Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Cook a Turkey


How to Roast a Turkey
Before cooking a turkey, remember to thaw it properly. Do not thaw a turkey at room temperature.
  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Remove giblets and neck; reserve for another use. Rinse turkey; pat dry with paper towels.

  3. Prepare stuffing using your favorite recipe.

  4. Immediately before you are ready to put the turkey in the oven, stuff body and neck cavities loosely with stuffing.

    Use a wooden spoon to insert stuffing into cavities.
    Use a wooden spoon to insert
    stuffing into cavities.


  5. Fold skin over openings and close with skewers. Tie legs together with cotton string or tuck through skin flap, if provided. Tuck wings under turkey.

    For a smoother batter, use a whisk to blend ingredients together.
    Tie legs together and tuck wings under.

  6. Place turkey on meat rack in shallow roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer in thickest part of thigh, not touching bone. Brush turkey with melted butter and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

    Be sure to place thermometer in a position that will be easy to read.
    Be sure to place thermometer in
    a position that will be easy to read.


  7. Place turkey in oven and immediately turn temperature down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast 22 to 24 minutes per pound (18 to 20 minutes per pound for unstuffed turkey), brushing with butter mixture after 1 hour and again after 11/2 hours. Baste with pan juices every hour.

    Basting helps keep turkey moist.
    Basting helps keep turkey moist.

  8. While turkey is roasting, start the gravy. Combine turkey giblets and neck with 4 cups water and 1 can (about 14 ounces) chicken broth in 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; skim off any foam.

  9. Stir your favorite flavorings into turkey broth with giblets -- for example, coarsely chopped onion and carrots, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, 11/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature.

  10. Strain broth; set aside. Chop and reserve giblets, if desired.

  11. Total roasting time for the turkey should be 4 to 5 hours. Turkey is done when internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit and legs move easily in socket.

  12. Transfer turkey to cutting board; tent with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.

    Tenting the turkey with foil and letting it rest allows the meat to reabsorb juices.
    Tenting the turkey with foil and letting it
    rest allows the meat to reabsorb juices.


  13. Pour off and reserve all juices from roasting pan. To deglaze the pan, pour wine or broth into pan. Place roasting pan over burners and cook over medium-high heat, scraping up browned bits and stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by about half.

    Reserve the roasting juices from the pan.
    Reserve the roasting juices from the pan.

  14. Spoon off about 1/3 cup fat from pan drippings; discard any remaining fat and reserve the defatted drippings. Place 1/3 cup fat in large saucepan.

    Spoon off the fat and keep the rest of the juices.
    Spoon off the fat and keep
    the rest of the juices.

  15. Add 3 tablespoons flour; cook over medium heat 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in turkey broth (adding water, if needed, to make 3 cups), the defatted pan drippings, and the deglazed mixture from the roasting pan.

    Slowly stir in the turkey broth.
    Slowly stir in the turkey broth.

  16. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped giblets, if desired, and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Taking your bird outside to the grill is another cooking option. Learn about grilling a whole turkey on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Grilling: Grilling isn't just for summertime barbecues anymore. Find out how to cook all your favorites on the grill, all year round.
  • Grilling Recipes: Check out the collection of top-notch grilling recipes at HowStuffWorks.
  • Thanksgiving Recipes: From turkey to stuffing to cranberry sauce, your eyes (and belt loop) will pop when you see all the great ideas on our Thanksgiving Recipes page.

More to Explore