Ready to learn the easiest way to cook a turkey? Lean in. This is so helpful!
Clearly the easiest way to cook a turkey is to let someone else cook the turkey. ;) But, if you’re the one in charge of preparing the meal this year…let me share the easiest way I’ve found to cook a turkey.
I remember being so intimidated to cook a turkey the first time I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. I called my mom a million times to ask questions. Could it really be that cooking a turkey is as simple as taking out the innards, putting it in a pan, covering it, and baking it? Yes, it is that easy.
My holiday turkeys are not fancy. I don’t stuff them. I don’t slather them with anything. I just put them into the oven and cook them. They create their own broth…smart little birds that they are.
How to Cook a Turkey the Easy Way
Pick your turkey: You will need about 1 ½ pounds of turkey per person you are serving. Buy your turkey accordingly. Or, buy a larger one if you want to have lots of turkey leftovers. (Here are all kinds of ideas for what to do with leftover turkey.)
Thaw your turkey: Place the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days until thawed.
Prepare your turkey: Once the turkey is thawed, reach in and grab out the bag of giblets. (This is by far every one’s favorite step, right?!) Empty the giblets into your roasting pan as they help make a good, rich broth. Place the turkey, breast side up, into a large baking pan or roaster.
Cook your turkey: Season your turkey any way you like. I find a turkey to be so flavorful as-is, I rarely do much with seasonings. Though salt, pepper, garlic, and onion make the turkey a step above!
Cover with foil or with your roaster lid. Cook at 325° for 15-20 minutes per pound. (For instance, a 20 pound turkey would need to bake for five hours.) You know your turkey is done cooking when the little red button pops up, or when the legs start to pull away from the body. Your turkey should be golden brown and slightly crisp looking. (Light brown and slick looking? Mr. Turkey is not done yet.)
To Cook your Turkey ahead of time (I highly, HIGHLY recommend doing this!!):
You can cook your Thanksgiving turkey as many days ahead of time as you want. I know most of you like turkey fresh out of the oven on Thanksgiving Day. But, here’s what I learned from my mom, and it really saves a lot of trouble on the big day when I’d really enjoy visiting instead of messing with a big bird.
Cook and cool your turkey any day before Thursday. De-bone and put meat in baggies. Pour broth into jars (3/4 full). Freeze or refrigerate, depending on how far in advance you cooked the turkey. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator the day before serving.
To reheat turkey, put as much light and dark meat as you think you will need for the Thanksgiving meal in a 9×13 pan. Drizzle a liberal amount of broth over turkey, cover and warm in 300° oven for 30-45 minutes or until meat is hot and steamy.
No one will ever know that you prepared your turkey ahead of time (except for the fact that you won’t be carving the turkey in front of them). It is always juicy and moist. I do it this way every year, and I’m always so thankful that the messy part is over before Thanksgiving day!
Are you in charge of cooking a turkey this year?! Do you stuff your turkey? Have any more helpful turkey cooking tips to share?
You might also want to know: How to Make Turkey Gravy.
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