The Tale of the Huge Turkey

I decided this year to order the biggest bird I could find. It made sense. The local farmer I was purchasing from offered all free-range turkeys over 18 pounds at a flat rate. I told him I would take one of their biggest, and on delivery day, the hugest turkey I’d ever seen showed up on our porch.

This week, in preparation for our big Thanksgiving feast, I thawed Mr. Turkey so that I could get him baked and deboned. (Here’s my easy method for preparing the turkey ahead of time and re-warming it on Thanksgiving day.)  All was well until I got out my big roasting pan.

huge turkey 1

Uh-huh. I could actually hear the turkey laughing out loud at the very idea of me trying to bake him in what now appeared to be a very tiny pan.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just get out my large roaster oven. Surely that would be plenty big enough.

huge turkey 2

At least the turkey fit inside. But no way, no how was that lid going on. And a lidless roasting pan would not bake a turkey. Okay then. Plan C?

Hmmm, Plan C. Plan C. I had not foreseen the need for a Plan C. As I stared at the huge bird (who by now was rolling his eyes, shrugging his wings, and getting bored with the entire situation), I racked my brain for options. Go to the store and fork out money for….yeah right. Just a few days before the holiday? What would my store even carry that would be big enough to bake this bird?

It occurred to me that maybe I could bake the turkey directly on the oven rack, with a pan underneath to catch the drippings.  I immediately recognized that this was a silly idea since I didn’t have a pan large enough in the first place, so all the drippings couldn’t be caught. I could just envision a dried out turkey with lots of drippings crusted all over the bottom of my oven. Not to mention the fact that when drippings drip in a hot oven, the coils can catch fire, smoke can fill a kitchen, smoke alarms can scream for way too long, houses can smell horrible, and Thanksgiving dinners can be ruined.

You realize all these thoughts went through my head in a time span of about 45 seconds? Nonetheless, I was practically waving a tea towel in front of the smoke alarm just picturing the entire scene.

I moved on to Plan Q – which involved texting a friend.  I remembered that she had mentioned that she had an extra large aluminum pan at her house. I don’t love baking in aluminum, and I doubted that such a pan existed that would fit my gigantic-sized turkey, but I figured it was worth a shot. Within an hour, my friend arrived with two roasting pan options. One pan was tiny – as in, it was made for normal sized turkeys. But the other one? Well, I could have leapt for joy. That pan fit my turkey with several inches to spare!

huge turkey 3

As you can see, the turkey feels exposed, being photographed in all his glory. He’s even blushing a slight pink. Here – I’ll cover him:

huge turkey 4

And into the oven he went. My friend saved the day. The turkey turned out tasty. And even though we’ll be feeding 15 people on Thanksgiving, I do believe we might have a bite or two of leftover turkey to enjoy in a sandwich this weekend.

Have you ever seen a turkey that big? Do you have any fun Thanksgiving preparation stories to tell?


  1. says

    My turkey was too big for my slow cooker, so I ended up butchering it so it would it. I put the legs, wings and breast in and put the back in the freezer.


  2. Dawn says

    So, how many pounds would you say it was? It looks HUGE! :)


    Laura Reply:

    I think it was just 20 pounds, but it sure seems bigger than that!


    Denise Smith Reply:

    He is WAY bigger than 20 pounds!! (I have a 20-pounder from the store this year)
    We bought a fresh turkey from our Amish neighbors a few years ago, he weighed 36 pounds and yours is still bigger than that one was!


  3. Daisy says

    Lol! Too funny! I’m glad your friend saved the day! In our house growing up we never baked turkey. Cajuns “smother” everything and that big guy would have been no exception! These days I roast my turkey but I hope if I ever get in a delimma like yours I’ll remember my dad’s method!


  4. Ellen says

    We are going to bbq the bird in the Weber. I bet you could fit a fairly large turkey in a bbq, and it frees up the oven.


  5. Brenda says

    Every Thanksgiving, my kids ask if we’re going to have “soap gravy.” One year my in-laws came to dinner and I asked my father-in-law to make the gravy (his specialty). He asked for a saucepan, so I quickly washed one(I had dirtied every pot, pan and utensil we had.
    He whippped up the gravy and we sat down to eat. Everyone took large portions of gravy on their potatoes, their turkey, everything. My husband and one of my sons got this terrible look on their faces and stopped eating.
    They asked if the rest of us could taste the soap in the gravy! (Guess I didn’t rinsed the saucepan as well as I should have)
    The funniest part is, only half of us could taste the soap. I thought it was as good as usual!


  6. Katrina says

    I just picked up my 20lb thanksgiving turkey from the farm today- I too am wondering how I am supposed to fit that thing in my oven- its as big as my 3 year old! :)


  7. says

    We raise our own turkey and ended up with a giant bird our first year. The roaster oven with the lid and tin foil wrapped around to cover the gap works beautifully! :)


  8. Ellen says

    There was a young boy from our church who raised turkeys for camp money one year. We ordered one. There are only two in our family. When he delivered the turkey…it was 40 pounds! We cut him up and smoked him because it would not even fit in my oven!


    Edith Reply:

    Hope it was the turkey and not the boy that got cut up and smoked! :D


  9. Fletcher R. says

    OMGosh, this is funny! Poor, exposed, big bird lol. I’ve got a 20#er ready to roll tomorrow. When we’ve had smaller birds we’ve cooked them on the grill and they turn out wonderfully moist, but you don’t get that sought after “turkey roasting” smell in the house. My garage however, smelled amazing for a whole week :)


  10. says

    This made me laugh so much! When my mother did her first Thanksgiving my grandmother suggested that she get a 12 lb turkey. Well, at the store part of the first 2 was rubbed away and so my mother thought she was buying a 12 pounder but ended up with a 22 pound turkey! I don’t know how she cooked it but she said she had to wash it in the tub. :)


  11. Shelley says

    Can I ask how much you pay for your farm turkey? It was so discouraging trying to even find a healthier turkey this year. The local farms that sell turkeys were all charging about $75- $85 for one, which we could not afford. The next choice was a fresh turkey from the store (which I had heard are not supposed to be injected with junk) but found out they are injected. It was too late to get a wild one as the hunting season is over, so we ended up having to buy the factory farmed, frozen, injected with junk one this year in the end. I now have a year to try and find a better one for next Thanksgiving.


  12. Edith says

    We were given a 20 lb turkey a couple years ago. Had to go out and buy a roaster – since the donor was coming for dinner and expecting her turkey to be served. The bird fit inside with room to spare. The bonus was that the roaster freed up the oven for homemade bread and sweet potato casserole. Perhaps i’m missing something, but why not just put aluminum foil (yeah, i know, i don’t like it either, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet) around the top of the roaster? I do that all the time with my slow cooker when a frozen beef roast sticks out the top. Once it’s cooked a bit and fits, i take the foil off and put the lid on. Not going to happen with the turkey, but the aluminum foil should do the trick. Have a great Thanksgiving!


  13. Pam says

    LOL. I had this same problem two Thanksgivings ago. We called my father in law to see if he had a larger pan and instead of a pan, he brought over that stand thing that you put chickens on to roast. Needless to say, that did not even come close to working, although we got some really good laughs out while trying to put this huge Turkey on that little bitty stand! I think we ended up with one of those aluminum disposal pans as well. Last year we bought two huge pans on sale so we don’t have to repeat that again. And, I try not to go for THE largest Turkey in town anymore.


  14. Mary Przybyla says

    Did you ever consider cutting it into pieces to roast? It would require more than one ‘pan’, but since you’re roasting early, there could be roasting batches.

    To avoid the aluminum foil ‘lid’, I put a large piece of parchment paper on the turkey first. I got the idea to use parchment paper from watching Martha Stewart wrap her turkey in sheets of parchment paper.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  15. Jennifer says

    I think this story should be entitled: praise The Lord that I cool my turkey in advance… Can u imagine the panic if this happened on thanksgiving morning? :-)


  16. says

    Laura, I need to pick your brain! My husband and I raise pastured turkeys and we kept the largest of our last flock for Thanksgiving dinner. He’s 27 lbs and I’m wondering what weight yours was and how long it took to roast… of course none of the cookbooks covers a bird that big. Hoping you can help me get the timing right! Fortunately, I have a new 5.8 cf oven and 13×22 inch cake pan. :)


  17. Marisol says

    I have to thank you for a great story and lots of laughter. I read it out loud to my 3 girls we all got such a kick out of it.

    We have raise many heritage breed turkeys and we know joys of getting one of those large bone breasted free range turkeys into a pan to cook up! LOL.

    Thank you again for the laughs I was stressing today but the Lord used you to lift my spirits. God bless!


  18. Tracy says

    I have this problem often, as I often buy a huge turkey. I plan to solve the problem this year by cutting said huge bird into two parts, the white part and the dark part. It’s easy (so they say). We shall see. I am told that in addition to fitting in the oven, the white and dark can each cook at their own pace and reach a state of perfect doneness without drying out or undercooking the other part.


    Tracy Reply:

    BTW, this year, it is Orange Roast Turkey with Orange Gravy. The last time I did orange turkey it was delicious. Again, we shall see.


  19. Sara says

    This year I only have a 22 pound turkey. About 8 years ago I bought an electric roaster what will fit about a 25 pound turkey in it. At least that is the largest I have tried. You would think I was feeding an army, but we cook the meal and then take it to my father-in-law and leave the leftovers for him to freeze and eat during the next week.


  20. Kathy says

    Is 1 1/2 lbs. per person really what I need? I’m making turkey for 24 and got an 18 lb. bird–the biggest one at the store. Leftovers are yummy, but I don’t necessarily need them.


  21. Lynda says

    My Dad use to raise our turkey. One year our turkey was 27 pounds after it was dressed! It was the largest turkey I have ever seen. My Mom had a horrible time trying to fit it in a roaster. I don’t remember exactly how she did it. I’m thinking she cut off the wings & legs. There were 8 kids in my family so we were thrilled to have leftovers for once : )


  22. says

    Just an future fyi … if your roaster pan is two pieces (i.e. there’s the pan that you put your food in, and then you set it inside the electric pan part) you can put the turkey in the food pan part and then bake it in the oven. That’s what we’re doing today with our 20 pounder :)


    Hannah Reply:

    And yes … I know that’s supposed to be “a future fyi”, not “an future fyi” … my fingers sometimes get away from me on the keyboard :) Oh well!


  23. Shirley says

    I believe you made everyone else let out a sigh of relief that everything doesn’t always go just how we picture perfect it in the mind we make it. I loved the story because it could of happened so easily to me. After all, the ending proves we are overcomers.


  24. donna v says

    We had a similar experience. We have a big family and the whole gang(almost) was here, so I bought the 25 pound turkey. That roaster lid was at least 3 inches from meeting the bottom part. My husband had to do some serious operating on Sir Timothy Turkey to allow him to “almost” fit in that roaster, then we still had to do some major aluminum foil and various other wrapping to get him cooked. Even if I had had a pan big enough to put him in, in the oven, that wouldn’t have worked because my oven was FULL of many other dishes cooking. I will definitely be on the lookout for a different option for the future cooking of said large turkeys :), which was delicious in spite of the delays.


  25. LoraC says

    How do you thaw such a large bird? Thawing is always the hardest part of the process for me. I put a frozen bird in the fridge and 5 days later it was still frozen.


    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Usually thawing in the fridge is the best route to take…I have heard mixed reviews on putting it in a water bath. The best advice I can give is buy in advance and let it sit in the fridge until it is ready. :) Sorry that is not more helpful!


  26. Linda D. says

    We purchased our grass fed organic turkey from a local farm at it clocked in at about 21#’s…I usually cook a 20-25# turkey so we have plenty to make things with afterwards! I am not going to have fun thawing the thing that is for sure!


  27. Steve says

    LOL….Big? My brother in law raises the turkey for the annual Thanksgiving feast for around 40 of us. 2016 bird weighed in at 42.5 lbs, and THIS year’s version is a whopping 48lbs. No different than cooking any other large turkey….roast starting at 0530, and baste every hour (tented when browned) and we gather and eat around 4-5pm. Never had a dried out bird and it is done all the way to the backbone. Use 3-5 cans of chicken broth in the bottom of the open roaster with large rack to keep it moist.


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