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A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking Thanksgiving Turkey

Amaze your guests with a perfectly-prepared, golden-brown turkey filled with savory stuffing.


What You’ll Need:

  • Butcher’s twine (string to truss the turkey)
  • Kitchen shears
  • Roasting pan
  • Roasting rack
  • Thermometer
  • Turkey baster
  • Potholders
  • Butter
  • White wine or stock
  • Fresh herbs
  • Prepared stuffing
  • Chopped carrots, onion, and celery
  • Kosher salt for dry brining (optional)


Prepping the Turkey

  • Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.
  • Seal them in zip-top plastic bag and set aside in the refrigerator (see Expert Tips below).
  • Dry turkey’s skin with paper towels.


Optional: Dry Brine Two Days Prior


With a little planning, dry-brining (allowing salt to infuse into the meat) will give you an extra flavorful bird.

  • Sprinkle salt over the outside of the turkey and rub some inside.
  • Chill turkey for two days in the refrigerator.


Stuffing the Turkey

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F with racks arranged so the turkey will fit.
  • Slather the turkey in butter. Use butter at room temperature so it’s soft enough to spread on the turkey.
  • Stuff the turkey with your favorite stuffing recipe.
  • Tie the legs with twine and tuck the wings under. This will create a beautiful presentation, and help the bird cook evenly.


Roasting the Turkey

  • Set the turkey on a roasting rack inside the pan.
  • Sprinkle chopped vegetables and fresh herbs around the turkey.
  • Pour 1 cup of braising liquid (stock or wine) over the vegetables or dot with butter.
  • Roast the turkey for 1 hour to brown the skin.
  • Lower the temperature to 350°F and cook for 1 hour, basting every 15 to 20 minutes with liquid from the pan. Add an extra hour of cooking time for every 5 1/2 pounds.
  • Check the inside temperature by inserting a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh and into the cavity. The bird and stuffing should both read 165°F.
  • Rest the turkey for 10 minutes before carving.


Carving the Turkey

  • Use a cutting board that has indents around the outside for catching the juice.
  • Start carving at each breast and slice into serving pieces.
  • Carve the drumsticks, wings, and thighs.
  • Add the juice to the gravy or save it for soup.


Expert Tips:

  • Place parchment paper on your cutting board when working with raw turkey. It keeps the turkey from sliding and helps with cleanup.
  • Dry-brine the turkey in a large soup pot with a lid that fits in the fridge.
  • Select a roasting rack that’s large enough to keep your turkey from touching the pan.
  • Combine the juices in the roasting pan to create a roux on the stovetop for instant gravy.
  • The turkey neck is full of richly flavored meat. Add to soups or stocks for extra flavor.
  • Giblets are also edible, but can be an acquired taste. Experiment with them rather than throwing them out. Chop up fried giblets and add them to stuffing, gravy, soups, or stews.
  • The vegetables in the pan can be served with the turkey or made into a soup.
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