good recipe for thanksgiving turkey

How to Cook the Perfect Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

For the holiday-hosting novice, having a failsafe turkey recipe checks a big item off your Thanksgiving timeline. We’ll show you how to cook the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving dinner with this step-by-step tutorial detailing everything you need to know. From seasoning and stuffing to roasting and resting, this recipe paves the way to turkey day success.

Holiday Hosting 101: How to Cook the Perfect Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Knowing how to cook the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t require fancy ingredients or years of know-how. This easy turkey recipe delivers crispy skin and moist, flavorful meat for everyone from the first-time host to a seasoned professional. 

Step 1- Place Vegetables in Pan

The key to how to cook the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving dinner starts with building flavor from the bottom, up. Place quartered onions and large chunks of celery and carrots in the base of a basic roasting pan. Season the vegetables with a few bay leaves and sprigs of fresh rosemary. If you choose, place the turkey neck and giblets on top of the vegetables and herbs to provide deep, rich flavor.

how to cook the perfect turkey
Image: Jamie Oliver

Step 2- Butter Turkey

With your hands, rub a generous amount of butter throughout the turkey’s exterior. Don’t be afraid to form a thin coating, covering every nook and cranny. The butter will melt during cooking to give the turkey that crisp, golden skin.

turkey recipe for beginners
Image: Jamie Oliver

Step 3- Season Turkey

A turkey recipe for beginners doesn’t include complex seasoning with multiple herbs and spices. Simply sprinkle the buttered turkey with sea salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to let its natural flavor shine through.

easy turkey recipe
Image: Jamie Oliver

Step 4- Stuff Turkey

If you prefer a stuffed turkey, we suggest leaving the cavity open and stuffing the bird through the neck. An open cavity allows for better airflow while roasting and ensures a faster cooking time for a stuffed turkey. Depending on your turkey’s size, place about 2lbs of your favorite stuffing through the neck opening. Fold the skin back over the opening so the stuffing stays in place.

Once stuffed, place the turkey on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Adding a few halved clementines and a small bunch of rosemary or thyme to the cavity will add fragrance without blocking airflow.

how long to cook a turkey
Image: Jamie Oliver

Step 5- Place Turkey in Oven

Even the best turkey recipe can lead to disaster if the bird is overcooked. The easiest way to determine a turkey’s doneness is to monitor its internal temperature. For easy measuring, insert an oven-safe thermometer into the fattest part of the turkey at the base of a thigh. This will provide an accurate temperature reading throughout the cooking process.

Cover the turkey with foil, leaving the thermometer uncovered for easy viewing. Wondering how long to cook a turkey to perfection? Place it in a 350°F oven and cook until the internal temperature measures 158℉. This should take about 30 minutes per pound.

best turkey recipe
Image: Jamie Oliver

Step 6- Baste Turkey

Roughly halfway through the cooking process, uncover the turkey and baste it with a few spoonfuls of its cooking juices. With 30 minutes of remaining roasting time, remove the foil to allow the skin to brown and crisp.

good turkey thanksgiving
Image: Jamie Oliver

Step 7- Allow Turkey to Rest

When the turkey reaches the correct internal temperature, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest in the roasting pan for 30 minutes. Once it’s cool enough to pick up, pour any remaining juices from the cavity into the roasting pan. Place the turkey on a platter and cover tightly with foil and a dishtowel.

This final step in how to cook the perfect turkey is essential to ensure juicy, flavorful meat. Allow the covered turkey to rest on the platter for 2 hours before carving. This allows juices to redistribute throughout the meat for a delicious flavor that carries right through to leftover turkey recipes.

To see the full video for this process, click here.

We hope this beginner’s guide removes the stress of cooking a turkey so you can enjoy your feast with friends and family. From all of us Oak Valley Appliance, have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

David lange

David Lange

In 1982 David went to work for his mom as a service technician and has been servicing appliances ever since. He is the owner of Oak Valley Appliance, an appliance repair company in Tehachapi, CA, with local techs also serving Lancaster, Ridgecrest, and surrounding areas.