How to Cook THE BEST Turkey | foodiecrush .com
A tasty, moist turkey is the centerpiece of every Thanksgiving dinner. Learn how to cook a turkey with these simple tips, for a roast turkey that is always juicy and moist, and prove that it is not 100% as scary as it seems.
Last year I cooked six turkeys in two weeks, with two more for my own Thanksgiving party for twenty. Why do you ask? So I could be sure that this primer of how to cook a turkey was well nailed. Was he up to the task? I bet your drumstick was me.
The thought of cooking a whole turkey can be intimidating. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? Thanksgiving is a big deal. Eager dinner guests depend on YOU, the little home cook you could, to deliver a juicy, delicious turkey dinner you’ve never, ever cooked before. That’s grandma’s job! Or moms! Well, guess who mom is now?
Rest assured that this recipe and these tips will calm your turkey cooking fears. Thanks to organizing the last dozen days of Thanksgiving, and many recipe tests, I’ve figured out some tricks for cooking turkey. To get a deliciously juicy bird, there’s no need for special kitchens or clumsy techniques like turning a very hot turkey upside down mid-roast. Thank you, but not this year.
GET THE THANKSGIVING PREPARATION GUIDE: Get your FREE Thanksgiving plan, timeline, recipe, and menu inspiration, plus all the tips and tricks you need to achieve the best Thanksgiving yet. And! Printable for FREE.
How to cook
: my 5 great tips
There are a couple of rules for cooking a tender and juicy turkey, with golden skin, every time. These tips require a bit of planning ahead of time, but the steps are so easy you’ll wonder why you don’t cook turkey beyond just for Thanksgiving. (Now you will!)
- If you do nothing else, do this: Take the time to brine the turkey before cooking, 24 to 48 hours before the cooking day
- Do not cook the bird with bread stuffing inside. But, fill the cavity with aromatics to get a flavor that bakes into the meat from the inside.
- To give the bird that beautiful and lustrous golden brown color, cook the turkey over high heat for 1 hour, then lower the oven temperature to roast it slowly.
- Know that suggested cooking times are an indicator of how long it takes to cook a turkey. Depending on how big your bird is or how cold it is entering the oven, they are not absolute. Always rely on your thermometer to tell you if that golden bird is really done or not.
- Let it rest always. Before cutting, let the turkey rest and reabsorb all the juices for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
need to cook a turkey
The ingredients for cooking a turkey are super simple and require only a few basic cooking tools.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 12-16 lbs of turkey (I use a basic frozen turkey from the grocery store
- Kosher salt and brine sugar (recipe here)
- fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, sage
- do not forget to remove the offal and neck of the turkey
Turkey Grilling tools:
brine bags yes
- make a wet brine (try this brine bag if you only need one, or this set containing three
- 12 X 16 V-rack roasting pan (I like this nonstick roasting tray for easy cleaning)
- kitchen string to hold the legs
- silicone brush
- Thermapen Instant Reading Digital Thermometer
- sharp knife or 8″ chef’s knife
prepare a turkey
I have cooked turkeys in bags, covered with cheesecloth soaked in wine and butter, and I have started them chest up, down, and in the hour I turned them everywhere. But once I figured out how easy and delicious it is to brine my turkey first, all those extra methods went out the window.
Now, my method is easy, and much simpler.
- Brine the turkey with a wet or dry method. Get my brine recipes and tips here.
- V-roasting tray (I love this inexpensive nonstick skillet) and stuff the turkey with aromatics and herbs, sprinkling more onion, carrots, celery, and garlic on the bottom of the pan with herbs
- Gently remove the skin from the breasts with your fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon. Spread the butter between the skin and the meat, then drizzle the whole bird with a combination of melted butter and wine that has cooled so that it is barely lumpy so that it adheres to the skin and does not come off.
- Add a combination of water and wine, turkey broth or chicken broth to the bottom of the pan to add moisture to the cooking environment and flavor the drops for the sauce later.
Place the turkey on a
How to cook a turkey
My cooking method starts with roasting a 14-15 pound bird, breast up, at 425°F for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 325°F for 1 1/2-2 hours. The first burst of high heat gives the turkey an advantage in achieving that delicious golden skin.
Don’t be enough. You can bathe the turkey if you want, but it is not necessary. You’ve already infused your turkey with brine flavor and the straightening softens your skin so it doesn’t get as crispy.
After the first 45 minutes of cooking, place the top of your turkey (the breast and legs) with a piece of aluminum foil. Then, cook for 15 more minutes. Adding the piece of aluminum foil protects the breast meat by deflecting heat to prevent overcooking.
Check your bird’s progress at half of its expected total cooking time. Use a digital thermometer to check the thickest parts of the breast, thigh, and leg. Continue checking every half hour or so. Add more water to the bottom of the grilling tray as needed.
Turkey breast meat should be cooked to at least 160°F. The thickest part of the leg and thigh should be cooked to 170-180°F. Be sure to avoid touching the bone. I find that even clocking in at 180°F, the recommended temperature for a fully made turkey, my brined turkey breasts are still juicy and delicious.
Save those drips! They are the key to the best sauce. Strain the vegetables from the drips and then use the residue with flour and chicken broth or water to make the best sauce ever.
the turkey roast? First, let’s talk about the turkey timeline for
- 1-2 days to thaw turkey
- , plus 12-24 hours uncovered in the refrigerator to dry the skin OR 24-48 hours for dry brine time
in the refrigerator 24 hours for wet brine time
So how long should you roast the turkey?
The cooking times of turkeys depend on the size of the bird. After years of cooking 20+ pound stuffed birds with my favorite bread filling, I’ve changed my ways. Now, I cook two smaller birds, 12 to 15 pounds each, unfilled. This makes the cooking time faster and more consistent.
Instead of a strict rule, use the suggested cooking times for poultry as an indicator. And that little red-nosed pop-up connected to the chest? They may be an indicator that the breast is being made, but what about dark meat? Let’s talk about that next.
What is the best temperature for roasting a turkey
My cooking method starts the bird at a higher temperature, then reduces the heat, so the bird gets a caramelized advantage in that delicious golden skin
Always rely on the temperature reading of an instant-read digital thermometer as a guide.
Turkey breast meat should be cooked to at least 160°F, up to 175°F to 180°F on the thickest part of the leg and thigh that does not touch the bone. However, thanks to the brine beforehand, I find that my brine turkey breasts that register at 180°F (which is the recommended temperature for a fully made turkey) are still juicy and delicious.
When cooking at 325°F, plan 13 minutes of cooking time for every pound of empty roast turkey. If the turkey is stuffed, plan 15 minutes per pound. For a 12-16 pound bird, that equates to 3 to 3 3/4 hours of cooking time.
Another sign that a turkey is being made is when the juices run clear, not pink. If you’re out on time and your turkey isn’t ready, just open another bottle of wine and put it back in the oven to continue cooking.
For more information on cooking times, check out the USDA’s Safe Cooking Turkey Basics.
Brine turkey for
more flavor Brine
your turkey for the best juicy bird. Bres are a great flavor infuser for lean proteins like poultry and pork, tenderizing meat while keeping it firm, juicy, and well-seasoned.
In recent years, brine has become more popular and can be made with a wet or dry brine.
- A wet brine involves immersing the turkey in a saltwater solution for 12-24
- Dry brine is where salt is rubbed onto the skin of the turkey for 24-48 hours before cooking.
After trying both methods, my taste testers chose turkey in wet brine as their favorite. But there are also many devotees of dried brines.
I do a deep dive into the recipes and steps of wet and dried turkey brines here.
The only drawback of wet brines is a skin sometimes less than golden. To create a crispier skin, dry the turkey with paper towels and put it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 24 hours before cooking.
Put your bread filling aside
I grew up with my mother’s easy filling cooked on the bird. That’s probably why it’s my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. Stuffed into the cavity while the turkey is cooking, the juices seep into the bread filling and give it a flavor that is difficult to replicate. But, this year, I’m cooking my turkeys with the stuffing aside, and here’s why:
Cooking the unstuffed turkey creates a more level cooking field so that the white and dark meat can be made at the same time. The dense bread filling reduces airflow inside the bird and slows down cooking time. Dark meat cooks more slowly than white breast meat, and stuffing the bird aggravates the problem.
Unstuffed birds are cooked more evenly and faster. It also reduces the chances of salmonella infiltrating your filler if not cooked internally to 165°F.
Let the aromatics work their magic. While I don’t stuff my turkey with bread stuffing, I stuff it with aromatics like onion, celery, garlic, carrot, and herbs. These flavor the turkey from the inside while cooking. A perfectly juicy turkey is why I’m learning to love my stuffing aside.
you should roast a covered or uncovered turkey both
. I roast my turkey uncovered for 45 minutes, then place it loose with aluminum foil the rest of the way. This ensures that the top does not become too brown.
carved a roast turkey or chicken and been left with a dripping and leaking mess? Before you jump in to cut the turkey while it’s still very hot, give that baby a break.
Give the turkey time to sit back and relax, redistributing those delicious juices in the meat. To make the juices settle, allow at least 1/2 to 1 hour before carving. I do not place the turkey while resting. A turkey with aluminum foil emits steam while resting, causing the crusty skin to soften. It will still remain warm without tents, where the hot bones and cavity keep the meat warm from the inside out and even continue to raise the temperature.
PRO TIP: Remove the turkey from the oven to rest and free up space in the oven. Once the turkey is ready, have your other Thanksgiving dishes ready to move in once the turkey is ready and you’ll be on the fast track for a big dinner served.
it comes to the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner, presentation is everything. Carving a turkey right requires separating light meat from darkness with little waste and less destruction.
Cutting a turkey is much easier to do than you think.
Here’s a great video on how to cut your turkey well.
And once you’re done cutting the turkey, use the same method when cutting my favorite roast chicken as well.
Easy side dishes to serve with your roast turkey
- 50 Easy Thanksgiving Garnish Recipes How
- to Make the Best Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Glazed Carrots
- Best Easy Traditional Filling Recipe
- My favorite ragweed salad recipe
- 5-ingredient slow-cooker corn cream Easy green beans
- golden butter
- Roasted Brussels sprouts with roasted almond with bacon
- Easy dinner rolls
If mak e this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
More turkey recipes to try
- wet or dried? How to Make the Best Turkey Brine
- Juicy Roast
- Herb Butter Rotisserie
- Breast with Lemon and Oregon
- Buffalo Oven Roasted
- with Homemade Butter Pie Crust Turkey Pot Pie
- Soup Plus 10 More Leftover Turkey Recipes You’ll Swallow
- 21 Easy
Turkey Roasted Turkey
Turkey Curry Turkey Pot Pie
Turkey Recipes Thanksgiving leftover GET THE THANKSGIVING PREPARATION GUIDE: Get your FREE Thanksgiving plan, timeline, recipe, and menu inspiration, plus all the tips and tricks you need to achieve the best Thanksgiving yet. And! Printable for FREE.
We send good emails. Subscribe to FoodieCrush and receive every post, plus exclusive content just for our subscribers, straight to your email inbox
Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for more FoodieCrush inspiration.
As always, thank you for reading and supporting the businesses I partner with, allowing me to create more unique content and recipes for you. There may be affiliate links in this post from which I receive a small commission. All opinions are always my own.