How to Cook a Turkey

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Learn how to cook a turkey that is so flavorful and moist you won’t want to wait until Thanksgiving to eat it again!

How do you cook a turkey? First, pat the bird dry thoroughly and season it inside and out with salt and pepper. Be sure to remove any giblets or neck inside the bird. Then place the turkey on a rack over a roasting pan and season under the skin with butter or oil. Place the turkey in a 450°F oven, then reduce the oven to 350°F and cook the turkey for 13-15 minutes per pound, depending on whether or not your bird is stuffed. Finally, let the turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving and enjoying!

Have you ever had thanksgiving turkey that was so good you wondered why you need to wait a whole year to do it again? The good news is you don’t have to! This article covers the best turkey recipe to ensure you get that flavour and juicy turkey.

Whether it’s your first time cooking a turkey or you are just looking for a recipe for your Thanksgiving entree to wow friends and family, this guide is what you need to prepare the perfect turkey. It will answer questions including how to cook a turkey and how long to cook a turkey.

The Best Way to Cook a Turkey

Ready to eat? Let’s discuss the simplest way to prepare that tender, crispy, and well-seasoned turkey.

Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make juicy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside roasted turkey at home:

  • 1 whole turkey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil or softened butter

Optional flavoring ingredients: lemons, onions, fresh herbs, chopped root vegetables like onions, carrots and potatoes.

If you are wondering how much turkey you need per person, the general rule of thumb is to buy 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per guest. This is measured from the whole, raw bird. So to feed six people, you will want to buy a turkey that weighs 9 pounds. Of course, buying a larger turkey will give you leftovers for turkey sandwiches!

Prepare the Turkey

Step 1: Clean up your bird

First, it’s important that your turkey be completely defrosted. If you’re using a frozen bird, let it thaw completely in the fridge. This can take up to three days, depending on how large your turkey is.

Next, prepare your turkey for roasting by removing it from the packaging. You should also remove the neck and the bag of giblets if they’re inside the turkey. The neck is usually in the large cavity of the bird while the giblets are in the smaller neck cavity. You can either discard them or better, save them to make gravy with tons of flavor.

At this point, you can also start preheating your oven to 450*F.

Step 2: Dry the turkey

Next, using clean paper towels, pat the turkey dry all over. This helps the skin crisp up nice and golden. Place the turkey on a large cutting board or roasting pan.

Step 3: Season the turkey

Once the turkey is adequately dried, season the cavity and the entire exterior of the turkey with a generous amount of salt and pepper. For extra flavor, can also stuff the chicken cavity with sliced lemons, fresh or dried herbs of your choice, apple slices, and/or onions.

You can skip this step if you prefer your turkey without stuffing. While you cook the turkey, any seasonings inside will infuse the meat with flavor.

Step 4: Tie the bird

Finally, when your turkey is fully seasoned inside and out, you are almost ready to bake. But first, tie your turkey up. This helps things cook evenly.

Use kitchen twine to securely tie the legs of the turkey together and tuck the wings under the turkey. Tucking the wings is essential to keep them from burning or overcooking. It also keeps the turkey entirely flat for better roasting.

Step 5: Prepare the pan

Set up a roasting pan to cook the turkey by setting a metal roasting rack in place. This helps to ensure that the turkey cooks from all sides in the oven. If you do not have a roasting pan, you can also make an edible rack that will do the job just as well. Simply form a bed of chopped veggies such as celery, carrots, and onions and place your bird on top. These will also cook up and absorb the delicious flavors of roasting turkey, so you’ll have a built-in vegetable side dish!

Step 6: Add a last bit of seasoning

Just before you place the roasting pan with the rukey into the oven, add a last hit of seasoning to help the skin crisp up. To do this, gently lift the skin on the breast of the turkey using your fingers so as not to tear or prick it. Apply some softenend butter or oil of your choice. Rub the oil into the meat under the skin. You can even use herb butter for more flavor.

Now your beautiful bird is ready for the oven.

Cooking the Turkey

Step 1: Place the turkey in the oven

Now, your oven should be fully preheated to 450°F. Place the turkey on the roasting pan inside the oven on the center rack. As soon as the bird is inside, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

The hotter oven temperature will help crisp and brown the outer skin on the bird. Then, when you reduce the temperature to 350°F, the meat is able to cook through slowly so it stays moist and doesn’t dry out.

Step 2: Cook the Turkey

Use the turkey cooking guidelines detailed below. Halfway through the cooking time for your bird, check the turkey. Once the skin turns golden brown, you need to cover the top using tin foil to keep it from burning or overcooking.

Step 3: Remove from the oven

The turkey is ready when it registers a minimum temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the thighs. Use a meat thermometer for precision.

When your turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven. Cover the bird with tin foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 minutes if you have a larger bird. This resting period keeps all of the flavorful juices inside the bird for extra flavor and a moist texture.

Finally, after resting, remove the tin foil and carve the turkey with a sharp knife. Enjoy!

How Long to Cook Turkey in the Oven

The cooking time for your turkey will vary depending on your oven and the size of your bird. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to roast your turkey for 13 minutes for every pound of turkey for an empty (not stuffed) 12 to 16-pound turkey. If the turkey is stuffed, you will want to let it cook for at least 15 minutes for every pound. In addition, let a stuffed turkey rest for 15 minutes at least before carving.

What to Serve with Roast Turkey

There are dozens of traditional dishes to serve alongside roast turkey. For example, if you’re preparing this meal for a Thanksgiving celebration, serve it with green beans, mashed potatoes, and pie for dessert.

However, because this is a fairly simple recipe, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion or national holiday to enjoy it! To mix things up, serve roast turkey on a weeknight with your favorite sides like broccoli and quinoa.

roasted turkey

Roast Turkey

How to cook a turkey in the oven for Thaksgiving or any day.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10

Equipment

  • Kitchen twine
  • Roasting pan
  • Roasting rack
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Turkey fully defrosted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil or melted butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Remove any giblets and season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together and place the bird on a wire rack over a roasting pan. Tuck the wings under the turkey.
  • Rub softened butter or olive oil under the skin of the bird. If you like, you can also add fresh herbs.
  • Place the turkey in the oven and immediatly reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  • Roast for 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird and 15 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird. when the internal temperature reaches 160°F, remove the turkey from the oven, cover it with tin foil and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes on the counter.
  • Slice the turkey and enjoy.
Keyword turkey

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