How to Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Well Done. Tips for buying, thawing, prepping and cooking your bird.

1 of 4

How to Prep Your Turkey



What size turkey? Plan on about 1 lb per person.

How to thaw? If frozen, thaw turkey in its packaging on a tray in the fridge; it will take 24 hours for every 4 lbs. Figure 3 to 4 days for a 15 lb bird.

What to do after it's thawed: Unwrap and remove giblets and neck; carefully rinse inside with cool water to melt any remaining ice crystals. Pat dry inside and out. Tuck wings under, if desired. Season as recipe recommends. 

2 of 4

How to Brine Your Turkey



Buy a fresh bird (not frozen or kosher, since those are seasoned). Here's an easy brine recipe:

  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 sliced jalapeño
  • 12 whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • Cold water

In a very large pot or medium storage bin, combine kosher salt and packed dark brown sugar with 1 cup hot water. Stir to dissolve. Add 3 cups cold water, onion, garlic, jalapeño and crushed black peppercorns. Place turkey in pot or bin; add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and refrigerate overnight but no longer than 10 hours. Pat dry inside and out.

3 of 4

How to Cook Your Turkey



Roast: Brush or rub with butter, and cook at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes per lb.

Fry: In a turkey fryer, heat oil to 400°, about 40 minutes. Place turkey in basket and gently lower into oil. Fry 3 to 4 minutes per lb, following manufacturer’s directions.

Grill: For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan in center of grill. Brush or rub turkey with oil, and grill 9 to 11 minutes per pound, adding coals every 45 to 60 minutes. For a gas grill, preheat grill, then reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Method and times are same as for charcoal.

4 of 4

How Long to Cook Your Turkey


Turkey meat (breast or thigh) should register 165° on an instant-read thermometer. (When checking temperature, do not let thermometer touch any bones.) Let bird rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Also see How to Make Stuffing and Gravy for Thanksgiving.