How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey in the Oven

What would Thanksgiving be without turkey? One of the most popular ways to fix a Thanksgiving turkey is to cook it in the oven. This way, the turkey gets a beautifully caramelized skin and stays nice and juicy. But, how does one go about cooking a turkey in the oven? How can you ensure that your Thanksgiving turkey will come out perfect every year? First of all, before you ever head off to the oven, you must think about thawing your turkey.

You can thaw a turkey in several different ways, but two of the most popular thawing methods include thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water. If you choose to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, you will first need to make sure that the refrigerator is set to 40 degrees. You will also need to consider that it will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds. This means it could take 4 to 5 days to thaw a large turkey. A much faster method is to thaw the turkey in cold water. Place your packaged turkey into your kitchen sink and fill the sink with cold water. You will need to change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that the water stays cold enough to keep bacteria out of your Thanksgiving feast. This method will take 30 minutes per pound. This means that a large turkey will only take 10 to 12 hours.

After the turkey is thawed, you must remove the giblets. This is a mistake that many new cooks make. Most companies will package the giblets inside of a bag and then insert it into the turkey’s cavity. There will also be a neck bone that needs to be removed. You can use these pieces to make giblet gravy, but for this article will stick to cooking the turkey.

Once the giblets have been removed, place the turkey breast side up in a large roasting pan that has a wire rack in the bottom. The wire rack will keep the meat from setting in its own fat. Next, make sure you have removed one of the racks from your oven. With most ovens, you will not have room to cook your turkey if you do not follow this step. Once your oven is ready, rub your turkey down with butter. This includes lifting the skin on the breast so that you can get the butter close to the meat. Also rub down the legs, thighs, and wings. Once the turkey has been rubbed down, insert more butter into the cavity. Last, but not least, thoroughly season the meat with salt and pepper.

Once your turkey is prepped there is one more step you may want to follow. You can purchase digital oven thermometers that will ensure your turkey gets cooked to the proper temperature. Just insert the probe of the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Most digital oven thermometers will be preset with poultry temperatures, but if you have to set the thermometer yourself remember that the thigh meat should be cooked to 180 degrees.

Before placing your turkey in the oven, set the oven on 325 degrees. This is one cooking method where it is not necessary to preheat your oven. Once the pan is in the oven, pour �½ cup of chicken stock into the bottom of the pan. This helps to ensure that the meat will stay moist. It takes 20 minutes per pound for a turkey to roast in the oven. Check the package of your turkey for a chart that lists the times for the size of your bird.

As the turkey cooks, you may want to baste it. Open the oven door and slide the oven rack out so that you can baste the meat without burning yourself. Just spoon the drippings and chicken stock over the bird. This will make the skin nice and brown, but many chefs will tell you that basting should be kept to a minimum. The more times you open the oven door, the more heat escapes. This may mean that it will take longer for the meat to cook. Once the skin is as brown as you would like, tent the breast with aluminum foil. This will prevent the meat skin from over browning.

Once your thermometer goes off, or the turkey has cooked for the amount of time stated on the package, pierce the thigh with a fork to make sure the juices run clear. If the juices are pink, the turkey is not done. The last step you need to remember is that once the turkey has reached the proper temperature, remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to sit 20 minutes. This is another step that will help keep the meat moist. If you carve the meat immediately, all the juices will run out and the meat will not be as moist as it could have been.

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