How to Make a Turkey is a simple, easy method for you to learn how to cook a turkey. This recipe tells you how long to cook it, what kind of pan, and what not to do.
How to Make a Turkey: What’s the best tip?
Just in case you have never been responsible for making the turkey I’m reposting this recipe for you in time for Thanksgiving. You can make a turkey in the oven or in a separate free-standing roaster. It’s not hard. There are just a couple of things to remember. And I do recommend you bake your stuffing separately to avoid the possibility of salmonella.
I baked my first turkey when I was in my second year of college.
I called my mom to find out how to make it, of course, and she said (among other things), “You have to salt it real good, inside and out.”
It turned out okay, but I learned two important lessons. In my opinion, my mom’s advice was not good information, so that was my first mistake. My second mistake was poking the turkey with a fork periodically to see if it was done. This is a definite “no-no.” So my best tip is: Don’t poke it! When you poke the turkey, the juices run out and makes it dry.
Instead, let it roast on its own and periodically baste it with its own juices. I also start out roasting the turkey at a high temperature to seal in the juices; then I turn the temperature down to continue roasting.
Bake Your Turkey the Easy Way
These days, I take the easy way out and use a Nesco Roasting Pan (affiliate link) to make the turkey. I have one big enough to cook a 20-pound turkey. You make it the same way whether it is in the oven or in a roaster on top of the counter.
If you don’t use the free-standing roaster, you will need a large covered roasting pan with a lid. A lift-out rack is also helpful because you can lift the turkey out easily.
Make Enough For Leftovers
In my humble opinion, if you are making a turkey, you might as well make a big one and freeze the leftovers. I wrap and freeze the leftovers in small packages so we can pull them out in two-serving sizes to have sandwiches.
We generally eat the legs during our meal, keep some sliced breast meat in the refrigerator, send some home with the kids, and freeze the rest. It lasts us a couple of months. And I absolutely love turkey sandwiches. Don’t you?
Why Use a Stand-Alone Roasting Pan?
I love using the roaster because using the Nesco leaves the oven free for all the side dishes to bake. As you can see by the turkey picture, I also roast my turkey filled with Traditional Sage Stuffing.
I know, I know. You’re not supposed to do that anymore because people occasionally get sick when they don’t bake the stuffing long enough. However, I think if the turkey is done and nicely browned, the stuffing is done. You can always check it with a thermometer. The safe minimum internal turkey temperature of 165 °F is recommended.
When you bake the stuffing separately, it becomes drier. I like a nice, moist stuffing, despite the fact that I always opt for the crispy part on top. I love the combination of crispy and moist, and I cover the whole thing with Gravy!
It’s only one day a year (or maybe two), so I don’t worry about all the carbs and fat. I simply eat until I’m full and don’t overstuff myself. What do you do? Because you know you’re gonna wanna eat this. And then you’re gonna wanna have a turkey sandwich, maybe even before you go to bed.
Recipe: How to Make a Turkey
How to Make a Turkey
Mom didn't teach you how to bake a turkey? This simple recipe shows you how.
- 1 12-pound Turkey (or any size)
- Salt (use sea salt for corn free)
- Covered Roasting Pan
- Traditional Sage Stuffing
- Remove the interior parts of your thawed turkey (usually found in the cavity and in the neck of a store-bought turkey).
- Rinse the turkey inside and out.
Preheat the oven to 425°F degrees.
Stuff the bird's cavity with Traditional Sage Dressing (stuffing). (Or cook the stuffing separately to be sure it is safe.)
- Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with a little salt and pepper.
Place the turkey in the roasting pan or the free-standing roaster. It's best to have one that has a lift-out rack.
Cover and place in a preheated 425°F degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. This seals the juices in the bird.
Reduce the heat to 325°F degrees and bake the turkey for 20 minutes a pound (so for a 12 pound bird, you would bake it 12 x 20, or 240 minutes or 4 hours and for a 20 pound turkey, you bake it nearly 7 hours).
- Baste it with its own juices 3-4 times during the roasting time.
- Remove the cover prior to the final 20 minutes and return the pan to the oven. These last few minutes help the turkey to develop a nice, browned skin.
The legs will start to pull away from the body when it is done. If you are unclear about when it's done, check the temperature with a meat thermometer. It should reach an internal temperature of 165F degrees in its thickest part.
Remove the turkey from the pan to a platter or another pan for carving. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.
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Recipe Nutrition Information
This recipe is GF, DF, NF, SF, EF, CF (use sea salt)*
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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GF = Gluten free | DF = Dairy free | NF = Nut free | SF = Soy free | EF = Egg free | CF = Corn free | V = Vegetarian | VG = Vegan
Note: If you have serious allergies or sensitivities, to be considered free of these allergens, you need to use products specifically marked “gluten free,” etc. There can be cross-contamination in facilities.
This recipe was originally posted on Recipe Idea Shop in November 2012 and updated November 20, 2020.