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How to Cook Turkey

stuffed turkey

The crispy-skinned, deep golden brown turkey is always the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving holiday. There are many ways to enjoy turkey whether it’s slow-cooked, grilled, and even deep-fried, but we are going to go with the traditional roasted method. It’s simple and brings delicious flavors. Here are some tips and techniques to consider when roasting a whole turkey.

What Kitchen Equipment do You Need to Cook a Turkey

  • A large roasting pan with handles to make it easy for you to carry your turkey in and out of the oven
  • A V rack for the roasting pan so that it keeps the turkey above the drippings so that it does not get soggy and allows the turkey to get a crispy skin
  • A baster to suction the drippings from the bottom of the pan and pour over the turkey
  • A thermometer that is oven proof or one of those instant-read thermometers to ensure it cooks to the correct internal temperature for turkey
  • Aluminum foil to make a tent over it and keep it warm while it is resting after roasting
  • A sharp knife and cutting board for carving

How to Prepare the Turkey

  • Thaw the turkey: The best way to thaw turkey safely is in the fridge. It typically takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight.
  • Remove the inner giblets which include the neck and internal organs such as the heart, liver, and gizzard. But don’t throw these things away, use these to enrich the flavor of your gravy.
  • There are several ways to season a turkey. You can coat it with a savory and acidic marinade, wet brine it overnight in liquid or dry brine with a dry seasoning mixture.

How to Cook a Turkey

  • Preheat the oven to 325F
  • After you have stuffed the turkey with stuffing or aromatics such as onions, carrots, and herbs, place the turkey breast side down in a large roasting rack
  • Brush the entire backside with melted butter and then turn it over and brush the entire side of the turkey breast with butter. You can even stuff butter and herbs in between the skin for extra flavor and moisture
  • For an unstuffed turkey, it takes about 15 minutes for every lb of turkey.
  • For a turkey that weighs about 12 to 14 lbs, roast the turkey uncovered for about 3 to 4 hours. Afterward, use a brush to baste it with pan drippings every 30 minutes until the turkey is completely cooked

What Temperature Is Turkey Done

Checking the temperature is the best way to check that it is cooked to kill off all the harmful bacteria. The temperature that the turkey should be cooked is 165F. It is recommended to check the turkey’s temperature in several parts. Examples include the thickest part of the turkey breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing. 

How Long to Cook a Stuffed Turkey

Cooking turkey with stuffing will take longer to cook. Here are estimated times to cook stuffed turkey recommended by USDA

Approximate Cooking Times for Stuffed Turkeys at 325F

Turkey Size by weight (lbs)Time in Hours
8 to 12 lbs3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 lbs3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs4 to 4.25 hours
18 to 20 lbs4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 lbs4.75 to 5.25 hours

How to Carve a Turkey

  • Start with removing the legs by cutting through the joint with a Chef’s knife (we recommend an 8 to 10-inch knife). Separate the thigh from the drumsticks and cut through the joint as well.
  • Then remove the turkey breast by starting at the top of the bird and slicing along the breast bone on each side. From there separate the wing from the breast
  • Lastly, carefully slice the breast into horizontal slices.
  • Arrange the parts on a platter and garnish with fresh herbs, citrus slices, or fresh cranberries.

How Long Will Turkey Leftovers Keep?

You can keep leftover turkey for up to three to four days when properly stored in the refrigerator or freezer. It is important to ensure that it does not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. 

If you need more Thanksgiving meal ideas, check out our Easy Thanksgiving Recipes.

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