How to Cook Turkey for Thanksgiving

How to cook turkey

How to Cook Turkey: Three Favorite Methods

Thanksgiving is this week, and there is nothing more important on Thanksgiving day than a perfectly cooked turkey! How to cook turkey is up to you, but we’ve chosen a few of our favorite methods, just in case you still haven’t made up your mind!

How to cook turkey


Choosing Your Turkey

You can’t decide how to cook turkey if you haven’t chosen what kind of turkey you want to cook!

Choosing a turkey can be as simple as grabbing a prepackaged bird from the supermarket, but if you have the time and a little extra money, you might consider buying a premium variety.

Raising your own animals for food is probably the best way to ensure quality, but that’s a lot of work, and probably not very practical for most home cooks! The next best option is to source a local producer; they’ll be happy for your business, and you’ll be happy with the taste!

You can also try looking for a free-range or certified organically raised turkey. These usually cost more, but are often raised on higher quality feed, making a healthier, tastier meal for your Thanksgiving table.

Smoked Turkey

Smoking a turkey is about having a passion for food!

You’ll need a barbecue full of charcoal, and you need to light it with lighter fuel, leaving the charcoal to go red as you prepare your turkey.


Next, take your defrosted or fresh turkey and start prepping it.

Take out the giblets from the turkey. This part can really gross you out, but trust me, it pays off!

I like to remove the giblets and then rinse the inside of the bird (as politely as possible, though–it’s a bird’s butt, show some respect).

You can do this under the tap for the best results. This is not for the faint of heart, as it can really be gruesome with all the blood and gore.


Next is the fun part! Take an orange and chop it into two, then stuff the orange inside the turkey, where the giblets used to be. If smoked turkey with orange is not your taste, you can swap the orange for cranberry!

Now, the spices that you use are totally up to you, but salt and pepper are a must, and be sure to use plenty of butter! Turkey is a really dry animal, so the more butter the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Completely melt the butter, then turn the turkey in the melted butter, making sure that it is completely drenched. You then can use the salt and pepper and sprinkle to taste in an even coating all over the bird.


Check that the barbecue is hot and that the coals are red, and then put your turkey on its way to smoking heaven.

The trick is to make sure that you turn the bird regularly. Depending on the size of this bird, it can take a long time to cook.

Enjoy some great company, and make sure that you have a few cans of beer or a glass of wine to keep you entertained as you smoke your turkey!

Some Extra Smoking Tips and Tricks

There is another method of smoking a turkey, which is a little bit of a cheat: you can use leftover meat from a previously cooked bird, and add it to your barbecue to add some flavor from the original recipe that you used to cook it.

The plus side is that it does not take long at all, since you are just reheating leftover meat, so it can be a great starter dish to hand around to people as you are prepping the other food.

Also, if you’ve never cooked with smoke before, and are worried about sanitation or cooking temperatures, the USDA has a helpful video to help walk you through:

Fried Turkey

Now, if you are not a barbecue type of guy or chick, then you can actually make some tasty turkey by frying it!

Frying things is a little lazy, but it can make the animal taste moister, and of course, more like fast food. It’s not for everyone, but some vastly prefer fried turkey over other methods.

A Word on Frying

Frying anything involves high temperature and hot oil. Separating your bird into smaller pieces will make cooking easier, faster, and safer. You can get your local butcher to chop up the turkey into pieces for you, pretty much like KFC, and then you can prep it for frying.

Frying the whole bird at once can be dangerous, but if you really want to give it a try, constructing a fry derrick like Alton Brown’s might be a safer alternative:


Leaving the skin on is best. As with all meats, you’ll need to rinse it before prepping and frying.

Once the meat has been rinsed, a great trick to making sure that the meat is soft and does not go dry is to soak it a little in a pan full of laban, a kind of fermented yogurt milk. Buttermilk is also fine.

After an hour or so of soaking, you can get your salt and pepper shakers and let loose! You can also add some chili powder to the mix if you want to spice things up a little and not be as traditional.


It is best to deep fry using vegetable oil, and to use a good fry pan with netting inside..

As you fry your turkey, the trick to getting the best results is to keep the vegetable oil inside the pan, and make sure that it is heated up before popping the meat inside.

When  the oil is heated, add the turkey, and make sure that you keep checking the turkey pieces as they fry, turning them around so they are evenly cooked.

Once the meat is crispy, take it out, let it settle on paper towels, and pat to remove the excess oil. You can serve this with vegetables, chips, or roast potatoes. It is completely up to you!

Roast Turkey

Turkey roasting is an art! The trick to getting a finely roasted turkey is overnight preparation, a lot of foil, and butter!

The result is a pure classic. When people think about Thanksgiving, the image of a beautifully crisp, brown, roast turkey is often first to mind.


Make sure that you get your turkey ready! Much like the previous methods, you’ll want to clean it, remove the giblets, and wash it.

Choose the desired flavors that you would like to stuff your bird with. You can use an orange or some cranberries, but adding in some stuffing is a great method, too.

The Stuffing

While some prefer to cook the stuffing outside the bird, and then add it to the platter as a garnish, cooking the stuffing inside the turkey can add extra flavor to both dishes.

Just remember that more mass means longer cooking times, and it’s easy to burn the stuffing or under-cook the turkey without realizing!

If you do decide to use stuffing, you don’t have to be fancy. A basic stuffing is comprised of pieces of bread and seasonings, as well as a liquid to hold it together. Seasonings vary wildly based on region, taste, and tradition, and the liquid can be anything from water, to milk, to stock, etc.

In a pinch, you can even use instant stuffing; just add water to the stuffing flakes, and they are ready to put inside the turkey.

Keeping the Turkey Moist and Juicy

Another secret to making sure that the turkey is not dry and tasteless is to get a knob of butter and completely melt it. Put foil into the roasting dish, add the turkey on top of the foil, and butter the outside of the bird, ensuring that it reaches everywhere on the turkey skin.

Next, pour a jug of chicken or vegetable stock all over the bird. Don’t worry if it looks like your turkey is taking a swimming lesson! You want the meat to be kept as moist as possible.

Alternatively, you can use Gordon Ramsay’s method, which involves stretching the skin of the turkey, and then stuffing seasoned butter underneath:

Adding strips of bacon over the top helps trap in moisture, while also giving extra flavor to the gravy.

Seasoning and Roasting

Add salt, pepper, and any other the seasonings that you enjoy. Wrap the top of the turkey in foil, making sure that it is sitting tight inside the pan, and pop it into the oven!

Roast turkey is so delicious, but it will take a long time to roast, so you need to have patience! You will need to stay in the house as it roasts and keep checking throughout the day.

There is no dead set method with regards to timing, as it depends on the size of the initial turkey, what oven temperature that you use, and of course the type of oven. But as a reward for waiting, your house will smell like a bistro!

When the turkey is done, take a knife and make sure to check that the meat is fully cooked and not displaying any redness or blood in the middle. If the knife comes out clean, remove the turkey.

Be sure to let the bird rest for a while before carving; this will allow the meat to cool slightly, and reabsorb some of the juices.


Now that you have some ideas of how to cook turkey, feel free to mix and match techniques to your heart’s content! There’s no “perfect” way to prepare a Thanksgiving feast, so find the way that works best for you, and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clare Louise Al-Aufi is a UK-based writer with a passion for all things Internet, and the owner of Freelance Content Creation. She can be reached at

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