How To Cook A Turkey

So you’ve decided to be in charge of the turkey this year? If you haven’t already purchased your bird, be sure to read all about how to buy and thaw your turkey. These instructions are for day-of cooking. Be sure to brine the turkey 8 to 24 hours beforehand, for the juiciest bird.

Chef John's Roast Turkey and Gravy

Photo by Cynthia Ross

From prepping and basting to roasting and carving, get all the tips you need to cook your bird.

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roast turkey uncovered for 20 minutes per pound.
  • Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees measured at the thigh.
  • Let rest 20 minutes before carving.

buy roasting pans

How to Roast Your Turkey

Cooking a turkey is actually really easy, it just takes some time. Just follow these steps to prepare the turkey for roasting in the oven:

  • Again, if you are brining your turkey to keep it nice and moist, do this 8 to 24 hours before you cook it.
  • Remove the packet of giblets from the cavity of the bird and save them for gravy or stuffing.  Next, rinse the bird inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.
  • If you are stuffing the bird, stuff it loosely, allowing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Tie drumsticks together with string, and brush the skin with melted butter or oil.
  • Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.
  • Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. To determine how long to cook a turkey, see our handy chart to estimate the time required for baking.
  • Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but helps promote even browning


Other Cooking Methods

Roasting a turkey is the easiest cooking method: the oven remains a constant temperature, and it’s easy to baste the turkey and check the internal temperature periodically. But for the adventurous, you there are other methods that provide a different experience and frees up your oven for other dishes:

How To Tell When Your Turkey Is Done

The only reliable test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. The turkey is done when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) at the thigh. If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing should be 165 degrees F as well.

After The Oven

Be sure to leave some time to prep the turkey after it comes out of the oven. Now it’s time to let your bird rest and then carve your turkey.


Pro serving tip: warm your serving platter in the oven about five minutes before you put the sliced turkey on it. You’ve gone to too much work to serve cold turkey!


Have more questions? Get the answers to the most commonly asked Thanksgiving Cooking Questions. Don’t forget to check out our Thanksgiving side dishes to pick your pairing for a delicious meal.