How to Cook a Turkey.

How Big Should Your Turkey Be?

On average each guest will consume 3/4 to 1 pound of turkey each.  Depending on if you want leftovers to make soup or pot pie or even hot turkey sandwiches you will want to add a few more pounds. A twelve pound turkey can easily feed an average family of 4 with very little left over.

Getting Your Turkey Ready for the Big Day

You have two types of turkeys available; fresh or frozen.


A whole turkey may safely be left in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before cooking.


There are 3 methods to thaw your turkey for the big day; in the fridge, in cold water and in the microwave.  I don’t recommend the last method at all since most microwaves are not even big enough to hold a decent size turkey and there is a chance it could be cooked partially while thawing.

Cold Water Method

If the packaging the turkey originally came in is still intact leave it on.  If there are any holes remove the wrapping and place the turkey in a zipper sealed bag.

Place turkey in the sink filled with enough water to come halfway up the turkey.  Change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.  It will take 30 minutes for every pound of turkey.

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You should cook the turkey immediately after thawing.  It’s also important that water doesn’t get into the bird which could spread bacteria as well as produce a watery meat. 

Refrigerator Method

It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey to thaw completely.

How to Prepare Your Turkey for Roasting

Remember to remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of the turkey.  

Rinse out the cavities on both ends several times as well as the outside of the bird. Pat with paper towels to dry.

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Prepare stuffing. Homemade Stuffing Recipe

Lightly pack main cavity of the turkey.  Cover the opening with foil. 

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Lightly pack rear cavity and pulling skin over the hole secure with metal skewers.

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Using twine secure the wings tightly against the sides of the turkey.

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Place in roasting pan, season with salt and pepper and generously dot with butter.  This is to help it brown the outside and create great gravy.  Loosely cover with foil.

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Place in preheated 400 degree F. oven.  After one hour reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and continue cooking till bird is done.  The following is a handy guide of how long a turkey will take to cook.


Approximate Roasting Times for Stuffed Turkey

Turkey Weight


6 to 8 pounds 3 to 3 ½ hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours
12 to 16 pounds 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours
16 to 20 pounds 5 ½ to 6 hours
20 to 24 pounds 6 to 6 ½ hours

Approximate Roasting Times for Unstuffed Turkey

Turkey Weight


6 to 8 pounds 2 ½ to 3 hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 4 hours
12 to 16 pounds 4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 pounds 5 to 5 ½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 5 ½ to 6 hours


Every hour baste the turkey with the juices in the bottom of the pan.

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Once turkey has finished cooking take the turkey out of the oven and place on cutting board.  Remove the stuffing to a serving bowl and cover to keep warm.  Cover turkey and let sit 10-15 minutes before carving.

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