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How to Cook a Turkey

Making a Thanksgiving turkey is easy! Learn how to cook a turkey with this step-by-step cooking process and then watch the video.

Step 1

Buy a turkey!

The size of the turkey you buy depends on how many guests you are expecting.

14 lbs serves 7 to 8 adults
18 lbs serves 9 to 10 adults
22 lbs serves 11 to 12 adults

Of course, this might vary depending if you have children, big eaters or if you want leftovers. (Remember, Better Recipes has an unbeatable collection of Thanksgiving Recipes including award-winning leftover turkey recipes.)

 

Step 2

Defrost the turkey.

This is where you have to do a bit of planning. A turkey needs to be thawed in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Place the unopened turkey, breast side up on a tray in the refrigerator. Allow at least 24 hours for every 4 pounds.

10 to 18 lbs should thaw for 3-4 days
18 to 22 lbs should thaw for 4-5 days
22 to 24 lbs should thaw for 5-6 days

When thawed, keep in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

 

Oops! It is Thanksgiving Day and my turkey is still frozen!

No need to worry! There is a special trick to rapidly defrost a turkey. Place unopened turkey breast side down in a sink filled with cold tap water. Allow 30 minutes per pound.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Change the water every 30 minutes to keep the surface of the turkey cold. When thawed, keep the turkey in the refrigerator until ready to cook. This is the safest way to rapidly defrost a turkey. Remember, never leave a turkey out on a countertop to defrost!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 3

Unwrap the plastic from the turkey and remove the giblets.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a bag of giblets on both ends of the cavity. You can discard these two bags or save the giblets to make gravy.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 4

Rinse the turkey inside and out.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 5

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 6

Fill the turkey cavity.
I like to use a halved lemon and halved onion as well as some fresh parsley and a couple bay leaves.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 7

Tuck the turkey legs underneath the flap of skin.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 8

Tuck the wings.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place.  If you use this technique for the legs and the wings, no trussing is necessary.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 9

Prepare turkey for roasting.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up, in a 2-inch deep roasting pan.  (Note:  It is safer to use a sturdy roasting pan rather than a disposable aluminum foil one from the grocery store.  You can use it year after year and is well worth the investment!)  Rub the entire turkey with vegetable oil to prevent skin from drying.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Step 10

Tent lightly with foil.
Loosely cover the turkey with a foil tent.  I like to tent my turkey from the very beginning, and the result is always a beautiful, golden turkey!
 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 11

Roast in pre-heated 325 degree oven.

If desired, you can pour half of a 14.5 ounce can of chicken or turkey broth into the roasting pan at beginning, and then pour in the other half of the can halfway through roasting.

Roasting times for an unstuffed turkey:
10 to 18 lbs roasts  3 to 3-1/2 hours, 18 to 22 lbs roasts  3-1/2 to 4 hours, 22 to 24 lbs roasts 4 to 4-1/2 hours  

To check for doneness, the thigh temperature on a meat thermometer should be 180 degrees F.  Or when the thigh muscle is pierced deeply with a fork, the juices should be clear and no longer reddish-pink.

 

Step 13

Rest and carve turkey.
Allow your turkey to rest at least 20 minutes before carving.  Then, give thanks for your moist and delicious perfectly roasted turkey!  Enjoy with your friends and family.