How to Cook a Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey

Publish Date October 11, 2023 4 Minute Read

How to Cook a Turkey

When an entire holiday revolves around a single standout dish, you want to make sure you get it right. Delivering a tasty turkey can be stress-free with a little bit of planning and a few helpful tips. We’ve gathered some of our favorite tips on how to cook a turkey your guests will be thankful for.

Tried-and-true Turkey Tips

Though there are many ways to cook a turkey, there are a few tips you can use to ensure a safe and delicious bird no matter which method you choose:

  • Thaw it in the Fridge
    There are many ways to thaw your turkey depending on how much time and space you have, but the FDA recommends thawing it in the refrigerator. Make sure you give your turkey plenty of time to thaw ahead of your holiday gathering.
  • Check the Temp
    To make sure your turkey is safe to eat after you’ve cooked it, make sure you’re properly checking the internal temperature. The internal breast temperature and cavity should be 165°F, while the legs and thighs should be between 170°-175°F.
  • Season Your Bird
    There are so many ways to season a turkey. You can place lemons and herbs underneath the skin, rub the whole turkey with a compound butter, stuff your bird with aromatics or all of the above.
  • Tent Your Turkey
    Covering the turkey with foil for most of the cooking process will ensure that it remains moist. You can remove the foil for the last hour of cooking for a perfectly golden, crispy skin.
  • Take Time to Rest
    Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving to make sure that the juices have had time to settle back into the meat after cooking. This is the final step to guaranteeing a moist turkey. Once your bird has rested, cut against the grain and serve.
  • Make a Plan
    When it comes to preparing an elaborate feast, planning ahead is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success. Create a turkey timeline to schedule adequate time for thawing, cooking and resting before it's time to eat.
  • Schedule Side Dishes
    Keep your kitchen calm when you categorize your sides by time and cooking method. Knowing which items can be made ahead, which need stovetop space and which need oven space can help to ensure that all your time in the kitchen goes smoothly.

Tips, Tricks and More for Turkey Day

With so many ways to turn out the tastiest turkey, your guests will have even more things to be thankful for this year. Whether you roast, fry or smoke, remember that timing is key for a juicy and flavorful bird. We’ve put together a guide to times and temps to make planning a little easier:

MethodTemperatureInternal Temp.Timing per lb.SeasoningTips



13 min.

Mayonnaise & Herb Blend

Truss the legs for even cook time.

Slow Cooker

400*F or set to high


1 ½ hr

Butter & Herbs

Finish under the broiler for a crispy finish

Air Fryer



30 min.

Jerk Spices

Perfect for additional cuts of your guests’ favorites.




30 min.

Cajun blends

Build the flavor from wood chips to sauces.

How to Roast a Turkey

Roasting is the most traditional way to prepare a turkey, and for good reason. It’s a relatively hands-off way to cook a bird, and allows you to keep your focus on stovetop sides or welcoming family. Roasting also gives you more control over timing, allowing your flavors to develop slowly until you’re ready to remove the foil for a crispy, golden skin. To make sure you serve a moist, delicious turkey, follow these golden roasting rules:

  • Give it Time
    When roasting, allow for 13 minutes per pound of turkey. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the interior is done cooking before allowing it to rest.
  • “Truss” the Process
    Trussing, or tying up the legs of a turkey, can help ensure that the legs and thighs are done at the same time as the rest of the bird. If you skip this step, the legs often take longer to cook, giving breast meat time to dry out.
  • Keep the Oven Door Shut
    The more you open the oven to check on your bird, the longer it will take to cook and the less consistent your cook time will be, upping your chances for a dry turkey.
  • Add Aromatics
    Lemons, onions, garlic, carrots and herbs can be added right to the roasting pan to infuse the turkey with flavor as it cooks. This will also help to flavor the drippings (if you plan to use them as the base for a homemade gravy or pan sauce).
  • ‘Tis the Season(ings)
    Seasoning the turkey is an important step to infusing your turkey with additional flavor. Butter or oil can be a good base for a variety of herbs, zests and seasonings, but for crispy skin and herb-infused flavor, try this herb mayonnaise roasted turkey.

Slow Cooker Turkey

Using a slow cooker guarantees a juicy, tender result. This method is a great way to make sure that you end up with a tender turkey. As a bonus, slow cooking enables you to free up valuable oven space for casseroles, stuffing or other Thanksgiving sides.

While it sounds unconventional, the slow cooker method has a lot in common with traditional roasting:
If there’s room, you can layer aromatics in the bottom of the slow cooker to create a pan sauce and infuse the meat with flavor. You should still be seasoning with a butter, oil or mayonnaise-based mixture of herbs and spices. You can even get crispy skin by removing your turkey about 15 minutes before it’s done and transferring it to the oven to broil. The main difference to keep in mind is cook time. Preparing a turkey in the slow cooker could take around 8 hours or more, but your patience will be rewarded with moist, fall-apart meat that has really had time to soak in all the flavors you’ve infused.

Smoking a Turkey

If you’re really looking to impress your guests this Thanksgiving, you could smoke your turkey. From choosing which wood chips to use to picking the perfect seasonings and sauces, there are many opportunities to customize the flavor of your turkey when using this method. Allow about 30 minutes per pound for a juicy, smoked turkey that breaks from tradition.

Try this smoked turkey breast with cranberry pan sauce for a dish that puts a traditional flavor combination front and center, or this herbed butter smoked turkey that allows the flavors of smoke to enhance the herbs and garlic.

Simple Solutions for Smaller Gatherings

If you’re hosting a smaller gathering this year, or if most of your guests prefer a particular part of the bird, you may want to try one of these methods:

  • Take it Slow
    Using the slow cooker to cook your turkey is a great choice, but it can also be used to make this savory slow cooker turkey breast with gravy. Making a Crockpot turkey breast is also a great way to satisfy white meat lovers, or to make sure you have leftovers for sandwiches the next day (even if you’re roasting a turkey as well).

  • Air Fry Your Turkey
    For an extra crispy option, an air fryer is a great way to make a smaller selection of turkey for your table. Try this easy air fryer turkey breast to get a juicy interior and crisp skin without the oven. You can use this technique to serve up additional wings, thighs and legs, or even just to warm up leftovers to make sure the skin stays crisp and golden.

Want to be the host with the most? Visit our blog for even more juicy inspiration, like Thanksgiving hosting tips, guides to meal planning and more, and check out our Thanksgiving shop for everything you’ll need to impress your guests. For more how to turkey, learn how to carve a turkey or more about turkey brine.

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