How to Cook Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Learn how to cook turkey for Thanksgiving dinner or any other holiday that works for you. There are so many different ways to prepare and cook a turkey, it's not funny. But it has to be done and you always want it to be perfect.

How to Cook Turkey

How do you like your turkey cooked? Do you like it with crisp skin and juicy meat? Most people do, but the problem with cooking a turkey is that it takes so long, the cook generally forgets to check it or cooks it a little too long and the meat becomes dry and stringy.

There are some great ways how to cook a turkey, so I am posting up a few different recipes to cover a few of them. If you like your turkey in the oven, smoker, grill, or cooked in oil, you will love each of these recipes. They will give you a perfect bird for the holidays and you can modify them for your likes and desires.

How to Cook Turkey - Recipes for Cooking the Holiday Feast

The following recipes on how to cook a turkey should have you covered for the holidays. Each recipe uses a different method for cooking turkey and one of them is sure to help you prepare your Thanksgiving feast.

There are a few alternatives added into the recipes as well as tips and tricks to help reduce cooking time and avoid a lot of wasted turkey. For instance, not everyone loves white turkey meat. If none of your guest eat the white meat, only the dark meat, try just cooking select parts of the turkey that will be loved by all.

Turkey cooking times vary based on a lot of factors. Butterball is a great resource that includes times and temperatures based on many factors when considering how to cook turkey.

How to Cook Turkey in the Oven

This recipe is how to cook turkey in the oven. This is the more traditional way of cooking a turkey and is sure to be the juiciest turkey you will ever cook.

This recipe requires a whole turkey between 15 and 20 pounds. I don't recommend using a turkey larger than 20 pounds because there is a risk of toxins building up within a larger turkey that are normally burned off with smaller birds.

I also recommend not stuffing the turkey. This messes up your cooking time estimates and poses health hazards.

Oven Roasted Turkey


One (1) Whole Turkey 15 to 20 pounds
One Half (1/2) Stick of Real Butter
One (1) Teaspoon Dried or Fresh Rosemary Chopped
One (1) Teaspoon Dried or Fresh Thyme chopped
Salt - Varies With the Size of the Turkey
Pepper - Varies With the Size of the Turkey


To prepare your thawed or fresh turkey, peal the skin off of the meat over the breasts but don't totally remove the skin. You should be able to stick your hand between the skin and the breasts.

Melt the 1/2 stick of butter and mix in the Rosemary and Thyme. Pour the melted butter with Rosemary and thyme into the skin pocket and rub it around with your hand until the breast is completely coated. You just want a very light coat, so don't over do it.

Once the breasts are coated, push the skin back down and lightly sprinkle salt and pepper all over the outside skin of the turkey. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan breast up.

Cooking Instructions:

Before adding heat to the oven, measure the oven using the roasting pan. Make sure that the oven rack is positioned so that the turkey is centered in the oven when it is on the rack. Adjust the oven racks accordingly and remove the roasting pan.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Once heat is reached, place the uncovered roasting pan with the turkey in the center of the oven. If you have a remote temperature probe, poke it into the deepest part of the turkey, usually a breast. Close the oven and cook the turkey at 475 for twenty (20) minutes. The temperature sounds very hot, but this helps seal in the juices.

At the twenty minute mark, reduce the oven heat to 250 degrees and continue cooking. Do not open the oven door to reduce the heat down in the oven - let it come down on its own. If you would like to place a cover on the roasting pan, do so now.

Cooking time from here on out is done by calculating twenty (20) minutes per pound of turkey. So if you have a ten pound turkey, you need to set your oven timer to 200 minutes or 3 hours and 20 minutes.

About half way through the cooking process, you want to start monitoring temperature regularly. Since cooking time varies with weigh, world location and altitude, you need to make sure to not over cook it. You want the internal meat temperature to reach between 170 and 180 degrees.

Once internal temperature is reached, removed the roasting pan and turkey from the oven, uncover, and let the turkey rest for about twenty minutes before carving the turkey.


Instead of using Rosemary and Thyme, you can add your own spices at this point. Just don't over do it. It doesn't take much to add great flavor to your turkey. When thinking about how to cook turkey with your favorite flavor, try things like garlic and other common spices that will add your preferred flavor.

How to Cook Turkey on the Grill

How to cook turkey on the grill requires a little more creativity and time, but gives the bird a great flavor. You can also quarter the turkey to cut down on cooking time.

This recipe is great for smaller turkeys, anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds.

Grilled Turkey


One (1) Whole Turkey 10 to 15 pounds
Two (2) Tablespoons of Olive Oil


Place one whole thawed turkey breast up in an aluminum pan. Coat the entire bird with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper all over the bird.

Cooking Instructions:

Before cooking on the grill, be sure you have enough fuel prior to starting this evolution. It doesn't matter what type of grill you have. Fuel is considered charcoal, gas, or electric. If you are cooking with charcoal, one large bag will be plenty. If you are cooking with gas, one full bottle should be fine, but having a second one handy always helps.

Preheat the grill to 475 degrees and brush all grime from the grill racks. You won't be cooking the turkey directly on the racks, but excess grease and oils on the racks may catch on fire and increase grill temperature abruptly.

Depending on the size and type of grill, indirect heat is best for cooking a turkey on the grill. I have a five burner grill and turn the center three burners off while leaving the two outside burners on high. You may have to keep one or two of the other burners on low to reach 475 degrees inside the grill with the turkey inside.

Center the turkey in the grill and let it cook uncovered for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off the extra burners and let the temperature lower to 250 degrees.

Just like with the oven turkey, cooking time from here on is done by calculating about twenty (20) minutes per pound of turkey. So if you have a ten pound turkey, you need to set your oven timer to 200 minutes or 3 hours and 20 minutes. Keep in mind that the temperature and weather outside will affect cooking time.

About halfway through the cooking time, check the internal temperature of the turkey. Your goal internal temperature is between 170 and 180 degrees. Once temperature is reached, remove the turkey and let it rest for about twenty minutes, then carve away.


You can add your own spices to the turkey vice using salt and pepper. You can also cover the turkey after the first twenty minutes of high temperature cooking.

Another alternative for how to cook turkey is to quarter the turkey or use preferred pieces of bird such as turkey legs, wings, or breasts - whichever your guests prefer the most. Cooking time will be less with smaller pieces of turkey.

How to Cook Turkey in a Deep Fat Fryer

Deep Fat Fried Turkey


One (1) Whole Turkey (Size Depends on Fryer)
Three (3) Gallons of Peanut Oil
3 Tablespoons of Salt
3 Tablespoons of Pepper
2 Tablespoons of Onion Powder
2 Tablespoons of Celery Powder
2 Tablespoon of Garlic Powder


Mix all of the seasoning ingredients together. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and pat dry with paper towels. Thoroughly rub the seasoning mix all over the bird. Ensure the neck opening of the turkey is at least two inches wide and open (you may have to cut some skin away to ensure the hole is open. Ensure the bottom of the turkey is also open and unobstructed so that hot oil will move through the bird with ease.

Place the turkey butt up in the drain basket.

Cooking Instructions:

Pour fryer oil in the deep fat fryer (this is the tricky part). Only pour between 1/4 and 1/2 of the fryer depth worth of oil into the fryer. If there is too much oil, it may spill out and catch on fire.

Heat the turkey fryer oil to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully place the drain basket with turkey into the fryer. Immediately stop immersing the bird if it appears that the oil will spill out. Once the drain basket and bird are in the oil, the turkey should be completely submerged.

Maintain cooking temperature of the fryer at about 350 degrees. Cook the turkey at a rate of three (3) minutes and thirty (30) seconds per pound. For instance, if you have a 15 pound turkey, you should cook it for fifty-two and a half (52 1/2) minutes.

Carefully remove the turkey in the drain basket from the hot oil and check the internal meat temperature. The temperature at the deepest point of the meat should be 175 to 180 degrees. If it is not yet at temperature, place it back in the oil and check it every three minutes until it is at temperature.

Once temperature is reached, thoroughly drain the turkey, let it rest for about twenty minutes, then carve and serve.


With this recipe how to cook turkey, you can add or remove any of the spices. A lot of the spices will wash off of the turkey when first immersed into the oil. You can try injecting spices into the bird with melted butter.

Learning how to cook turkey can be fun and there are so many different routes you can take to make the perfect turkey for the holidays. Don't go too overboard with spices if you've never cooked a turkey before.

Let me know if you have a great recipe on how to cook turkey that you'd like to share. Everyone is looking for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. It might be yours.

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