Wondering how to cook a turkey? This Thanksgiving turkey recipe walks you through all the steps, from thawing the turkey to how long to cook a turkey and much more. You'll end up with extra juicy and perfectly golden turkey every time!
Prep Time30 minutesminutes
Cook Time2 hourshours30 minutesminutes
Rest Time30 minutesminutes
Total Time3 hourshours30 minutesminutes
½ to ¾cupoil, canola oil, vegetable oil, or avocado oil
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
garlic salt, to taste
herbs*, to taste, if desired
¾cup (1 1/2 sticks)cold unsalted butter, sliced
1apple, thickly sliced
1yellow or white onion, thickly sliced
Prep The Turkey
Move your oven rack to the lowest level and preheat the oven to 500°F.
Remove the organs and neck and discard or save for another recipe. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess water.
Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Tuck the wings underneath the bird. Place the aromatics inside the turkey cavity. Cross the legs and tie together with the twine to hold in the aromatics.
Gently separate the skin on the legs and breasts by sliding your fingers between the meat and skin. Rub half of the oil and seasonings under the skin. Then use any leftover seasonings and oil on the outside. (This works best if you have someone pouring the oil and seasonings into your hands as you do this step.)
Lastly, slide the slices of butter under the skin on top of the legs and breasts (in between the skin and the meat). The butter will melt into the turkey as it roasts!
Before you place the turkey into the oven, you will want to form a protective breast plate out of aluminum foil. (This will keep your turkey breasts from drying out as they cook.) To form the foil covering, I take a large piece and fold it into a triangle shape that is large enough to fold over and cover the breast of the turkey. You do not want to cover the wings or the legs — just the breast.
Roast The Turkey
Place the turkey on the lowest level of the oven and cook it at 500°F for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, drop the temperature of the oven to 350°F and lightly cover the breast of the turkey with the prepared foil covering. Insert the necessary meat thermometer probe into the thickest part of the breast, without touching the bone. I stab the probe right through the foil breast cover.
Set the meat thermometer alarm to 162°F. Once that temperature is reached, remove the turkey and loosely tent the entire turkey with foil.
Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving. The turkey will continue to cook while covered loosely with foil and will reach the safety temperature point of 165°F. While the turkey rests, use the pan drippings to make the best turkey gravy. Then carve the turkey and serve!
Oil: Because olive oil has a low smoke point, you do not want to use olive oil on your turkey or it will burn in the 500°F oven. I personally like to use avocado oil. Avocado oil has health benefits and a smoke point of 520°F. However, you can also use vegetable oil or canola oil.Herbs: You can use any herbs you like, fresh or dried. Just make sure if you are using fresh herbs that you finely dice them. Here are some popular herbs that will go well with turkey: thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, and even a little oregano.Mayo vs Oil: Instead of oil and butter, you can also use mayonnaise to get that crispy skin and juicy turkey meat. Mix 1.5 to 2 cups full-fat mayo with your seasonings. Spread half of it between the skin and meat and use the other half to coat the outside.Meat Thermometer: If you want a juicy, perfectly cooked turkey, remember the thermometer! You want a probe thermometer that can remain in the turkey. Do not use an instant read thermometer, as you will have to keep opening the oven door.How Much Turkey Per Person? Generally, allow about 16 oz per guest. A 16 pound turkey will feed 12 to 16 adults.Thaw: For the safest and easiest method, thaw a frozen turkey in fridge, allowing 24 hours for every 5 pounds. A 16 pound turkey will take about 4 days in a 40°F refrigerator, so plan ahead. Quick Thaw: Place turkey in sanitized sink and fill with cold water. Drain and refill sink every 30 minutes to ensure turkey remains bacteria free and safe. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey. A 16 pound turkey will take about 8 hours and 16 sink refills.