How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey


As a crisp creeps into the morning air and the leaves just start changing hue, we're ready to say goodbye to grilled corn on the cob and turn our attention to fall favorites like Thanksgiving turkey. And, whether you're cooking your first turkey or just want to create a new Thanksgiving tradition, we have all the turkey info you need right here.

How to Order a Turkey

The first step to throwing a Thanksgiving feast is planning ahead, and you should reserve your bird with a butcher at least a few weeks in advance.

Order roughly 1.25 pounds of turkey per guest — so, for example, a 12- to 13-pound bird to feed a party of 9 — so everyone can get their fill and have some leftovers, too. If you want lots of leftovers, order 1.5 pounds per guest.

McCormick Perfect Turkey Gravy

Cleaning a Turkey and Preparation

Roasting an unforgettable turkey takes some time, and you may need to start up to a week before your feast.

How to Thaw a Turkey

If your turkey came frozen, it could take days to thaw. If you're thawing in the fridge, count on one day of thawing per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey; for thawing in a water bath, plan for a half hour of thawing per pound of turkey.

How to Clean a Turkey

Most turkeys will come with the neck and giblets inside the bird. Remove these and set them aside to cook separately. Use paper towels to pat the bird dry, including inside the cavity.

How to Brine a Turkey

Brining is the process of treating food, particularly lean meats, with brine, which is a mixture of salt and water. You’ll get the best flavor and most tender meat if your brine your turkey before you cook it. This turkey brine recipe is simple and flavorful and combines bay leaves, paprika, rosemary and thyme.

How to Season a Turkey

Yet another layer of flavor? Yes, please! A classic rub made from thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper works well with virtually any stuffing, while a sage rub perfectly complements the cornbread stuffing. Try our delicious sage rubbed roasted turkey recipe for this holiday season! 

Rosemary Turkey on a Bed of Kale

What Temperature to Cook a Turkey

Set your oven to 325 F to cook your bird evenly. The total cook time will depend on the size of your turkey, so let a meat thermometer be the ultimate judge. Your turkey is cooked when the breast meat reaches 170 F and the thighs reach 180 F.

After it's done, allow the bird to rest for at 20 least minutes before carving. This is the perfect time to use the oven to warm up your sides or pop in a batch of dinner rolls.
 Cutting a Turkey

How to Carve a Turkey

You're almost ready to serve your bird, now you just need to carve. We suggest carving in advance rather than at the table, since you can take your time to get it right. Let this video be your guide. 

Remove the drumsticks and wings to serve whole, and slice or pull the rest of the dark meat. Remove the turkey breasts and slice the white meat into ½-inch slices, using a carving knife or chef's knife. Fill your platter with a variety of cuts and serve — and bask in the glow of compliments from your guests. You've earned them!

How to Make Turkey Gravy

The secret to savory, lump-free, turkey-flavored gravy? Fond (the meaty little bits leftover in your turkey roasting pan) and two packets of McCormick Turkey Gravy Mix or McCormick Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy Mix  Then, follow this recipe to make our Perfect Turkey Gravy recipe in a few simple steps.

Check Out Some of Our Other Thanksgiving Recipe Favorites & Tips

5 Easy Ways to Ruin the Thanksgiving Turkey
This Hack Is the Best Way to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
This Is the Best Way to Roast Thanksgiving Turkey for a Crowd
5 Ways to Flavor Your Turkey
How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner in a Single Sheet Pan
The Ultimate Checklist for All Your Thanksgiving Prep


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