It's that time of year! The time when a turkey is the main course and it has all the yummy sides to go with it. Learn how to cook a turkey the easy way with this delicious recipe that everyone will love. We've also got a few unconventional ways to cook your turkey, too!
Are you preparing a turkey dinner for your family this year? Whether it's for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just because, we've got you covered! There's nothing worse than cooking a turkey so much that all of the juices are gone and it's bone-dry. Unlike Cousin Eddie (Christmas Vacation, anyone?), nobody wants that!
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Don't worry, you'll know how to cook a perfect turkey once you're done reading this today! It will be super juicy and oh-so-delicious. The worst problem that you'll be facing is not being able to stop eating it! So go grab your stretchy pants and get cozy, because we're gettin' down to turkey business!
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR TURKEY
It may seem like a pretty basic concept. Go to the store (or order one for pick-up — get $10 off your first order of $50 using this Walmart code!), grab a turkey, and take it home. Badabing badaboom. But wait just a sec! Size actually does matter when it comes to buying a turkey.
First of all, you need to figure out how many people will be eating on this bad boy. You usually want to have 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. Obviously, kids wouldn't need that much. So use your best judgment to get the most realistic amount you would need.
If you find you're needing a 12- to 14-pounder, then you're right at the sweet spot for the perfect-sized turkey. However, if you require more than that to feed a large crowd, we suggest getting a second turkey or turkey breast!
Bigger is not always better when it comes to a turkey. A larger bird usually means the turkey is older, and will most likely be tough and have a gamey flavor to it. Trust us, you don't want that! They're also harder to cook — you usually end up with it being done on the outside while the inside is still undercooked. Uck! Just trust us on this one.
HOW TO THAW A TURKEY
If your turkey is frozen, then you'll need to give it plenty of time to thaw in the refrigerator before you cook it. Yes, we said in the refrigerator! It's important that you thaw it safely. A good rule of thumb is about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. If you have a smaller 12-pound turkey, then it would probably take about 3 days, whereas a 14-pound turkey would take closer to 4 days.
Give yourself plenty of time for your turkey to completely thaw! If you have the time, it won't hurt your turkey to sit in the fridge for an extra day or two.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO COOK A TURKEY
There are a few different ways you can cook your turkey. Choose which works best for you based on the size of your turkey and the equipment you have!
IN THE SLOW COOKER
This is a fool-proof method if you have a smaller turkey (about 8 to 10 pounds). The most important thing is to make sure that your turkey will fit in your slow cooker! An 8-quart slow cooker will usually hold an 8- to 10-pound turkey. Line the slow cooker to make clean up easy, then prepare your turkey as the recipe states below. Add any remaining herb butter mixture to the slow cooker.
Cooking times may vary, depending on your particular slow cooker and how big your turkey is. Cook that bad boy low and slow, between 8 and 9 hours. Check the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast for the most accurate readings with a meat thermometer (make sure the bird reaches an internal temperature of 165°F).
Once the turkey is done, move it to a platter and let stand for 20 minutes to allow the juices to settle before slicing. Voila! You now know how to cook a turkey in the slow cooker!
IN THE FRYER
We know that you've probably heard of fried turkeys…and all of the horror stories that usually go with them. But did you know that Butterball makes an electric fryer that can cook a whole turkey in about an hour?! It uses way less oil than a traditional fryer, so it's healthier and quicker. Winning!
Just slap some poultry dry rub on that bad boy and cook according to the fryer's instructions. It can't get any easier than that! Keep in mind that most people either cook theirs in their garage or outside so it won't make their house smell like a fryer. Ain't nobody got time for that stank!
IN THE SMOKER
If you have a smoker, then you've probably tried your hand at cooking your turkey in it. But if not, then you totally should! It will probably take longer than it does to cook in the oven, but the electric smoker makes it so easy and definitely worth it.
Try out this smoked turkey recipe from Hey Grill Hey and you won't be sorry! The biggest thing is figuring out the timing of it all. It takes about 30 minutes per pound to smoke a turkey. So a 14-pound turkey would take about 7 hours. Be sure to account for the prep time and to give it plenty of time to rest before slicing and serving, at least 45 minutes. It's not quick, but it's totally worth it!
HOW TO COOK A WHOLE TURKEY IN THE OVEN
It's pretty easy to cook your turkey in the oven. There are a few must-have items in order to be successful:
- Roasting Pan – Make sure your turkey will fit in it, and be sure the pan will fit in your oven!
- Food Grade Gloves – Optional, but totally worth it if touching raw meat gives you the heebie-jeebies!
- Turkey Oven Bag – You don't have to use one of these, you could just tent your turkey with foil. But these will always guarantee a super juicy turkey!
- Meat Thermometer – This is key to cooking the perfect turkey! You don't want to overdo (or underdo) it.
Once you have these items, follow the recipe below and you'll know how to cook the perfect turkey in the oven!
(Adapted from Tastes Better From Scratch)
How to Cook a Whole Turkey
- Roasting Pan
- Turkey Oven Bag
- Meat Thermometer
- 12-14 lb turkey, completely thawed
Herb Butter Mixture
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp sage, chopped
- 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
- 1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
Cavity Flavor Infusion
- 1 red apple, chopped in half
- 1-2 small onions, chopped in half
- 4 stalks celery, cut in thirds
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp pepper
- 1 Tbsp sage, chopped
- 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
- 1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
- Remove thawed turkey from the packaging. Remove the neck and giblets (check both body and neck cavities) and save for later or toss.
- Pat the turkey with paper towels to completely dry the inside and outside.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (or whatever the instructions on the roasting bag says).
- Soften butter and mix in salt, pepper, garlic, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
- Using your hands, loosen the skin over the breast. Spread as much of the herb butter mixture between the breast and the skin. Spread any remaining butter on the outside of the skin.
- Season the cavity with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
- Stuff the cavity with apples, onions, and celery.
- Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and place in the roasting bag. Put in the roasting pan.
- Roast until the thermometer reaches 165°F. (It usually takes about 15 minutes per pound.)
- Remove from the oven and cut the bag away from the turkey. Let stand for 45 minutes. (Trust us on this one, you don't want to cut it too soon and lose all the juices!)
Is your mouth watering yet? It's so juicy and delicious!
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER TURKEY
Once you're done devouring your turkey (assuming that there are actually leftovers after eating something this delicious), you need to make sure you store it properly so it doesn't go bad.
It may sound nice to just let your half-eaten turkey carcass sit on the table for a few hours after you've eaten before you clean up, but that shouldn't be the case if you plan on saving what's left! Put the leftover turkey in airtight containers and get them in the fridge ASAP!
Turkey can remain in the refrigerator for up to six days. However, if you won't eat it all by then, divide it out into meal-sized portions and freeze it. Just remember to label your freezer bags with the contents and date it so you know exactly what's in the bag. It'll last in your freezer for at least six months. If you need some ideas on how to reuse your leftover turkey, we have got your back! Check out this post with lots of leftover turkey ideas!
Now that you know how to cook a turkey, what are you waiting for?! Get on it! What's your favorite way to cook a turkey? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for more ideas?
- What else can you freeze? Get lots of ideas!
- Love your leftovers! Repurpose them to make them brand-new.
- Learn how to set a grocery budget so that you're not being wasteful with your food or money.
- Get the best tips on how to prevent freezer burn.
- Organize your food in your kitchen and never throw out old food again!
Happy turkey-eatin'! 🙂