A Guide to A Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

The electric roaster is your portable second oven for a pro-level, restaurant-quality Thanksgiving turkey meal. I’ll let you in on a secret; cooking a turkey with electric roaster yields juicier, tastier, and incredibly tender meat. Even better, the whole process is at least 30% faster when compared to your regular oven. It cuts an hour of cooking time for a 16 pounds turkey. So, you can get a few more hugs instead of preparing festive food all day in the kitchen! Besides, you can use your electric roaster for slow cooking, and baking too; it is a multifunctional, versatile kitchen appliance.

Electric Roaster is a Gift from Heaven

I have been an electric roaster fan for a while now, and bought various models over the years. I no longer roast turkey in my big old oven. Since I know all the itsy-bitsy details from experience, and what to look for when buying one, I prepared this detailed electric roaster oven guide for your reference including tips and tricks.

This electric roaster guide includes the following:

  • Electric roaster features; different lids, materials used, racks, pans, etc.
  • Unique features of different brands; smoking turkey, round heating elements, cold-touch, and more.
  • How to choose the best electric roaster according to your needs?
  • Different settings; defrost frozen turkey fast, keep warm till guests arrive.
  • Electric roaster oven benefits that you should know of.
  • A comparison of different models and sizes.
  • Tips and tricks on how to use an electric roaster.
  • Preparing thanksgiving turkey with an electric roaster oven.
  • Accessories for electric roasters; buffet servers, meat thermometers, turkey lifters, liners, meat injectors, etc.
  • Learn what else you can cook with an electric roaster besides turkey.

Thanksgiving Turkey Requires Special Attention

Cooking Thanksgiving Day turkey can be a challenge if you don’t have the right oven and accessories. Having the best recipe will not get you a delicious turkey roast unless you cook it right. Turkey meat is unique; it has a low-fat level and sturdy structure. You need to cook it with patience in an evenly heated environment. The heating element, high dome lid, and the small space in an electric roaster are designed specifically for this purpose.

What Is An Electric Roaster Oven?

Think of it is a regular roasting pan with an electric heating element to cook your turkey in a smaller space than regular convection oven. It makes the roasted turkey juicier and more flavorful. The electric roaster is a counter top, portable oven that is made to cook the turkey faster and tastier. The pan is removable, and most of them come with a wire rack to keep the turkey away from the drippings. Racks also help you to lift the bird when it is done. Electric roaster ovens come in various sizes (5 Quart – 22 Quart), and they can accommodate turkeys up to 26 pounds.

How to Choose the Best Electrical Roaster Oven?

If you ask me what is the best roaster oven, then I would ask you what size of turkey do you cook, and how fast do you want it? Take me for example; I always cook smaller turkeys since they come out more tender. Therefore, I don’t need any electric roaster bigger than 18 Qt.

Some electric roasters take use of different heating technologies, others have see-through clear windows on the lid. Some come with porcelain pans (Nesco Roasters), and some have higher domes with self-basting lid. All these features add to the quality, but it is up to you to decide which feature is more important to you, and how flexible is your budget. To solve this dilemma; I selected several different electric roasters from different perspectives. Don’t get me wrong, they are all great and very simple to use.

Before we jump into the best electric roasters, here is a feature list that you can use to compare any two roaster ovens with ease.

Features that you should look for when shopping for an electric roaster:

  1. Quart Size; This option basically gives you the capacity of the electric roaster. 16 to 18 Quart rosters can cook turkeys up to 18 pounds. If you want to cook a larger bird, then select a 22 Qt roaster oven.
  2. Self-basting lid; This feature is very important for me, because I truly don’t like dry turkey. The small space inside the roaster oven already creates steam naturally. But, if the lid has self-basting feature, then it can collect the turkey juice and make it rain slowly on the turkey. This makes the meat incredibly juicy with its own aroma. It is really interesting to see how a tiny feature like this can make a huge difference in the end.
  3. Cold touch handles; It gets too hot on the outside of the roaster. You can easily burn your hands if you are not being careful. Stay-cool handles, or cold touch handles as some call them, always remain cold and protect your hands when lifting the lid.
  4. Clear window on the lid; You should never open the lid while cooking a turkey if you don’t want to harm the cooking environment. Steam and aroma will escape each time you open it up. See through clear window on the lid allows you to check on the status of the meat visually, so that you don’t have to remove the lid occasionally.
  5. Removable rack; It is the wire rack that you put the turkey on. It helps to keep the turkey away from the drippings on the bottom, so you don’t end up with an all greased up turkey. You also use this when baking with your roaster. When shopping for an electric roaster, check to see if it comes with a rack, and also if the rack has handles to lift the turkey.
  6. Porcelain or enamel coated pan; Your electric roaster oven comes with a removable pan. Nesco roasters feature porcelain pans, others usually have enamel coated ones. To me; it really does not make much difference, but I have to add that porcelain is a healthier option.
  7. Different heating elements; Most electric roasters have standard heating elements lined on the bottom. However, there are two brands, namely Nesco and Oberdome, which use patented unique systems. Nesco’s ¨Circle of Heat¨ cooks from the sides, and Oberdome cooks from the top like an air-fryer cooker.
  8. Defrost option; You should check if your roaster oven has a defrost option. This is extremely useful when cooking frozen turkey. You don’t have to take it out of the freezer several hours prior to cooking. It only takes 15 minutes to defrost with this option.
  9. Warming option; This feature keeps dinner at an ideal serving temperature, which is essential for large gatherings since not all guests arrive at the same time. You need a way to keep your food warm and ready. This option gives you all that.

What is the Best Electric Roaster Oven?

There are several answers to the question ¨what is the best electrical roaster¨, and it all depends on the size and features you are looking for. Some people like to add smoke flavor to their turkey roast, others prefer to cook huge birds, and for some, the juiciness of the meat is the most important factor.

The list goes on. I summarized the best brands below, and also compared them against their best qualities. Some do come with unique features that might get your attention.


Sunvivi Electric Roaster Oven – Self-Basting Lid, Clear window


  • Self-basting lid
  • Clear window – see through
  • Cold touch handles
  • Secure lid
  • Keep warm feature
  • Defrost option

Sunvivi electric roaster oven has all the features you would need from a quality roaster oven. You can simply consider it the standard for all electric roasters should be measured against. It comes with a self-basting lid and a clear window that allows you to monitor the food while it is cooking. It is really hard to see these two features on the same lid; in general, most models only come with one of them. Self-basting lid is important to recirculate the moisture. Its effect on the flavor and tenderness of the meat is immense. Sunvivi’s lid also fits on the roaster securely, so no steam will ever escape.

Electric roasters tend to get very hot while they are in use. You should handle the lid with caution if you don’t want to hurt your hands. This one comes with cold handles, meaning the handles never get hot. You can safely lift the lid without the need for oven mitts.

It comes with a removable steel rack with handles. Warming and defrost technology included. You can defrost the frozen turkey in about 15 minutes or so. Pan is enamel coated and it is dishwasher safe.

To me; Sunvivi provides all the extensive features that an electric roaster can give, nothing is left out.

Sunvivi Electric Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid,...

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Nesco 4818-14 Classic Roaster Oven, 18 Qt


  • Porcelain pan; dishwasher safe
  • Circle of heat; unique heating element system
  • Non-porous surface
  • Stay cool handles
  • Self-basting lid

Nesco roaster ovens have a unique style that the company impose on its all electric roasters. I should mention the special heating element design first. Nesco calls it the ¨Circle of heat¨; it is specific to the company and patented. Every roaster from the company works this way, including the infrared upright cooker.

Nesco 4818-14 Classic Roaster Oven, 18-Quart, Porcelain...

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What this means is that the food is cooked from the sides; the heating element is wrapped around the oven, not just from the bottom. This has a wonderful effect on turkey roasting. Wings and the legs get crispier thanks to extra heat from the sides. However, the breast remains juicy. You can cook the best turkey roast this way. It definitely gives you commercial level performance.

Nesco simply loves porcelain, and you should do so too, because its healthier. Note that it is the only brand that gives you porcelain pans instead of enamel coated ones. Self-basting lid fits perfectly on the roaster, and it includes stay cool handles to protect your hands. The indicator light turns off when the roaster oven reaches the targeted temperature, which makes preheating easier.



Oster 24 – Pound Roaster Oven 18 Qt



  • Affordable
  • Extra-deep lid design
  • Up to 24 pounds turkey
  • Secure lid

If you are looking for an affordable roaster oven with advanced features, then look no more. Plus, this one has a large capacity. It has a super high dome that you can even fit a 24 pounds turkey in it.

Oster is the industry leader when it comes to electric roasters. No other brand has this many different models in the market. Their ovens come in different sizes with a variety of selective features. Some of their items don’t even have competition due to their unique properties.

Having said that; it is a bit unbelievable that this oven is the most economical option. It can easily beat some of the high-priced models. Note that it does not come with the self-basting and see-through lid, but still, it is a great buy. You can get all the benefits of a quality roaster without breaking the bank.

Oster 24-Pound Turkey Roaster Oven, 18-Quart

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Oster Smoker Roaster Oven – 16 Qt


  • Outdoor smoker: You can smoke meat with this roaster
  • Special wood chip pockets
  • Versatile

This is a specialty roaster that you can smoke meat in it. Designed for outdoor smoking, but you can also use it as a regular electric roaster oven. It comes with removable pockets which can hold wood chips. My only concern with this item is that the cord is too short for outdoor cooking, but that is easily solved with an extension cord. I am big fan of smoke flavor meat.

In order to achieve the best smoked meat, you need to add a little water in the pan to create steam. Then add the wood chips and start slow cooking. Make sure you don’t preheat the oven! Never use solid fuels or wood chunks. You need to use 1 to 2 inches long, and half inch wide wood chips in order to get the best out of this roaster smoker. Anything smaller than that will vanish too fast.

Suggested wood chips for different food types:

  • Mesquite; Beef and pork
  • Apple; Poultry and fish
  • Alder; Salmon
  • Cherry; pork and poultry
  • Oak; works great for all meats

Oster Smoker Roaster Oven, 16-Quart, Red Smoke (CKSTROSMK18)

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EaZy BrandZ – EZO Oberdome Plus



  • State of the art heating technology
  • Ease of use
  • Cleaning is simple
  • Cooks super-fast

This is by far the fastest electric roaster oven out there. It has a patented heating element design called Domelok Heat Technology. In general, electric roaster ovens cook about 30% than regular ovens, but this one cooks 51% faster. It is like a two-door sports car.

The heating element is in the lid! It is truly an amazing piece of equipment to only heat from the top and the sides. It can preheat to 450°F in about 6 minutes. You can use the bottom tray as a serving platter. Just take off the lid when the food is done, and take the stainless-steel tray to the table. It is very versatile too; you can make pizzas, cakes, and more. However, it is not functional to use as a food warmer, and the lid obviously don’t have a clear window for viewing while cooking. Cleaning is easier than other roasters, since the tray is much easier to handle than the big size roasting pans.

EaZy BrandZ EZO-3016B Oberdome, Plus, Black

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NESCO IR-01-13 Digital Infrared Upright Turkey Roaster

Another interesting electric roaster is the upright turkey roaster from Nesco. You can cook an 18 pounds turkey in 2 hours with this unique item. It comes with digital controls, and Nesco’s special ¨Circle of Heat¨ system. You only set the time and choose between Hi or Low options. Includes clear-glass cover and easy grip handles. It sure is an alternative to regular roasters. You can save a lot of space on the countertop thanks to its upright design.

NESCO ITR-01-13, Digital Infrared Upright Turkey Roaster,...

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What Are The Benefits of Using An Electric Roaster For Thanksgiving Turkey?

  • Time saver; cooks %30 faster than regular oven.
  • Versatile ang multifunctional; roast, slow cook, and bake.
  • Perfect Thanksgiving turkey; even heat distribution for delicious roasts. The bird is halfway submerged in juices, so it comes out moist and tender.
  • Doubles your oven space, easy roasting.
  • Quick cleaning; Use pan liners.
  • Easy to use temperature controls.
  • Includes removable steel roasting rack and removable roasting pan.
  • It warms up pretty fast and keeps the heat and aroma inside.
  • Portable; light to move around.
  • It doesn’t heat up the whole house like the conventional oven.
  • Perfect for large gatherings, special events, or holidays.

How Long Does It Take to Cook a Turkey in an Electric Roaster?

Cooking times vary depending on the size of your actual turkey. If you choose to stuff the turkey, then you should add 1/3 more time to fully cook it. On average, it takes about 2 hours to cook a 17 pounds turkey with an electric roaster oven. The shorter cooking time is because the smaller space inside the electric roaster oven compared to a regular convection one.

The above times are estimates only, you should check with a meat thermometer to see if the turkey is fully cooked.

How to Clean the Electric Roaster?

For easy cleaning; use a pan liner, you will thank me later. It is super simple. You can also line the bottom pan with foil for a cheaper alternative. Most medium size roster oven pans are dishwasher safe, but they take a lot of space. I usually hand wash mine in the sink if I don’t use a pan liner. A friend of mine washes her 22 qt oven pan in the bathtub, but I am not sure if that’s cleaning or dirtying it! Some may think that cleaning the large pan in the sink is a bit of a hassle, but trust me it is much easier than cleaning the inside of your regular big old oven.

Steps for using a pan liner in the electric roaster:

  1. Put 2 cups of water in the removable pan. This will eliminate the liner to stick to hot areas by creating steam.
  2. Put the liner in the roaster oven by skirting the sides.
  3. Put the turkey over the liner with the rack and dial down the temperature by 20°F since the steam inside will make the heating environment hotter.

If there is any stuck food on the bottom of the pan, then leave it in warm soapy water for an hour or so. You should wash the pan, rack, and the lid with hot soapy water. Use a sponge or soft cloth. After you rinse all the parts, wipe and dry them well. Make sure that all the parts are fully dried before you store them. It takes up a lot of space when not in use, so I keep mine in the laundry room. Learn more on how to clean the electric roaster.

What is a Self-basting Lid?

Self-Basting lid continually circulates the moisture inside the electric roaster oven with the ridges or dimples built under the lid. This makes the food more delicious because it simply keeps the humidity of whatever you are cooking. Therefore, the food never gets a chance to dry out. Here is a great electric roaster with self-basting lid.

Should I Get the Electric Roaster with Self-basting Lid?

Having a high dome also adds to tenderness of the turkey roast. But if you like your turkey juicy, then a self-basting lid is a must. Turkey meat is very dry because of the low-fat level it has. It takes too long to cook which adds to dryness. You need all the help you can find to make your turkey moister in order to enjoy a delicious bird on the thanksgiving with your family and friends.

How Do I Brown the Turkey in an Electric Roaster?

It is a bit harder to brown the turkey when cooking with an electric roaster. This is because there is no heating element on top of the roaster, and the cooking time is faster compared to regular oven. However, you can still get that classic turkey roast color. First option is to add a tablespoon or two of honey to the rubbing sauce you prepare. Honey will add color, and also will make the skin crispier without affecting the insides. Another method is to take out the bird 30 minutes early from the roaster oven, and continue to cook in the regular one at 400°F or so until you get the desired color. Alternatively, you can also add a tablespoon of browning sauce to the rubbing mixture before you put the turkey in the electric roaster.


You can use your electric roaster just like your regular oven. It can cook all the same meals, but it is much more talented and does not take much space. There is no need to change your recipes.

What Else Can I Cook with an Electric Roaster?

Exceptional stew, delicious ribs, steam vegetables, baked potato, all kinds of side dishes, sweets, and more. For starters, it is easier to create steam inside an electric roaster. So, steaming vegetables or steam baking is a breeze. In addition, making the side dishes with your roaster gives you more space on the stove top. Alternatively, you can prepare delicious cheesecake, cookies, bread, and all kinds of bakery items with it. Here is a great lemon cake recipe that you can try in your roaster oven.

Can I Use the Electric Roaster as a Slow Cooker?

Yes, but you have to adjust the settings. Slow cooking in a roaster can be achieved as good as any crock pot. It is a simple trick to adjust your roaster to the slow cooker settings as it only has two options; Low and Hi. High converts to 250°F, and Low coverts to 200°F on the roaster. Just think of your electric roaster as a bigger size slow cooker. The temperature range on an electric roaster is usually between 150°F to 450°F.

Should I Add Water into the Pan When Using Electric Roaster for Turkey?

No, because the steam will burn the skin of turkey too quickly and you will have an undercooked bird. However, if you are using a pan liner for easy cleaning, then it is necessary to add some water in the roaster pan. Just remember to dial down the temperature knob by 20°F in order to compensate.

Do I Need to Preheat the Electric Roaster Oven?

It is not mandatory to preheat the electric roaster for cooking meat. However, if you do so, then you will certainly shorten the cooking time. Preheating is necessary when you bake in these handy ovens. If you choose to preheat, then dial up the know to the highest position and continue to cook this way for ten minutes.

What are the Essential Electric Roaster Accessories?

You need various accessories to cook the best thanksgiving turkey besides the electric roaster oven. A quality meat thermometer, turkey lifters, and roaster liners are only a few of them. You can read out detailed review on the from here: Essential roaster oven accessories


Liners are great to keep your electric roasters clean. Using one is much faster and convenient than washing the pan in a dishwasher. You just remove the liner once you are done cooking. They come in various sizes, but I usually buy the biggest size which fits into all models. Pansavers is one the biggest brands when it comes to quality liners. You can get disposable, one size packs which have 50 items per pack. You can easily get some on amazon.

Pansavers 16 - 22 Quart Electric Roaster Liners(Pan Liners)...
  • Lines 16-22 Quart Electric Roasters
  • Use at 350 degrees or less
  • Be sure to follow all directions before use

If you don’t use any liner when roasting a turkey or similar, then you would have to struggle with the huge roasting pan in the sink. Keep in mind that most electric roasters have hotspots. Your liner can easily stick to these spots while the food is cooking. There is a trick to get over this issue though; add 2 cups of water on the pan before you lay the liner, and you are all good to go!

Liners are usually good up to 350°F and 400°F degrees; it depends on the brand. However, you need to lower the heat about 20°F from the original recipe since the additional steam from the water in the pan makes the roaster extra hotter. Therefore, any liner in the range of 350-400°F is a good fit for turkey roasting.

If the liner gets stuck on the pan, then leave it in warm water for an hour. You can also put the pan in the fridge for an hour, and peel off the liner later on when it is cold.

Can You Line a Roaster Oven with Foil?

You can use foil or parchment paper in your electric roaster oven. I suggest using parchment paper when baking cookies. It is much more convenient this way. To do so; line the rack with the parchment paper before you preheat the oven. You can also cover casserole dish or similar with the foil.


You need to make sure that the thanksgiving turkey is fully cooked, and the best way to determine that is to use a meat thermometer. Even measuring from only one part of the bird is not enough. You should check various different parts of the turkey to see if  it is cooked thoroughly.

Meat thermometers come with different specifications:

  • Wireless
  • Regular
  • Digital
  • Instant read

It is totally up to you choose the one that you like. The only important thing is to make sure that it measures accurately.

How Do You Know When the Turkey is Done?

Your meat thermometer should read 165°F in the breast area of the bird. Anything less than that would not be sufficient. After measuring the breast area, aim for the wings and legs but be careful not to stick the thermometer into any bone as that would mislead you. You should look for a minimum of 175°F degree in and around this area which is the slowest to cook.

How Do You Know If the Turkey is Done Without a Thermometer?

If you don’t have a meat thermometer then you can follow a simple trick to figure out if the turkey is done or not. We do this test from the thighs. You should pierce one of thighs and then watch out for the juices. If the juice comes out pink, then it needs more cooking time. But if the juice some out clear then it is cooked. You can take it out of the oven.

Is Turkey Done at 165°F or at 180°F?

You should check the temperature of the breast and legs separately. Use a quality food thermometer. 165°F is good for the breast area, but the thermometer should show 170°F in between the legs, since those parts are harder to cook. If you are stuffing the turkey, then aim for 180°F to be safe. Stuffing needs to reach at least 165 – 170 °F in order to prevent any contamination from salmonella.


Lifting the turkey after it is fully cooked is a tricky business. It is a big bird and super-hot when it comes out of the oven. You should handle with care. It is not a good feeling to drop a fully cooked turkey on the floor as I have experienced it myself.

Different turkey lifter options:

  • Stainless steel forks
  • Silicone mats with handles
  • Wires with handles – roasting rack

Turkey lifter forks are my favorite. You simply pierce them into the bird and move it with confidence. Silicone mats require you to cook on them which I don’t like much. Wire racks with handles are good but the handles get sticky in the oven from the turkey juice. So, in the end stainless-steel turkey lifter forks are the best option. You can also use them for cutting and slicing the turkey. If you are in need of a carving knife, the you might want to check out this special electric knife.


Every tip is handy when It comes to Turkey roasting. We are battling with a very tough meat, and you need all the information you can get to win it over. Most people who have issues with cooking the turkey ends up with an either undercooked or completely dried out bird. If you prepare with the right technique, meaning if you rub oil, inject marinade, and use an electric roaster, then you will probably cook a delicious one.

Should I Use Butter or Olive Oil for Rubbing the Turkey?

Olive oil makes the turkey a little bit crispier, and the butter softens the breast area. In general, I tend to mix equal parts of melted butter and virgin olive oil. Plus, I add 2 tablespoons of honey which changes the overall color of the bird. Makes sure you also rub some of this sauce in between the skin and the breast. Feel free to add some solid butter pieces in there too! Once you are done rubbing the sauce all over, you can brush olive oil on the legs and wings.

Should I Stuff the Turkey While Roasting?

Stuffing the turkey has some disadvantages. First of all, you should be extra careful not to get contaminated. Stuffing needs to reach 180°F degree in order to be considered safe from salmonella. Turkey cavity is porous and can contain bacteria. Another disadvantage is that stuffing the turkey prolongs the cooking time. It is a better idea to prepare a stuffing or similar side dish on the stove top, and then you can add it later when the turkey is fully cooked.

Can I Use a Meat Injector for Thanksgiving Turkey?

Meat injectors can make your Thanksgiving turkey roast even moister. It is exceptionally good on the turkey breast since it can easily get dried while trying to fully cook the turkey in the electrical roaster. Combine some turkey broth and melted butter to inject to the breast area of the bird. It will soften it up and will also add flavor. For a much flavorful turkey marinade injection recipe you can use the following;


  • 1/2 cup of Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar

Dried herbs:

  • 1 Teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1 Teaspoon of dried rosemary
  • 1 Teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt

Directions: Put all the dried herbs into a blender or coffee grinder and turn them into powder. Combine the sauces and oils in another cup, and then add the powdered herbs. Stir well. Your marinade for turkey injection is ready to use. Start from the breast area and then continue towards legs. If you want to learn the best technique on how to use a meat injector, then you can read this article.

Do You Cover a Turkey When Cooking It?

It is a technique that gets handy when some parts of the turkey cooks faster than others. It helps to prevent the quickly browning. You don’t usually have this issue when cooking with an electric roaster oven. Large convection ovens tend to cause this problem. Cover the whole turkey with some loose foil and turn it into a tent if the whole thing is getting brown too fast. If you don’t cover it, then you might end up with an insides undercooked turkey. If only some parts are getting browned fast, then you can lay some foil over only on to those areas, like the breast, or legs.


Cooking turkey the right way is a must for Thanksgiving Day, but it is a hassle and requires a long time with a regular oven. Electric roasters are specially designed portable ovens that can roast the perfect turkey in less time. Do yourself a favor and get a decent electric roaster for your next Thanksgiving Day; you will get to spend more time with your family and have a delicious turkey roast.

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4 thoughts on “A Guide to A Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner”

  1. I dont have an electric roaster. I have an inexpensive oval granite ware roasting pan with a lid which I heard also quickly cooks a turkey much faster than other roasting pans. Would the chart you use as a roasting guide foe an electric roaster be the same for a dark enamel granite roaster?

    • Hi Mary, this guide is for cooking a turkey using an electric roaster oven. To be safe, you can check out the other guides online for cooking a turkey using a dark enamel granite roaster. Thank you.


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