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How to Cook a Turkey – prepping, cooking and carving instructions – with video!

Roasting a turkey is easier than you think. If you know how to roast a chicken, you will be able to roast a turkey, no matter its size. As you’ll see in the video, roasting a basic bird is a fairly simple procedure. Most turkeys come with their own directions, and if you follow them, you’ll end up with a delicious dinner.

Once you are comfortable roasting a basic turkey, you can start playing with the seasonings and brining methods. Brining usually includes an overnight resting period and is best done with two people around to help. Seasoning, however, can be done by one person and doesn’t require long periods of waiting before cooking.

As my friend Jennifer taught us last year with her article on 9 Easy Steps to Turkey Perfection, roasting and carving a turkey is really quite simple. Here are my tips for you:

  • Follow Directions: If your bird comes with a label, read it. It will usually coach you through the best way to roast the bird according to its poundage. The standard time ratio is 20-30 minutes per pound at 325°F.
  • Season Well: Kosher salt and black pepper are your best friends. Compound butters slathered all over the bird also help it stay moist and infuse it with flavors. Try making your own compound butter with herbs like sage, rosemary, and oregano. Remember to season both over and under the skin for maximum flavor.
  • Tent When Tan: As the bird roasts, check it at least once an hour. If the top of the skin goes from tan to dark brown, place a loose tent of aluminum foil over the top. This will protect the skin from the direct heat and prevent it from burning. Almost everyone has to do this toward the end of the roasting period; you want the turkey to have a burnished, gold look, not a blackened, burned skin.
  • Watch the Timer: Roasting a turkey is not a perfect science. A stuffed bird will take longer to roast than an un-stuffed bird. Watch the pop-up timer if it is inserted into the bird. Also, as directed above, check it yourself each hour. There is no better indicator than watching it with your own eyes!
  • Double-check the Temp: When the bird timer has popped, remove the bird from the oven and double-check the temperature with your own meat thermometer inserted in the thigh joint. The internal temperature should reach 170°F.
  • Tent and Rest: Once you’ve confirmed the internal temperature, place the aluminum tent back over the bird and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving. This allows for the flavors and liquids to reabsorb in the turkey. It also allows it to cool a little bit; otherwise you will burn your hands on the hot meat when carving.
  • Carving: The most important tool for carving is a very sharp knife. Transfer the turkey from the roasting rack to a sturdy carving board on a level surface. Start by removing the legs, then wings of the bird and place them on a serving platter. Next, slice the meat off the breast in pieces as thin or thick as you’d like. I find it best to keep the dark and white meat separate on the platter; people often have a strong preference for one or the other.

Reminders: Save the leftovers for gobbler sandwiches and use the carcass to make delicious turkey broth!

I hope this helps with your upcoming roasting adventures. Happy Holidays!

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