How to Cook a Turkey

When you cook a turkey, it will always be dry in parts and juicy in others, so don’t get hung up on it – a turkey with a dry breast is down to a flaw in poultry engineering, not a cooking failure. You would have to spatchcock the turkey, flatten it out, or roast it in pieces to ensure it cooks evenly. Part of the magic of Christmas is bringing the whole burnished bird to the table.

How Much Turkey do I need?

You should always ask yourself whether you’re going to be cooking a turkey for Christmas or if you’re just making a roast for Sunday dinner.

Suppose you don’t want to run short of turkey during dinner. In that case, you’d better stock up on extra turkey before Christmas so you won’t be caught off guard when the holiday rolls around.

If you’re planning on making turkey for dinner, buy a full pound of ground turkey per person. You need to consider the bone content and the fact that some meat may be lost during cooking.

You should probably get a whole turkey if you don’t mind having some leftovers. However, if you’re planning on eating everything up, you should buy one weighing about 20 pounds.

How long do I need to defrost a frozen turkey?

Fully defrosting a frozen bird takes time. You can speed up the process by placing the bird in the fridge for three to six days to thoroughly defrost it.

Follow these guidelines to thaw your turkey safely: First, put your bird in cold water. Then, set the temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Finally, let the turkey sit in the fridge overnight.

How To Quick Thaw a Turkey (aka Cold Water Thawing)

Every time I’ve forgotten to thaw the turkey before cooking, I’ve gotten feedback from people who have had similar experiences.

Don’t worry; you can use cold water-thawed turkey for Christmas dinner.


2 to 5 kgs — 2 to 6 hours

5 to 7.5 kgs — 6 to 8 hours

7.5 to 10 kgs — 8 to 10 hours

10 to 12.5 kgs — 10 to 12 hours

Should I Rinse My Turkey Before Cooking?

Rinsed turkeys can be cooked the same as unrinsed ones. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), rinsed turkeys can be cooked the same way as unrinsed turkeys.

To avoid splashing and spreading bacteria onto your sink and counters, rinse any excess juice from the bird before placing it inside the oven. Then, after baking, use a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture from the bird.

Bringing The Turkey

We usually don’t brine our turkeys because…

1. We put so many spices, herbs, and kinds of butter on our Christmas dinner; it really doesn’t deserve them.

2. It requires more steps and uses a lot of refrigerators/freezer rooms.

However, some people enjoy making brine for their Christmas birds. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can add more flavour and help crisp up the meat.

We’ve been using their advice when we brine turkeys. It’s safe and easy, and they give good instructions.

How to Cook A Turkey – Equipment Needed


You’ll need a large roasting tin that fits your turkey comfortably: make sure that the tin also fits into your oven with room to grip the handles, pull it out, and push it back in. Ideally it should have a roasting rack insert.


Buy or borrow a weighing scale that can weigh the turkey if you don’t already have one – most domestic scales go up to 2kg, which is too low for a turkey. A scale for weighing humans will work, but you need to weigh the turkey in a plastic bag for hygiene reasons. If you are stuffing the bird, weigh the ‘stuffed’ bird and calculate the final timings based on that weight.


The oven temperature should be 180/350F/Gas 4 from start to finish cooking the bird.


Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes before cooking.


If the turkey is fresh – e.g. it has not been defrosted in the previous 24 hours – it will take 13-15 minutes per 454g to cook.

How long does it take to cook a turkey?

This is the crux of the matter when planning Thanksgiving dinners. Timing is everything! While every oven is different, this chart can give you an idea of how long you should expect to cook your bird. Remember that the bird will also require resting after being cooked for about twenty to thirty-five (35) minutes. This gives the juices to spread through the bird before it is sliced. This will allow you to prepare rolls, gravy, and complete side dish preparations.

Unstuffed Turkey Cooking Times

The following are the Safefood website guidelines: You can use their Turkey Cooking Time Calculator to work out the cooking times of other weights of unstuffed birds here

Weight of Turkey Cooking time

3.5 – 5.5kg 3 hours- 4 hours 20 minutes

5.5 – 6.5kg 4 hours 20 minutes – 5 hours

6.5 – 8kg 5 hours – 6 hours 20 minutes

8 – 9kg 6 hours 20 minutes – 7 hours

9 – 11kg 7 hours – 8 hours 20 minutes

Stuffed Turkey Cooking Times

Stuffing a turkey means that it will take longer to cook. Only stuff it up to 10% full as the stuffing swells, and the bird may cook partially through. The timings below are based on the ratio of stuffing to bird and cooking the bird at 180C/350F/gas mark 4. After you have stuffed it, you must weigh your bird to calculate the correct cooking time.

2 kg stuffed turkey – 2 hours 50 minutes

2.5 kg stuffed turkey – 3 hours 5 minutes

3 kg stuffed turkey – 3 hours 20 minutes

3.5 kg stuffed turkey – 3 hours 36 minutes

4 kg stuffed turkey – 3 hours 51 minutes

4.5 kg stuffed turkey – 4 hours 6 minutes

5 kg stuffed turkey – 4 hours 21 minutes

5.5 kg stuffed turkey – 3 hours 49 minutes

6 kg stuffed turkey – 4 hours 52 minutes

6.5 kg stuffed turkey – 5 hours 7 minutes

7 kg stuffed turkey – 5 hours 23 minutes

7.5 kg stuffed turkey – 5 hours 38 minutes

8 kg stuffed turkey – 5 hours 53 minutes

8.5 kg stuffed turkey – 5 hours 53 minutes

9 kg stuffed turkey – 6 hours 24 minutes

9.5 kg stuffed turkey – 6 hours 39 minutes

10 kg stuffed turkey – 6 hours 54 minutes


A fresh turkey defrosted from frozen will take 20 minutes per 454g to cook. (If it has been defrosted from the day before, it will be colder when it goes into the oven than a fresh bird.)


The only definitive way to check if the turkey is cooked throughout is to use a meat thermometer. Take the turkey’s temperature in 4 places: press the thermometer probe deep into the breast, the turkey leg, thigh and wings, avoiding the bone. To be absolutely safe, cook the turkey, so it registers an internal temperature of 170F (77C) in the breast and 180F (82C) in the thigh. If the bird is stuffed, you’ll also need to probe the centre of the stuffing, and it should read at least 165F (74C).

Let the bird’ rest’ for 30-45 minutes tented in tin foil before carving it, so the juices flow back into the bird’s centre. It will be juicier and easier to carve.

Proper Placement of Meat Thermometer in Turkey

An essential part of using any thermometer is the proper placement in the turkey.

Insert the thermometer 2 ½ inches into the most profound, thickest part of the breast or into the inner thigh near the turkey breast.

Make sure the instant read thermometer inserted in the bird does not touch a bone.

When inserting the thermometer into the turkey breast, insert it from the side.

The thermometer is easier and more accurate this way than when inserted from the top.

Internal Temperature

The internal temperature should reach:

165 degrees F to 170 degrees F in the breast

175 degrees F to 180 degrees F in the thigh

165 degrees F in the centre of the stuffing.

Cooking a Turkey in an Electric Roaster

If you roast your Thanksgiving bird in an electric oven, it will take longer to bake than cooked in a stovetop oven. Depending on your range, it could take anywhere from 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes longer than if you had roasted it in a traditional oven. Be sure to keep checking the temperature of the food throughout the process. When it reaches 165°F (74°C), remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.


Push softened butter under the skin of the turkey breast and rub butter and/or olive oil all over the bird. Baste the turkey 3-4 times while cooking with the roasting tin juices. During cooking, drain off the turkey juices, reserving them for basting and making gravy – this will stop the turkey from steaming, and the skin will become crisp.


Place a piece of tin foil over the turkey breast halfway through the cooking time to stop drying. Remove the tin foil 20-30 minutes before the end of cooking so the skin can become crispy.

Below you will find turkey weights and cooking times for each size of a turkey. Safefood recommends these turkey cooking times. It’s better to be safe than sorry at Christmas, even if the turkey will be a bit dry. We’ve seen chefs struggle to cook a turkey so that all parts will be juicy.


We like to cook with lots of fat and herbs like parsley, sage, and rosemary.

When preparing to cook the Christmas dinner, remember to pat the bird dry before adding any butter or seasoning. Also, toss some lemon or orange slices into the pan when you put the bird in.

More Tips For Cooking a Turkey

Use a good roaster. We use a Magnalean roaster. It’s what our mother has used for years. She calls it the “magic pot”. Any deep-walled heavy-weight roaster will work just fine.

Use a roasting pan. This will make getting the turkey out of the oven later. You don’t really care about how much juice ends up inside the turkey; you just don’t like having a turkey with a wet bottom. A roasting pan will also help the turkey cook evenly.

If you don’t want to use tin foil, wrap the fully cooked turkey tightly in aluminium.

You can use an electric kitchen tool to cut through the fat and connective tissue. Make sure to use a very thin blade and not a serrated one and do it on a cutting board

You can put vegetables into your roast chicken any time during the roasting process. Still, we suggest doing so only after the bird has been in the oven for 30 minutes and is halfway through its cook time. Adding vegetables early may cause them to become soggy.

How to Make Turkey Gravy

What is a delicious roast chicken without sauce? The sauce is the essence of chicken. Without it, your chicken just doesn’t taste right. Our Roasted Chicken Sauce is the perfect complement to any chicken dish. It adds flavour and moisture to any chicken dish. Try our Roasted Chicken Sauce today!

What To Serve With Turkey

There are no bad sides if you’re planning to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving or Sunday dinner. These are some of our favourites!

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sausage Stuffing


1 whole turkey thawed (18-20 lbs)

thick celery stalks and onion slices (optional, see steps 2 and 3)

1/3 cup salted butter

1 cup chicken broth

1-2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon parsley

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme

aluminium foil

Step by step Instructions How To Cook A turkey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Remove the turkey skin from the breast meat and discard. 

Place the breast meat into a roasting pan. 

Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Add 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the pan. 

Cover the pan tightly with foil. 

Bake on a medium heat for 30 minutes. 

Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. 

Add a thin layer of vegetable oil to the baking sheet’s surface. 

Add the Turkey gravy to the baking sheet, then add the Turkey breasts to the baking sheet and put on the roasting rack 

Thick celery stocks and thick onions can be used instead of Turkey broth and breasts. 

Note: If using an aluminium baking sheet, do not grease it before placing the Turkey breasts. Greasing the baking sheet may cause the turkey breasts to stick to the baking sheet.

Fold the wings down so that they won’t burn while cooking. Also, fold them up so that they look nicer when cooked.

Heat up 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter until melted and brush the melted butter evenly over the top of the turkey. Then gently peel back the meat from the bone and spread some of the melted butter into the turkey breast side underneath the meat.

Mix together the spices and rub them into the buttery meat.

To keep the moisture from dripping off the turkey breast side, wrap the whole thing in a large piece of heavy-duty aluminium cooking tin.

Place the turkey in the oven and cook until done (about 45 minutes). Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

After one hour of cooking, remove the aluminium pan cover. The aluminium pan cover helps keep the heat inside the oven. Replace the aluminium pan cover when the skin starts to get dark brown.

After the turkey has reached 165 degrees, remove it immediately from the oven. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes and up to 40 minutes. This gives the juices time to redistribute throughout the bird.

After the turkey has rested for a few hours, prepare the gravy by following the recipe notes below (or use store-bought gravy).

Cut and serve. Eat well.


Because of the butter on the turkey, it is no need to baste it while it cooks. The aluminium foil tent also keeps moisture in the turkey. Once the skin browns, it thickens and keeps the moisture in.

An electric roasting pan is better for cooking a turkey because it cooks faster than a traditional roasting pan. Depending on the type of roasting pan used, it may take between 1/2 hour to 2 hours longer than a traditional roasting method. Check it after 30 minutes to check if it is done.

If you want to learn how to make a delicious Thanksgiving gravy, see here for instructions.