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Easiest Way to Cook a Turkey for Thanksgiving - How to Cook a Turkey Any Time of Year

Updated on April 2, 2016

Perfection!

My cooked turkey!
My cooked turkey! | Source
Purchase your Jennie O or whatever brand of turkey. Let's get ready to make a turkey. It's easy!
Purchase your Jennie O or whatever brand of turkey. Let's get ready to make a turkey. It's easy! | Source

How Do You Cook a Turkey?

Well, to cook a turkey, first you have to catch it. Look for Ole Tom the Turkey running around the barnyard, Dad waiting with the ax and Mom with the boiling water on top of a weathered wooden table in the backyard. The ax comes down and Tom is left running around like a chicken--ha!--with his head cut off. I guess Dad throws away the useless head in the burn bucket as he waits for poor ole Tom's body to die-down--yes, literally--while Mom is patiently--are ya, Mom?--waiting to boil and pluck.

Boil and pluck, boil and pluck. I don't remember how she got that water so hot outside. I'd have to ask. But it was hot, steaming, and ready to capture the ole bird. Put it right in there (after it collapsed in the dirt, of course), let it boil for a while, and then pluck off those feathers. This must have been a fascinating time, as the experience sticks with me after all these years.

The experience certainly didn't scar me too badly, as I remember Thanksgivings with fond memories--days off school, crisp days playing baseball outside with the brothers, football on the television, and Tom the turkey waiting for us on the table in all his glory . . . with my mom's dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, hot rolls,maybe corn on the cob, and cranberry sauce . . . . Sorry, I digress.

I'm digressing quite a bit, as I'm supposed to be giving you the easiest way to cook a turkey. I thought that perhaps after that story you would feel really good about how easy this recipe is going to be. No chasing, no chopping, no boiling, and no plucking. This recipe hub is the easiest you'll ever come across.

And you can cook a turkey any time of the year. I often will cook one, serve it once, slice up sandwiches from it, make soup from the carcass, and freeze whatever I can't use for later. Turkey is a cheap, versatile, long-lasting food!


Cut off that plastic that holds the turkey legs together!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Do you need to leave on the plastic that holds the turkey legs together?Ah! The freed bird can now stretch out and enjoy his trip to a warm oven.
Do you need to leave on the plastic that holds the turkey legs together?
Do you need to leave on the plastic that holds the turkey legs together? | Source
Ah! The freed bird can now stretch out and enjoy his trip to a warm oven.
Ah! The freed bird can now stretch out and enjoy his trip to a warm oven. | Source

Cook Time: Estimate 15 Minutes Per Pound When Cooking a Whole Turkey

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 3 hours
Ready in: 3 hours 5 min
Yields: One big turkey! This was a 12 pound bird.

Ingredients for the Easiest Turkey Ever

  • Big turkey, whole
  • 2-4 Tbs. butter, optional
  • None! Nothing!, I told you it was the easiest!

Do you have a nifty drainer for your turkey?

Note the drainer that can be put in a smaller cake pan. Or, if you want, purchase a large roasting pan. Disposable are even available. Save the drippings to make gravy.
Note the drainer that can be put in a smaller cake pan. Or, if you want, purchase a large roasting pan. Disposable are even available. Save the drippings to make gravy. | Source
Golden brown on the back after cooking for half the total time.
Golden brown on the back after cooking for half the total time. | Source

Turn that turkey!

I used a potholder and tongs to turn my turkey. To make it easier, you don't have to turn a turkey, but I do prefer to have both sides well-browned.
I used a potholder and tongs to turn my turkey. To make it easier, you don't have to turn a turkey, but I do prefer to have both sides well-browned. | Source

Instructions for Easy Turkey

  1. Really, all the instructions you need are on the packaging of the turkey you buy. But I'll beat a dead horse, er, turkey, to reiterate just how easy it can be to a cook a turkey
  2. Thaw the thing in the refrigerator for days--at least three days, and up to a week is okay. Make sure your frozen turkey is thawed.
  3. Cooking your turkey for approximately 15 minutes per pound is just about right. I cooked a turkey of about 12 pounds at 325 for 3 hours. It was pretty darn good!
  4. The instructions on packaging generally say to put the turkey breast up, but I like to first like to put the backside up to brown that side. Halfway through, I take it out and turn it over to make sure the breast up side gets nice and browned, too.
  5. Yeah, it's that easy. Oh my, I almost forgot a very important step, probably because I often forget it. After your turkey is thawed, feel inside the carcass, as that is where extra parts are stored. Pull out packages of liver and hearts that you can cook and add into your dressing or stuffing. You might also find an unattractive neck as well as a package of gravy mix. Don't throw that stuff away. Try to impress your friends and relatives; make some dressing and gravy!
  6. Optional: Sure, you can baste the turkey with some melted butter. This might help keep in the heat and prevent the turkey from getting too done. You could also add spices or inject a marinade, but that is up to you, as I'm trying to make the baking experience as easy as possible. My turkey was good without added butter OR spices!

Turkey Nutrition

Turkey offers a lot of different vitamins and minerals, the most notable being iron and B vitamins. Turkey has no carbohydrates but a ton of protein, at nearly 30 grams for just one piece.

Turkey breast without the skin is the piece lowest in calories and fat, at about 160 calories and 4 grams of fat. Add about 30 calories for the skin.

Dark meat is higher in fat and calories but still packs the nutritive value. A turkey leg has about 200 calories and 11 grams of fat. Not too bad, considering that is even with the skin.

For more specifics, check out Turkey for the Holidays.


What do you think of this recipe?

5 stars from 4 ratings of Basic Turkey Recipe
Click thumbnail to view full-size
My turkey is done!Turkey turned over to breast side. My leg is coming apart. Maybe I should have left that plastic  thingy on there until the bird was cooked.
My turkey is done!
My turkey is done! | Source
Turkey turned over to breast side. My leg is coming apart. Maybe I should have left that plastic  thingy on there until the bird was cooked.
Turkey turned over to breast side. My leg is coming apart. Maybe I should have left that plastic thingy on there until the bird was cooked. | Source

What to do with the Giblets and Gravy Packets

Sure you could add other ingredients, but that defeats the purpose of this hub, which is giving you a recipe for the easiest way to make a turkey--ever!

Now what about the extra ingredients you pulled out of the naked turkey? I was going to include a photo, but the extra stuff just looked kind of yucky, so I didn't. Well, it all looks worse than it tastes. A gravy packet comes with many turkeys. It tells you just how to mix the packet contents with the turkey drippings--or juices--and heat it up until thickened. Yummy. Put that over some creamy mashed potatoes for a flavor that's incredible.

What about that wobbly neck and sack of "parts"? Sometimes I "pre-cook" the parts as I don't follow my own advice and body search that turkey well enough. In my most recent effort, I only pulled stuff out from one end. Oh, well, they will still work.

I cook up the giblets (aka "parts") and the neck. I pull off as much meat as I can from the neck, and, along with chopped giblets, add it to stuffing from a box recipe. Yummy!

Now, that wasn't too hard was it? Just do it. Get yourself a turkey and bake it!


The country of Turkey: any relation?

A
Turkey:
Turkey

get directions

Was the Country of Turkey Named After the Bird?

While the country of Turkey appears to be named after the Turks, the people who settled there, its name may have little to do with the bird. Who named the turkey? I can't find a definitive source.

Theories include "turkey" coming about because of its relation to a turkey fowl or because of it sounding like a word in another language. One supposition claims that the turkey migrated to Europe through the country of Turkey. Who knows?

I know, I know--this is all pretty vague, but I'm not here for a history lesson. I'm here to show you how easy it is to cook a turkey.

If you find definitive answers about how the turkey got its name, let me know, would ya?


Poll: Cooking a Turkey

Have you baked your own turkey?

See results

Comments

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    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Lynn--that's a brave undertaking! Go for it!

    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      My dream is to host Thanksgiving for my family one year, so this will really come in handy.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      RTalloni--I'd love to hear the story of your first turkey. LOL. Ya know, I still forget sometimes to take out the giblets before cooking. LOL! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 years ago from the short journey

      Fun stuff to find "just in time." The thought of my first turkey still makes me turn red, but now I know it's not complicated--unless you start at the very, very, very beginning of things… :)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Seriously, rebecca, a person has to learn somewhere, right? It might as well be through Google. LOL. Thanks for sharing!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Awesome Hub. I'll bet it would be surprising how many people Google how to cook a turkey....me included. Shared all around!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Deb--Great idea about putting onions and such into the cavity! I'll try that next time. Yes, I do agree that it's the size that's intimidating with a turkey.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      It's surprising how easy it really is to cook a turkey. It seems so intimidating at first, probably because a turkey is so darn big. I go simple, also, but like to stuff some onions, celery, and herbs into the cavity to infuse a little more flavor.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      ImKarn--LOL--don't think about the "good ole days" of cutting of turkey heads in the backyard. :-) Glad to hear you have the turkey making mastered. Yum! How do you make it? Sounds like a long story, though, so we don't have to go there. :-) So glad you stopped by!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 

      6 years ago

      While the turkey looks incredible - i might have a hard time eating it after the story of the 'old days' and how your mom got their turkey on the table..

      (gag...lol)

      My daughter is a chef and she tells everyone that her mama makes the world's best turkey..(that would be me..haha)..

      That was right up till last year...sigh...(long story...)

      you funny girl! i like that a lot!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Minnetonka Twin--Heck, yeah, you could impress your sister! Do it!!! :-)

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks for your informative, creative and funny hub on how to bake a turkey. My sister makes the turkey every year and I make the side dishes but I bet I could impress her with your simple recipe. LOL

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      agusfanani--Well, thanks for saying so. Cooking a turkey that is this easy might make one feel like an expert! :-)

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 

      6 years ago from Indonesia

      You're the expert ! That turkey looks yummy and so tempting.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Glimmer Twin Fan--very cool! Yeah, gotta have room for the sides. Yummy!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      mothercristina--You should! It's easy and makes a ton of food!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Jamie, I'll never forget those days! :-) Glad you liked my trip to the past!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      Useful hub. A couple of years ago I bought a big roaster and cooked the turkey in it. Best turkey we've ever had and use it ever since. It also frees up the counter space for baking sides!

    • mothercristina profile image

      mothercristina 

      6 years ago

      Oh, my. I may actually have to cook one of these this year. God help us all! I am very happy to find some details on it.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Great hub, it makes me want some turkey! Your into paragraph was interesting... I have never even thought about the process of getting the turkey ready for those who kill and cook their own turkeys. Thank you for sharing!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      teaches, I always make stuffing or dressing separately. I've never tried it in the bird! I bet it's good that way, but I think this is pretty simple. :-)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Your turkey looks so good! I am ready for one today. Great recipe on how to cook a perfect bird. I love the stuffing that goes with it -- even if it is cooked inside the bird (a no, no to some).

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Cardisa--No stuffing, no basting--no tricks! :-)

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      I don't believe you Vicki, this is way too easy, so what's the catch...huh? Don't you have to make a special marinade, then marinate in the fridge for 24 hours, then while baking you baste every 15 minutes and then where is the stuffing Vicki...where is the stuffing....there must be a catch...tooo easy I say! LOL LOL

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Robie--I do the same thing! I freeze some of the meat if I can't get to it. Right now I'm boiling the carcass for soup--a we speak! That's another hub coming up!

      Oh, yeah, I can't get the image of the chicken with its head cut off out of my mind. The joys of growing up on a farm!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Eddy, I'm hungry, too, now! It's lunchtime. I'm glad you saved this recipe. Makes me feel good! Now, on to lunch!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hey VictoriaLynn--that's my recipe too :-))) Soooooo simple and I always have tons left over for turkey everything for a week or more. I often freeze the meet to use later and make soup from the carcass. Oh, and best of all, Turkey is at its cheapest around Thanksgiving so it is a win/ win all the way around.

      I love the beginning of your hub-- I remember as a small child going with my mother and grandmother to get a chicken from a local farmer. I got to pick out the live chicken and then they took me away because they didn't want me to watch the chop chop and running around part -- I do remember my grandmother dunking it in boiling water in the yard and plucking it-- smelled awful. She also singed the pinfeathers which also smelled awful. Since then I have always been grateful for butcher shops and supermarkets LOL-- nice hub. thumbs up.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      6 years ago from Wales

      I have food simmering and I've just read this hub ;needless to say I am starving!!!!

      I save this into my recipe ebook containing all my favourite recipes by my hub friends.

      Eddy.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      viewfinders--It's too easy not to try! thanks for reading!

    • viewfinders profile image

      viewfinders 

      6 years ago from India

      thanks for sharing these useful steps with us,

      will try to go for it with the help of my family..

      voted useful

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Come on over, Effer! I still have leftover turkey from cooking one less than a week ago. I've been eating turkey sandwiches and tomorrow will be making turkey and rice soup. Yep, there's going to be a hub about it!

      For sure on the cranberry sauce!!!!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Vee......what time is Thanksgiving dinner? I don't want to be late......should I bring something? NO? OK, I won't..........don't forget the cranberry sauce please..... I'm so excited!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Well, Bill, if I had Bev, I wouldn't cook a turkey myself either. LOL. I'm sure she's awesome. Thanks for the input, though! :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Susan, we should all make turkey more often throughout the year. It's easy and makes a lot of meals! I've made stuffing but have never stuffed the turkey. Maybe I'll try that sometime. Thanks for the input! :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Carol, it's so easy I often wonder why I don't make turkey other times of the year. I will this time, though, as I spied a couple of extra turkeys in the deep freeze. They used to give them out where I worked. :-) Make one!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The easiest way to cook a turkey is to ask Bev very nicely if she will do it. LOL Yes, I have tried, and it was edible, but that's about all I'll say about it. Good hub, quite useful....but I'm still leaving it to Bev to do.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I make turkey at least 3-4 times a year, sometimes more often. I always stuff the bird, unless I'm cooking it on the BBQ. I like your easy method.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Looks easy enough ....Haven't made a turkey for ages. I think this year we will have it for Xmas...We go to friends and the turkey is always baking away. We are always saying to each other why don't we make turkey more often....Thanks for this easy method. Voting up.

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