in the roaster oven.
  • Cover and turn the roaster on to its highest heat setting (or 450°F) for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the temperature to 325°F and continue cooking until the turkey registers 180°F in the thigh and 165°F in the breast.

Step 4 – Rest & Serve

  • Tent the turkey with foil and let it for at least 20 minutes (or up to an hour) before carving.

Nutrition

Calories: 553kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 70gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 247mgSodium: 7485mgPotassium: 721mgSugar: 13gVitamin A: 358IUCalcium: 42mgIron: 3mg

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!!! I have used an electric roaster that I store all year for the sole purpose of roasting a Thanksgiving turkey, and have never had proper directions for cooking one. I’ve always “winged it”, with decent results, but felt the timing was off. With your instructions and tips, I’ll have much more success this year. Do you have any tips for cooking a bone-in turkey breast? Sometimes we go that route since no one likes dark meat. Happy Thanksgiving to you and the OGT team.

  • we use our osterfeld roaster for turkeys, prime rib- everything! But Mary mentioned her igloo cooler- we soak corn on the cob in water for about a half hour, grill it like that over our fire, or on the grill, toss it all in the igloo cooler, and it stays hot for hours, (pull back the husks and remove silk, the husks act as a corn holder), great for when we deep fry our turkey which comes out so juicy and yummy, we have baked potatoes in the roaster that have each been slathered with butter, and plenty of seasonings covering each potato (salt pepper, garlic and onion powders and anything else you can think of), DO NOT WRAP IN FOIL (no need to) and roasted until done at 350*, for however long, and my oven is open for all else!

    And with all that being said, I’m-a done, everybody else can bring what they want! lol

  • I’ve been using a roaster for a few years. I love them. My oven is free and my kitchen doesn’t get as hot. I carefully lay beach towels on top of the roaster to help absorb heat. I just don’t do well in a hot kitchen.

    But because I brine my bird, I’ve never used the turkey drippings for gravy. They’re so salty. Has anybody else figured out how to do that?

    Instead, I take the neck and giblets and brown them well on the stove, add the carrots, onions, and celery and let that simmer while the bird cooks. Then strain that off and make gravy. I would love to use the turkey grippings but I didn’t think that was an option if I brined.

  • If you don’t enjoy dry breast meat, cook your turkey breast side down, this allows the fats in the dark meat to drain down into the breast meat, and remember to let the bird rest in the juices for 15 to 20 minutes before you start carving it.
    Keith

  • This is genius! I’ll have to try this for Thanksgiving this year, last year I was literally making trips back and forth to a friend’s house to keep the pies, turkey, and green bean casserole all cooking. Thanks Jill :D

  • I watched a uTube on using an electric roast pan while cooking Turkey, and it said 1 hour 15 minutes?… does this sound right for a 15 pound turkey?

    • According to the ButterBall calculator, a 15 pound turkey would take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to roast. An hour and a half doesn’t sound like enough time to me, but I’m not exactly an expert! Be sure to temp the turkey – that’s the only way to know for sure!

  • Can I roast a stuffed turkey in my electric roaster? This will be my first time roasting a turkey in my roaster & want to stuff the turkey with the basic bread stuffing. How will stuffing affect the cooking time?

  • not only do I use my roaster for my turkey, but I have made hotdog chili in my roaster and my ham. Its just easier for me since my 3 kiddos have practice or games the day before Thanksgiving its a full day of basketball practice for 2 of them a community service day at the nursing home for my oldest daughter and her team and Christmas play practice for all three from 10-7 today I’m busy lol

  • How do you “seal” the lid to the electric roaster around the cord of the remote cooking thermometer? It works great in my oven (which has a flexible seal). Thanks!

    • My roaster doesn’t really seal shut anyways, so it ends up being cracked a bit for the cord. My cord is quite skinny, though, so I haven’t had any issues with it!

      • Ahhh-haven’t used the roaster yet, that makes sense. I have the same thermometer that you have the link to above, so it should work. Thanks! Happy Turkey (roasting) Day!

  • Oh thank you! I bought this kind of roaster 2 years ago for the same reason. A HUGE family and only a single oven. Been afraid to try, but your instructions seem sensible and I actually have a remote cooking thermometer. I was warned to use the roaster on a different electrical circuit so as not to blow a fuse with all that’s going on in the kitchen.

  • If you don’y need to have crispy skin, I have started to roast my bird breast side down. That way is absorbs everything your seasonings have to offer! I used to hate white meat because it was so dry. This is great for any bird.

    • I’ve roasted a turkey breast down before in the regular oven and it’s good, but I don’t think it’s necessary in the Oster roaster, because it self bastes like a crockpot and stays very moist. But I’ll see how today’s thanksgiving turkey turns out. This is only my third time roasting a turkey in it, so I’ll let you know. I like crispy skin… a lot. Happy roasting.

  • Great idea! I make my mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, broccoli casserole all a couple of weeks before and freeze. I have been doing this for years and ever since my son accidentally put my 5lbs. of mashed potatoes in the freezer instead of the fridge as I had told him to. What a break!! This year I am looking into freezing the pies as well!!! Thanksgiving dinner is a breeze when all the shopping and cooking and dish cleaning is done weeks in advance!!! btw, no one seems to be able to tell the difference in the freezing of these dishes. Oh…one more tip. I buy Trader Joe’s turkey gravy. My gravy has never come out very good. Be sure to buy it now because it sells out fast.

    • After reading a similar tip last year, I made a double batch of dressing on Thanksgiving and froze half of it for Christmas dinner. It turned out perfectly! If nothing else, you could saute your veggies and other dressing additions (sausage, apples, etc.) in advance and freeze to save lots of time and cleanup on the day itself.

  • My grandmother always did the turkey in a roaster. I remember, as a small child, asking where the turkey was and the reply was “in the laundry room” This was in the mid-50’s. Now I do a turkey breast or a half turkey in a crockpot using a glaze of cranberry sauce and orange juice.

  • We bought an Oster turkey roaster three years ago for precisely this reason. One caution–the thermostat on ours turned out to be exactly 100 degrees out of whack.

    Even easier, now my daughter picks up a fully cooked smoked turkey from Whole Foods and all I need to do is stick it in the roaster to warm it up.

  • I have been using a brine made up of apple cider, onions, garlic, carrots, and water. I put it in portion to the weight of the turkey. I put the turkey in and use about 1/4 – 1/2 of a half gallon of apple cider. One medium onion cut up in fourths, 2 hole cloves of garlic, and one chopped carrot or 4 baby carrots. I then put enough water to cover the turkey. I usually brine it for 48 hours for a frozen turkey or 24 for a fresh one. I drain it then put spices and cook it. It not only comes out a nice golden brown, but super juicy. One year we left it in too long and it was still pretty juicy.

    • We also make the sides the day before, except the dressing which we make the day of then warm them in the microwave or oven. We put it together while the turkey is cooking and bake it while the turkey is resting along with the sides that need to be warmed up in the oven. We make desserts two days before.

    • Just do not use a cooking bag on a large turkey in a roaster. If the bag touches the sides of the roaster, it melts. This happened to me once and I had so much trouble getting the plastic off the roaster, nothing worked until I placed the roaster insert into the oven, turned the oven to self clean and the roaster came out beautiful.

  • I make sides the day before -mashed potatoes, candied yams, dressing, etc. – putting them into baking dishes and refrigerating. On Thanksgiving, I just have to put the turkey in the oven, then when it’s done, I remove it and pop the sides into the oven to heat (adding a ladle of the drippings to the dressing for moisture and flavor) while the turkey rests and I make my gravy. Preserves valuable oven space, and makes the big day a whole lot easier and less stressful!

  • This looks like a great method and if I had an electric roaster I would certainly try it.
    I have been cooking my holiday turkey a few days ahead of time for years and years and it always turns out delicious. It eliminates the resting and carving and mess on Thanksgiving and allows me to spend more time enjoying my family. I roast the bird and line a 2 inch deep roasting pan or 2 with heavy aluminum foil (with enough to draw the sides up to cover) Carve it and slice it, laying the pieces in the pan. Cover with the essence and juices, and fold the foil to seal it all. Refrigerate until Thanksgiving morning. I put it in the oven to heat it up. It only takes up one rack and frees up the rest of the oven for sides.
    It turns out very moist as it has been in the juices for a few days.

  • One thing that I have learned since I don’t have a turkey roaster is this. You can cook your casseroles right before the turkey and put them into a large igloo cooler. I have stacked three large dishes with a large piece of cardboard to separate them and stack. You will be amazed how hot they stay.

  • I, too, use the roaster. To make my gravy, I buy turkey necks and wings ahead of time and cook them in my crock pot a day ahead of time. This method produces a wonderful broth to make gravy. I then use the drippings from the roasted turkey to make a second batch of gravy for leftovers.

  • I use Alton Brown’s method for cooking my Turkey in the oven. I have had 30 pound birds done in 6 hours. Then take the roasting pan out, wrap it in a quilt, and put your sides in the oven. The wrapped Turkey will stay steaming hot for even 2 hours, carve beautifully and be super moist. And you lots of time and room for the sides.

      • Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely show this to my folks. We been having Thanksgiving at our place for quite a few years. Three of my siblings live nearby and another brothers family loves to come see Grandma and Grandpa this time of year. My siblings do help with the side dish items.

  • Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to show this to my mom. She said awhile back that her sister ( my Aunt ) uses this method for cooking her turkey or something similar t this method.

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