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Turkey on a cutting board with mashed potatoes and gravy

How to Cook a Turkey

Follow these easy steps and guidelines for How to Cook a Turkey.  Cooking time and serving size are for an 18 pound turkey.  See chart in post above for cooking times for smaller and larger turkeys.
Course Main Course, Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword How to Cook a Turkey
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 349kcal
Author Echo Blickenstaff



  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from packaging.  Remove any giblets or gravy packets included with the turkey.  Throw the neck and giblets away. Keep the gravy packet in the refrigerator until you make the gravy (turkey gravy recipe in recipe notes). Rinse turkey well, inside and out, and pat dry (this is important so the butter will adhere to the turkey).
    Drying a turkey to prep for cooking
  • Spray a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray.  Add the chicken broth to the bottom of the pan then place the turkey on a wire rack inside the pan.  Thick celery stocks and thick onion slices can be used instead of a wire rack.
    Note: If using an aluminum roasting pan, do not place the turkey directly on the aluminum.  Place some thick celery stocks and thick onion slices in the bottom of the pan, and place the turkey on top of them. If the turkey is placed directly on the pan, the skin will stick to the bottom of the pan as the turkey cooks and the turkey will be difficult to remove from the pan.
  • Tuck the wing tips under the bird so that they will not get too brown while cooking. This also looks much more appetizing.
    Turkey wings being tucked under a raw turkey prior to cooking
  • Melt butter and brush evenly over the turkey.  Gently lift the skin and rub some of the butter under the skin layer.
    A raw, whole turkey being basted with melted butter and herbs
  • Combine the spices and rub them evenly over the buttered turkey.
    Herbs being sprinkled on a raw turkey in a roasting pan
  • Make an aluminum foil "tent" to go over the entire turkey.  Using a wide aluminum foil sheet, or two long sheets crimped together to form a wide sheet, loosely cover the entire turkey.  Tuck the foil inside the roasting pan around the turkey so the condensation from the turkey drips from the foil back into the pan.  
    Placing foil over turkey for cooking
  • Place the turkey in the oven and cook according to turkey package directions.  Cooking time will vary according to the turkey size.  See turkey cooking chart in post above.  A meat thermometer is always recommended. A turkey is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. If the turkey has been "stuffed" with dressing, add 15-45 minutes to the cooking time.  The dressing, or stuffing, is fully cooked when it reaches 165 degrees in the center of the dressing.
  • Remove the foil tent after one hour of cooking. The foil keeps the moisture in the turkey. As the skin browns, it thickens and will do the job of keeping the moisture in without the foil. If the turkey is getting too brown near the end of the cooking time, replace the foil tent.
  • Once the turkey reaches 170 degrees, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes, and up to 40 minutes before carving.  This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat.
    Fully cooked turkey on a cutting board
  • While the turkey is resting, make turkey gravy.  See the link to "How to Make Turkey Gravy" in the recipe notes below.
    Turkey Gravy in a Serving Dish
  • Carve and slice.  Enjoy a moist, delicious turkey!
    Sliced turkey on a platter.



Because of the butter on the turkey, there is no need to baste the turkey while it cooks.  The aluminum foil tent also keeps moisture in the turkey.  Once the skin browns, it thickens and keeps the moisture in.
See How to Make Turkey Gravy for a delicious turkey gravy to serve with your turkey.


Calories: 349kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 168mg | Sodium: 357mg | Potassium: 496mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 285IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1.9mg