How to cook your Thanksgiving turkey perfectly every time

how to cook thanksgiving turkey best way

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Thanksgiving is nearly right here, and although it would feel and look a wee bit totally different this yr, nailing the turkey continues to be integral — though not essentially simple. Lower than every week out could be a great time to speak it by means of for those who want a little bit help earlier than the ritual roasting and feasting begins. If you happen to’re a turkey newbie, or simply want a refresher, we now have every thing that you must learn about how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey — with recommendations on what measurement turkey you can purchase (significantly related this yr), how lengthy it’s going to take to cook dinner and when you need to defrost your chicken (plus what to do for those who neglect). 

We additionally cowl what tools that you must pull the entire thing off and what to do for those who mess it up — as a result of, hey, it occurs. After all, there are numerous strategies for roasting a Thanksgiving turkey (and that is earlier than you even get into smoked turkey and deep-fried turkey), however we’re going with probably the most primary as a result of it all the time works.

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What measurement turkey do you want?

A reasonably commonplace 12- to 15-pound turkey will feed between six and eight folks as a part of a meal, so scale up or down as wanted. Usually, you need to price range one pound per individual, or as much as two kilos per individual if you wish to have leftover turkey.  


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How and when to thaw a turkey

Do not forget this step! Until you purchase a contemporary heritage chicken, your turkey will come frozen stable. Thawing a turkey will take anyplace from one to 6 days, so plan accordingly, and see our full information on how to thaw turkey (with instances, strategies and what to do for those who neglect — you’ll be able to cook it from frozen, however it would take even longer and isn’t perfect).

You can hold the turkey within the fridge for an additional two days as soon as it is thawed, so be happy to start out a day sooner than you assume that you must, and plan for an additional day of resting earlier than you really plan to cook dinner (you will see why under).

How lengthy to cook dinner a turkey

Complete cooking time relies upon, in fact, on the dimensions of your chicken, and a meat thermometer will all the time be your greatest buddy relating to being sure it is cooked to the right temperature (165-170 levels F). That mentioned, listed below are some normal tips based mostly on an oven temperature of 350 levels, our most well-liked temperature to roast turkey. (We suggest you begin checking a bit prior to the total time listed, to make sure it would not dry out.)

How lengthy to cook dinner a 12-14 pound turkey: About Three hours at 350 levels 

How lengthy to cook dinner a 15-18 pound turkey: About 3.5 to Four hours at 350 levels

How lengthy to cook dinner an 18-20 pound turkey: About Four to 4.5 hours at 350 levels

How lengthy to cook dinner a 21-24 pound turkey: About 4.5 to five hours at 350 levels.

If you happen to favor a higher-heat methodology, it would clearly take much less time, however you run the danger of burning the pores and skin; that holds true with the “begin excessive, then decrease the warmth” methodology too. We do this generally (see our herbed roast turkey recipe), however typically favor to maintain the oven on the identical temperature all through as a result of it is the least fussy methodology, and dependable too.

We do begin it the wrong way up in an effort to get a completely moist turkey, however you do not essentially have to try this; see extra under.


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Do you have to brine your turkey?

That is one other elective step, however we all the time favor to brine a turkey the day earlier than roasting it. It must be absolutely defrosted first, after which you’ll be able to both wet-brine or dry-brine the chicken. The recipe under goes with the dry methodology as a result of it is easier than coping with gallons of liquid, however the salt rub achieves the identical factor: juicy meat that is properly seasoned. A phrase of warning: Brining too lengthy can have the very reverse impact and dry out your turkey. And for those who’re cooking a Butterball you need not brine it; most grocery store birds have been preinjected with a salt answer.

What that you must cook dinner a turkey

For a primary roast turkey recipe, you do not want a lot in the best way of particular elements or tools, however a roasting pan with a roasting rack is extremely useful, and a turkey baster or brush and meat thermometer may also turn out to be useful.  


A roasting pan with a rack is right for cooking a turkey (to not point out different poultry and pork and beef roasts). It is sturdier than a disposable pan, deep sufficient to catch a lot of drippings and the handles make maneuvering it out and in of the oven a lot simpler.


If you happen to’re basting your turkey with the drippings, you will need considered one of these in your arsenal. It comes with a cleansing brush to get all of the grease out.


A meat thermometer is the one technique to know when your turkey is definitely accomplished (do not belief the little plastic pop-ups which will come jammed into the chicken). When taking the interior temp, insert the thermometer into the thickest a part of the breast or thigh and ensure the probe is not touching bone.

If you do not have a correct roasting pan with a rack, you are higher off not shopping for a kind of disposable aluminum pans (they can be a fire hazard) — as an alternative, you’ll be able to hack it with a baking sheet and roughly reduce veggies (or some less-tasty however nonetheless practical aluminum foil). See how to cook turkey without a roasting pan.

The best way to season a turkey

As for the uncooked elements, in addition to the turkey itself, you want some herbs, spices and aromatics. The under listing is a superb beginning place, however you’ll be able to improvise as you want. Poultry seasoning is okay so long as it is contemporary (do not use the bottle left over from final yr), however we favor contemporary herbs. This is a primary purchasing listing for turkey seasonings:

  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • a half a stick of butter, softened at room temperature
  • half a lemon
  • half an onion, reduce into 4 items
  • one celery stick, reduce into three items
  • contemporary sage
  • contemporary thyme leaves
  • bay leaves (contemporary or dried)

The best way to cook dinner a Thanksgiving turkey

1. The day earlier than you need to roast your turkey, make certain it is defrosted, then take away the contents from the cavity. Discard the giblets (coronary heart, liver and gizzard) except you want them for gravy or stuffing (or need to cook dinner them in your pets). Reserve the neck!  

2. Rub the thawed turkey throughout with a number of beneficiant pinches of salt, together with just a few underneath the pores and skin overlaying the breast.  

3. Place the turkey on a platter or baking sheet, cowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate till the subsequent day. This improves the flavour of the chicken and helps it keep juicy. You possibly can skip the plastic wrap for those who like (the drier the pores and skin, the higher it will brown and crisp), however make sure nothing else within the fridge touches the uncooked turkey.  

4. The following day, preheat the oven to 350 levels and place a rack within the decrease third. It will take about 20 minutes for the oven to come back to temperature. In the meantime, take away the turkey from the fridge and put together it for roasting per the subsequent steps.  

5. Pat the turkey dry in and out with paper towels and tuck the wing ideas again and beneath. Rub a beneficiant quantity of vegetable oil contained in the cavity, everywhere in the exterior and underneath the pores and skin, then season properly with salt and pepper, together with contained in the cavity. 

6. Combine the contemporary herbs (sage and thyme) into the softened butter, break into small chunks and place them underneath the pores and skin overlaying the breast. Put the lemon, onion, bay leaf and celery contained in the cavity. (That is it, no stuffing; meals security police strongly advise in opposition to cooking stuffing contained in the turkey, and whenever you cook dinner it individually, you get extra crusty floor space anyway.)

7. Place the turkey breast facet down on the roasting rack, and put the reserved neck within the backside of the pan for additional taste. Roast within the oven for 45 minutes, basting the turkey each 20 minutes as soon as the pan juices begin to accumulate.    

8. After 45 minutes, flip the turkey onto its again and proceed to baste and roast for about two to 2 and a half hours. 

9. When a meat thermometer inserted into the internal thigh registers 170 levels and the juices run clear, take away the turkey from the oven and let it relaxation 20 to 30 minutes earlier than carving. If you happen to’re planning on making your own turkey gravy, remember to put aside the roasting pan and reserve each the greens from contained in the chicken’s cavity and the neck. 



A neater methodology

If you happen to do not need to take care of flipping the turkey, you’ll be able to merely roast it within the regular place for your entire cook dinner time; simply baste the breast typically to make sure it would not dry out, and tent the pan with foil if the pores and skin begins to brown too quickly earlier than the meat is completed (however take away the foil to get a pleasant crisp pores and skin within the last couple of minutes of cooking). Or attempt the butter-soaked cheesecloth trick; that is most well-liked by many since whenever you’re basting, you decrease the oven temperature each time you open the door.

Leveling as much as spatchcocked turkey

If you wish to attempt a little bit of butchery, spatchcock the turkey earlier than you roast it — this helps it cook dinner quicker and extra evenly, and ends in juicy chicken and many crisp pores and skin. Plus, it is enjoyable to say. If you happen to go this route, no want to start out the turkey breast-side down, and examine it sooner than you usually would, since it will likely be accomplished sooner.

The best way to repair overcooked, dry turkey

Typically, regardless of your greatest efforts, issues go awry — however they’ll often nonetheless be fastened. See how to fix dry turkey for those who’ve overcooked the chicken. (You may want loads of gravy or broth.) 

The best way to repair undercooked, uncooked turkey

In case your deceptively golden-brown turkey seems to be uncooked inside, here is how to quickly fix undercooked turkey. Trace: Do not simply shove it again within the oven and hope for the perfect. 



For extra ideas, methods, hacks and recipes, see Chowhound’s Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving.


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