Cooking a turkey for the first time, especially when entertaining a crowd, can seem like a daunting task. But, when broken down into clear steps, the job is simpler than it seems. Is there an easy turkey recipe that simplifies the process? With straightforward steps from prepping to roasting, the following recipe illustrates how to cook a turkey for beginners and produce professional results.
How to Cook a Turkey for Beginners in 7 Easy Steps
When should I start cooking my turkey? What should be used for seasoning? How do I know when it’s done? While a turkey novice may have many questions, this recipe has all the answers. Here’s how to cook a turkey for beginners in 7 simple steps. But, first, use these Thanksgiving tips to make sure your oven is clean and in top working order for the task.
Step 1- Place Vegetables in Pan
Many turkey recipes for Thanksgiving start with a base that imparts rich flavor throughout the cooking process and this one is no different. Roughly chop onions, celery, and carrots so they’re still in large pieces before placing them in the bottom of a roasting pan. Add several sprigs of rosemary, 1-2 bay leaves, and, if desired, the turkey giblets. All three provide rich aromatics to flavor the turkey as it roasts.
Step 2- Butter Turkey
Buttering the outside of the turkey keeps the meat moist, the skin crisp, and lends additional flavor. But knowing how to cook a turkey for beginners simplifies this vital step by eliminating any melting and brushing. Simply spread softened butter over all of the turkey’s exterior with your hands. Make sure every inch is covered, including the legs and wings.
Step 3- Season Turkey
Multiple Thanksgiving turkey recipes call for complex seasonings from brines to herb pastes. Here, simple salt and pepper are all that’s required, letting the bird’s natural flavors shine through. Sprinkle the outside generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Step 4 (Optional) Stuff Turkey
While a Thanksgiving turkey recipe for beginners doesn’t have to include stuffing, doing so can impart additional flavor. However, the traditional method of stuffing the bird through its front cavity can block airflow, elongating cooking times and reducing flavor. Instead, stuff the bird via the neck cavity, taking care to tuck the skin back over the opening to prevent spillage.
Step 5- Place Turkey on Roasting Pan
Once the turkey is seasoned and/or stuffed, place it directly on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Want to add some additional flavor to the cavity without blocking airflow? The best turkey recipe for beginners still keeps the flavors simple. Adding halved citrus, like lemon or orange, along with some rosemary sprigs, provides additional seasoning without impairing circulation.
However, the most important addition at this point is a cooking thermometer to monitor the turkey’s internal temperature. Insert the thermometer in the fattest part of the bird and cover the turkey with foil, leaving the thermometer exposed.
Step 6- Roast Turkey
Place the covered turkey in a 350℉ oven. Wondering how long to cook a turkey at this temperature? This depends on the size of your bird and whether or not it’s stuffed. Cook a stuffed turkey for 15 minutes per pound and an unstuffed turkey for 13 minutes. An average-sized 12-14lb bird should take about 3 hours.
Halfway through cooking, remove the foil and baste the turkey with the pan juices. Cover and continue cooking until 30 minutes before the end. At this point, remove the foil to allow the skin to brown and crisp.
Step 7- Rest Turkey
Sufficient resting allows for the turkey juices to redistribute, keeping the bird flavorful and moist. After roasting, drain excess moisture from the turkey’s cavity and place it on your serving platter. Cover it tightly with foil and a dish towel and let the turkey rest for 2 hours. While this may seem long, your turkey won’t be cold and the bird will remain succulent and juicy when sliced and served.