How to Cook a Turkey in 8 Easy Steps

Planning on cooking turkey for Christmas (or Thanksgiving)? Here’s how to cook a turkey in 8 easy steps:

how to cook a turkey

#1. Defrost Thoroughly Before Roasting

Did you know your turkey can take up to three days to defrost? Buy your turkey as close to Christmas as possible and store it in your fridge or freezer as soon as you can. Always thaw in the fridge. A turkey will need approx. 24 hours to thaw for every 4 to 5 pounds.

#2. Don’t Wash Your Turkey

Turkey like other poultry can carry food poisining bacteria. Don’t worry these are destroyed during cooking but it’s easy to transfer the bacteria while you are preparing the turkey.

If you do want to clean the turkey, wipe it with a disposable paper towel and throw away the towel and any packaging into the bin immediately.

#3. Stuff or Not Stuff

Decide how you are going to cook your stuffing. You can either cook the stuffing separately or if you do stuff your bird, then make sure to allow extra cooking time. Here’s a Top Tip from Jamie Oliver: “Packing your turkey with clementines and fresh herbs gives the meat a lovely, fragrant flavour”

You may also enjoy – 10 Yummy Christmas Brunch Ideas

#4. Butter Up

Add butter under the skin above the breast meat by gently pulling the skin away and then filling the space above the breast meat. You can also flavour your butter with herbs. After stuffing you can also butter the skin before seasoning the bird and the salt & pepper will stick to the butter.

Catherine Fulvio has this Top Tip: “Rub butter under the skin or even stuff the breast, this bastes the bird and allows extra flavour. Start the cooking process with the Turkey upside down on its breast.”

#5. Have your Bird at Room Temperature

Here’s a Top Tip from Caitríona Redmond, our food writer from Wholesome Ireland: “Make sure your bird is room temperature before roasting as it will take far longer than the recommended cooking time if you cook it straight from the fridge. Also, you could do my butter wrapper trick from when I cook a roast chicken to keep the bird moist when cooking & crispy when done.”

#6. Use a Pastry Brush to Glaze

Another top tip, this time from Clodagh McKenna, “You can also use a good quality cranberry or apple jelly as a glaze for the turkey. Use a pastry brush to paint the bird with the jelly and baste every 30 minutes.”

You might enjoy our Cider-Briend Turkey with Maple Chilli Glaze recipe

#7. Timing is Everything

Use a timing calculator to work out exactly how long your bird needs. safefood have a good online turkey calculator. Here’s a Top Tip from James Martin: “The secret is making sure it’s out of the oven at least half hour before you’re eating it. Time it properly. If you’ve got people coming round at 1, start cooking it at 12. That way, you can turn the temperature down enough to make room for the roast potatoes.”

#8. Use a Thermometer if Worried About it Being Cooked

If you are at all worried you can stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or the thigh. When the internal temperature has reached 75ºC/165ºF your turkey is ready. Don’t forget to check that the stuffing is also cooked through.

And finally, for leftovers why not try this recipe for Leftover Turkey Tray-Bake with flavoured salt from Caitríona at Wholesome Ireland. Makes a change from turkey curry!

Do you have a favourite tip to share for cooking a turkey? Share it with us in the comments below.

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls