Do You Really Need a Roasting Rack to Cook Turkey?

We’re here to help you cook a turkey like a pro because we’ve cooked over 1,000 (!) turkeys over the years.

For more than 120 years, we have conducted our own independent product testing and research. If you make a purchase using one of our links, we might get paid. Learn more about our review process.

The majority of the dishes we prepare every Thanksgiving aren’t very difficult. You know how to make your favorite green bean casserole, and you could almost make mashed potatoes without thinking. However, one dish in particular that we frequently get inquiries about—especially as the big day draws near—is the crucial but always intimidating Thanksgiving turkey. To make sure that the centerpiece of your meal can really shine, we’ve compiled our best turkey cooking advice, including how to season a turkey, what errors to avoid, and how to cook a turkey without drying it out (yes, it’s possible!).

While a roasting rack isn’t absolutely essential for cooking a turkey, it can significantly improve the outcome. Here’s why:

Benefits of using a roasting rack:

  • Promotes even cooking: By elevating the turkey off the bottom of the pan, a rack allows hot air to circulate around the entire bird, ensuring more even cooking and crispy skin on all sides.
  • Prevents soggy skin: The rack keeps the turkey out of the drippings and fat that accumulate at the bottom of the pan, preventing the skin from becoming soggy.
  • Makes basting easier: With the turkey elevated, basting becomes easier and more efficient.
  • Simplifies gravy making: The drippings collected in the pan are easily accessible for making gravy.

Alternatives to a roasting rack:

If you don’t have a roasting rack, you can still achieve good results with these alternatives:

  • Vegetables: Create a bed of chopped vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and celery, in the bottom of the pan. This will elevate the turkey and add flavor to the drippings.
  • Aluminum foil: Crumple several pieces of aluminum foil into balls and place them in the bottom of the pan. This will create a makeshift rack and elevate the turkey.
  • Inverted baking sheet: Place a small baking sheet upside down in the bottom of the pan. This will provide a stable platform for the turkey.

Tips for roasting turkey:

  • Pat the turkey dry: This will help the skin to crisp up.
  • Season generously: Use your favorite herbs and spices, or try a pre-made turkey rub.
  • Start at a high temperature: This will help to brown the skin.
  • Reduce the temperature: After the skin has browned, reduce the temperature to ensure the turkey cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out.
  • Use a meat thermometer: The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast.
  • Let the turkey rest: This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender bird.

While a roasting rack isn’t strictly necessary, it’s a valuable tool for achieving a perfectly cooked turkey with crispy skin. If you don’t have a rack, don’t worry – you can still get great results with the alternatives mentioned above. Just remember to follow the tips for roasting turkey to ensure a delicious and juicy bird.

Dry brine or bust

We look forward to Thanksgiving turkey all year long, but it’s frequently bland and dry, serving only as a vehicle for gravy. The best way to make sure the skin gets extra crispy, the turkey keeps its moisture, and the bird is seasoned throughout—not just on the outside—is to brine it. To dry brine a turkey, all you really need is salt. Simply coat the raw turkey with salt, transfer it to a large plastic bag (you might need two), and refrigerate it for at least one night and up to two days before cooking.

The Test Kitchen recommends stuffing recipes baked outside of the bird, in a deep casserole dish, as the safest (and tastiest!) alternative to stuffing your bird with bread cubes that eventually get soggy. This not only keeps the stuffing away from the raw turkey, but it also results in a mouthwateringly moist, crispy-topped dish that your guests will not be able to put down!

There are a few ways to give bland turkey even more flavor in addition to salt, which is a good way to boost its flavor. The majority of herbs you may have on hand for Thanksgiving, such as sage, thyme, and rosemary ) will work great. Since the bird will not be stuffed, place those herbs—roughly 12 sprigs total—as well as a quartered onion inside the bird’s cavity. Cut an extra head of garlic in half and add it, skin and all!, if you have one. You can also add a halved lemon or small orange. The spices within the turkey’s cavity will flavor the remainder of the bird as it roasts.

Plan for the long thaw

The USDA states that thawing frozen turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method. This is the most hands-off method that produces an evenly defrosted bird that’s ready to roast, and it’s also our Test Kitchen’s favorite. In order to thaw a frozen turkey, you should refrigerate it for a minimum of one day for every four pounds of turkey. That means that a 12-pound turkey should be refrigerated for three days, a 20-pound bird for five days, and so on.

Is it better to roast a turkey on a rack or directly in the pan?


Should you roast a turkey on a rack?

The point of using a rack is to let the heat of the oven circulate around the turkey. You don’t need a specially designed rack for your roasting pan, but you need something to lift the bird above the bottom of the pan. Balls of aluminum foil work perfectly well; you can also use upside-down ramekins.

Do I really need a roasting rack?

The rack keeps the food high enough so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan, allowing air to circulate and helping the roast to heat evenly. The slots in this rack allow juices from the roast to drip into the bottom tray.

What happens if you don’t use a roasting rack?

A roasting rack helps elevate the food above the bottom of the pan, allowing air to circulate freely and ensuring even cooking. This can be particularly important for items like roasts, poultry, and vegetables, which may release juices or fat into the pan while cooking.

Do you need a roasting rack to cook a Turkey?

However, you can also try using a Dutch oven, skillet, or baking dish. You don’t need a roasting rack, but it helps to keep your turkey raised. It might come out a little stewed otherwise. You can use a wire cooling rack if you have one.

Can one have turkey and carrots?

Eating turkey and carrots is part of healthy habits. The turkey has meat like chicken and is another healthy poultry option. Carrots are rich in carotenoids, it is a source of vitamin A, fiber, potassium and vitamin B3.

Which rack should a Turkey be cooked on?

A turkey should be cooked on the lowest rack in the oven that you will place it in. You should put the turkey on the bottom rack of your oven because the top of the turkey should be around the middle of the oven. This will ensure that the entire turkey can cook evenly ( Source ).

Why do you put a rack on a Turkey?

The main reason is that a rack literally lifts the turkey off the bottom of the pan. This ensures that hot air circulates around the bird as it’s roasting, producing a more even cook by allowing heat to reach every surface of the skin.

Leave a Comment