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How To Prep A Turkey For Cooking

Updated on June 17, 2013

Crispy Turkey Skin

A roasted turkey for Thanksgiving with crispy and crunchy skin.
A roasted turkey for Thanksgiving with crispy and crunchy skin. | Source

General Turkey Cooking Preparation

If you have never been in charge of the bird for Thanksgiving then you may not be familiar with how to prep a turkey for cooking and be intimidated by its large size, however prepping a turkey to be roasted is pretty simple. Depending on how you intend to ultimately cook the turkey will determine the complexity of your turkey prep, but for most people that will want to just roast it in the oven getting the turkey ready is a simple task. Have fun roasting your next turkey, feel free to experiment and always save the your turkey leftovers for special sandwiches and meals the next day.

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Preparing Turkey for the Oven

Turkey | Source

What you need to prep a turkey

Prepping to cook a roasted turkey is easy to do. Some people prefer to cook a turkey only after it has been soaking in a brine for several hours, but this is not an absolute requirement and not discussed here, the basic approach to turkey works very well and will result in an excellent main course for dinner. The following are a the items you will need in the kitchen to prep a full size turkey for cooking.

  1. Turkey - Size based on how many people are eating. 8 - 12 lbs perfect for most small families, larger birds are good for bigger gatherings.
  2. Large Turkey Roasting Pan - Get the cheap metal pan for one time use if you do not have a large roasting pan suitable for the turkey you have purchased.
  3. Paper Towels for Drying after washing and rinsing the bird.
  4. Bowl for giblets & neck (save for gravy if desired)
  5. Bowl for seasonings (salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, italian seasonings - whatever you prefer) This will make sure you are not touching the containers you will use again later when touching the raw bird.
  6. Turkey Roasting Bag (Optional check out the video below, the turkey bag method can make it very simple to ensure a moist and tasty turkey without having to baste and monitor the bird constantly while it is cooking.)
  7. Clean surface areas and a clean sink.
  8. Oven pre heating at 325 degrees (there are lots of recommendations for the right temperature, but at 325 a turkey can be timed and cooked well based upon its size. Cook a turkey 8-12lbs for 20 minutes per pound and larger birds for 15 minutes per pound. A final temp of 160-170 F is good. Some recipes will call for cooking at 350, others will have varied temps during the cooking process, but a 325 through the duration of the cooking process is the easiest to manage for your first time roasting a bird.
  9. A separate pan for cooking stuffing, if desired, cooking stuffing inside the bird is traditional however it can make the cooking process more delayed due to the difficulty to cook the inside of the bird, especially with larger ones.

Prep & Cook Turkey in a Bag

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Roasted Turkey

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey
Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey | Source

Turkey Cooking How To

  1. Thaw the turkey thoroughly. Best if placed out over night the day before, large birds will take a long time to thaw completely.
  2. Wash the turkey in cold water and remove the gibblets and neck. Save these if you want to make a stock with them, you don't have to, it's ok to toss them if you really just want to focus on the bird. Rinse the inside.
  3. Wipe down with paper towels to dry the bird.
  4. Apply a coat of olive oil throughout the bird. Some people like to apply butter, but olive oil works well.
  5. Season the bird with salt and pepper and any other herbs and spices that you enjoy. There are several pre made bottles of poultry spices or turkey rubs that work well. Make sure to add spices and salt / pepper to the inside as well. Don't go light as much of this will drip off so you want it thick.
  6. If you want to spice it up you can now use an injector and add flavors directly to the inside of the turkey.
  7. Place the turkey in the oven. If you want to make sure the skin is extra crispy some people prefer to start the oven at a very hot temp of 450 F for the first 30 minutes and then reduce the temp for the remainder of the time.
  8. The simple method is to set it at 325 and just check every 30 minutes for light basting with butter or olive oil. Add some seasoning into your butter mixture and apply with a brush. (If you use the bag you get to ignore all the repeated basting steps.)
  9. Prior to the timing based on the weight of the turkey add a thermometer to a breast of the bird away from the bones. When the temperature has reached 155 - 160 remove from the oven. Don't use the little pop up in the bird, the turkey will be over cooked.
  10. Let the turkey sit and the temp will continue to rise for approximately 15 minutes to 160-165.
  11. Drain the drippings and start prepping a gravy recipe.
  12. Slice the turkey into pieces and serve with your all your other favorites, such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cheesy broccoli, salad, cranberry sauce, and much more.

Prepping & Seasoning a Turkey


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    • profile image

      mjkearn 5 years ago

      Hi CZ

      As I'm not that familiar with the kitchen I found this invaluable. Great hub and well written. Have saved for future reference.

      Voted up and the rest.


    • CZCZCZ profile image

      CZCZCZ 5 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks for the nice comment and vote for the hub, much appreciated.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Useful, interesting, and great additional tips with the videos. Rated up.