This super simple turkey recipe is no brine, no baste, and no stress. So easy and delicious. Want to know how to cook a turkey to juicy, moist perfection with no stress?
How to cook a turkey
Cooking a turkey can be intimidating for not just a new cook, but even for a seasoned home cook who is simply not used to cooking a massive beast.
Happily, it is actually really easy. The two main things to aim for are:
- Don’t overcook it.
- Don’t undercook it.
We’re not reaching for the stars, here!
In order to achieve this:
- Grab a cooking thermometer. (That one is sixteen bucks and has lasted me for years.) I can’t stress enough the importance of this tool
- To further simplify, buy fresh. I find it juicier and easier to manage planning-wise. That means arranging in advance to buy one up to 5 days ahead. Consider placing an order with your butcher or grocery store (as they often sell out).
- If you do buy frozen, make sure your turkey is thawed completely before cooking – this can take several days in the fridge, so plan accordingly. Nothing like a semi-frozen thigh to ensure an over-cooked breast.
- Cook at a low oven temperature. There are methods I’ve tried that involve starting at 400ºF or hotter and then lowering the heat. Although this allows a turkey to cook faster, it also gives more opportunity to dry out the parts that are more exposed to direct heat (like the lean breast meat).
A simple turkey recipe
I keep things really simple, that’s how to cook a turkey without stress.
- Simple seasoning: melted butter, coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper all over the bird.
- No basting: repeatedly opening the oven ultimately increases cooking time, so what you gain in flavoured skin, you lose in moistness of the white meat.
- No stuffing: don’t stuff the turkey, because it’s a food safety issue – in order for stuffing to reach a safe internal temperature, the breast will almost certainly be dried out. Stuffing cooked outside of the turkey is also much lower in fat and calories so you can eat MORE.
- Don’t bother brining. As long as you pay attention to the internal temperature and don’t overcook the turkey, this cumbersome extra step is unnecessary.
- Rest the turkey. This step is as important as not overcooking it. It allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat rather than running out all over your cutting board and being lost forever.
How to check for doneness
For most roasts, I recommend removing it from the oven at a lower temperature than the final internal temperature goal. This is because of carryover cooking, which means the temperature continues to rise as the meat sits.
I don’t do this for turkey, however.
A turkey roast is so large that there are inevitably parts that are higher and lower in temperature. I prefer to stay on the safe side and reach the 165ºF necessary to ensure nobody gets turkey with a side of salmonella.
Insert your cooking thermometer into many parts of the bird. That’s how to cook a turkey fully without concern for food safety. I test the temperature of:
- the thickest part of the thigh
- in the bottom of the bird under the leg
- in the thickest part of the breast
- in around the wing
- and a few more spots for good measure
Don’t miss these delicious turkey dinner recipes
How to Cook a Turkey: Easy Roast Turkey with Cranberry Chutney
- 1 turkey thawed if frozen
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- black pepper
For Cranberry Chutney
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 cup onion
- 1 tbsp ginger
- 3 cups cranberries
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- ⅛ tsp cloves
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 325ºF. Position turkey breast-side up on a parchment (or foil) lined baking sheet. Remove neck and giblets from turkey cavity.
- Gently use your fingers to lift the skin of the turkey breast. Smear butter evenly over the entire turkey, gently pushing it under the skin of the breast. Sprinkle turkey all over with salt and black pepper.
- Roast turkey for approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes, covering the neck and wings with foil about halfway through to prevent over-browning. A meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, should register 165ºF. Let turkey rest at room temperature for one hour to redistribute the juices.
For Cranberry Chutney
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until very soft, about 15 minutes, reducing heat if starting to crisp. Add ginger and cook a minute more.
- Stir in cranberries, water, sugar, maple syrup, vinegar and cloves. Simmer, uncovered, until cranberries pop, about 10 minutes; cool to room temperature or refrigerate. Serve turkey with cranberry chutney.
- Plan about 11 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey and begin checking the temperature 45 minutes before you expect it to be done.
- If you have a convection oven, you can cook it at 325ºF on convection and it will be done up to an hour sooner.
Last Updated on November 14, 2022 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD