How To Cook A Turkey: Recipes And Tips From Butterball And Other Experts

Most people in the U.S. already had their turkey dinners. Some may have eaten it in the early afternoon or evening on Thursday. But if you’re planning a late or last-minute Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving dinner, then you’ll want to know how to cook a turkey. These ideas will also help you out if you plan on having turkey again for Christmas.

Roasting it in the oven is one of the most popular and easier ways of cooking a turkey. All you need to do is follow this simple recipe from Butterball, courtesy of ABC-13 Eyewitness News, to get a tender and juicy turkey. This recipe works for both fresh and thawed turkeys.

  • Preheat oven to 325° F. Drain juices and pat dry with clean paper towels.
  • Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.
  • Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place. (Tucking the wings will help stabilize the turkey in the pan and when carving) Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
  • Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone. When the thigh is up to temperature, and if the turkey is stuffed, move the thermometer to the center of the stuffing.
  • Place your turkey in the oven.

However, everyone has different ways of roasting their turkey. Some recommend heating the oven at 350 degrees, while others say 425 degrees works if you want a crispy golden brown bird. If you’re cooking yours at high meat, then you want to cook with the bird breast-side down, according to America’s Test Kitchen editor Bridget Lancaster. After 45 minutes, turn the turkey back over and continue roasting it at 325 degrees.

You may even want to season your turkey before you roast it. Slather it with butter and olive oil, and then baste it every 30 minutes, to ensure that you will have a juicy piece of meat. Some like to use seasonings such as Bell’s Seasoning, poultry seasoning, or even plain salt and pepper.

Want to know the right cooking times? This official timetable was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service for unstuffed birds only. For example, a four- to six-pound turkey breast will cook from 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours, while a 20-pound to 24-pound breast will take 4 1/2 to 5 hours too cook.

You will know the bird is done once the timer pops up. Some turkeys from Butterball and Jennie O come with a pop-up timer. You will also know your turkey is done when the temperature is 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thigh and 165 degrees in the breast or stuffing. Some say you should ignore the pop-up thermometer that comes with your turkey. Instead, use an instant-read thermometer and take the temperature every time you check your turkey.

Taking the internal temperature of your turkey will prevent you from having a Thanksgiving disaster. Harold McGee, food scientist and author of On Food and Cooking, says to take your bird out of the oven once the breast reaches 150 degrees and the thighs are 160 degrees.

“Those standard higher temperatures give you standard dry turkey meat. Lower temperatures mean juicier meat.”

Once the turkey is done, loosely cover it with a piece of foil to prevent it from overcooking. You don’t want to eat a dry turkey for Thanksgiving. Then place it on a platter and let it stand for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

But the experts argue that you should leave the turkey undisturbed for 30 minutes before carving and serving. This will allow your bird to finish cooking and reabsorb all of its juices, giving you a moist turkey.

If you are still stumped on how to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, then you can call the Butterball Hotline at (800) 288-8372. These experts receive over 100,000 questions a day — some outright ridiculous — from November through December. You can also check out some of the turkey video tutorials below, courtesy of YouTube.

[Photo Courtesy of Tim Sackton via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0]