How To Prepare & Cook A Thanksgiving Turkey

Think about Thanksgiving and what comes to mind? It is likely you will be thinking about a juicy, plump, home-cooked turkey! If it’s your first time preparing a turkey, there is nothing to worry about because it is quite easy once you know how-to prepare and cook it.

The first step is to thaw your turkey if it is frozen, and bear in mind this might take several days depending on the size, so plan ahead. Every pound of turkey takes about 5 hours of thawing.

The following recipe is for a 15-pound bird. Let it come to room temperature then pull out the giblets. Rinse the bird then pat it dry with paper towels, and preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

How to Flavor and Stuff the Turkey

  • Rub the juice of half a lemon over the inside of the turkey cavity.
  • Rub a tablespoon of salt over the inside of the cavity.
  • Add a chopped carrot, some celery tops and some fresh parsley sprigs inside the bird.
  • Cut half a yellow onion into wedges and insert these into the cavity.

Use metal skewers or non-nylon kitchen twine to close the cavity and keep the aromatics in there. As the bird cooks, the ingredients used to stuff it will add lots of flavor. It is your choice whether or not to truss the bird. Put some parsley into the turkey’s neck if you like, then cover the neck opening with the skin flap and use skewers or string to seal it. Rub melted butter or oil over the bird, then season with salt and black pepper.

How Long to Cook It

Put the turkey breast side-down on a rack over a roasting pan after tucking some fresh rosemary and thyme under the wings. The bird will need 13-15 minutes cooking per pound, so you can work out the approximate cooking time and ensure your side dishes will be ready around the same time. Start cooking it at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn the heat down to 325 degrees F and cook for another 2 hours.

After this, turn it down to 225 degrees F and keep cooking until the bird is fully cooked. You can broil it breast side-up for a few minutes at this point if you want, but that is optional.

A meat thermometer should read 170 degrees F when inserted into the thigh and 165 degrees F when inserted into the breast. Bear in mind the turkey will keep cooking when it comes out of the oven and the temperature will climb another 5 degrees or so. Alternatively stick a knife into the breast to check for doneness. If the turkey is done the juices will run clear.

Finally, cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for half an hour. This allows the meat juices to redistribute and ensures it will be perfectly juicy. You can now flip the turkey breast side-up (if it is not already) and carve it.

Served with your favorite side dishes, this makes a simply wonderful Thanksgiving meal.

What are some of the (secret recipe) ways you prepare your Thanksgiving turkey? Share your tips on cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey with our readers.

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