How To Cook a Turkey Like a Boss

I’ll never forget my first turkey dinner. I had no idea how to cook a turkey so I called my mom and got the how-to over the phone. I now make 3-4 turkeys a year (it’s my husband’s favorite) and I want to share my tips and tricks on the best way to cook a turkey with all of you.

How to roast a turkey

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How to Cook a Turkey Like a Boss

By the end of this post, you will no longer wonder how to make a turkey dinner, you’ll see how easy it is!

The next step? Try it yourself. Cook the turkey and enjoy an incredible family meal, along with the leftovers that will leave you with a few days of microwavable turkey dinners!

Best way to cook a turkey

TBK’s Pro Tip: First things first get everything you need out so you’re not scrambling with icky poultry hands touching everything.

PS: If you have a frozen turkey, you’re going to have to thaw it (safely and properly). Check out this guide for how to thaw a turkey.

What you’ll need to cook a turkey dinner

I have included affiliate links for your convenience.

  • Roaster
  • Turkey Lifter
    • I have this one and love it.
  • Paper Towels
  • Basting brush
  • Meat thermometer
    • I like to use digital thermometers so there’s no second guessing myself.
  • Bleach
  • Garbage bags

Roasted Turkey Ingredients

  • Turkey (thawed and ready to go)
  • Onion
  • Head of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Poultry seasoning

How to Cook Turkey

Pre-heat your oven to 325.

Instructions to cook a turkey

Before you unwrap your turkey (I buy mine frozen) note how much it weight and what the suggested cooking time is. In this case, my turkey is 8.8kg (19.4 pounds).

  1. Unwrap your turkey in the sink, you want somewhere for all the blood and juices to go.
  2. Unhook the legs out of the skin wrap thing that’s going on there. Don’t cut the skin, as you will need it for later. (If you do, no worries you can tie the legs together with twine later.)
  3. Take out the neck and bagged giblets. I toss mine in the garbage, but some people make a stock out of it.
  4. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cool water. Lift up the turkey to let it drain, get all that nastiness out.
  5. Now you need your paper towel. Stuff the turkey with the paper towel and cover it to soak up all the water. You want it dry! Discard the paper towel.
    How to cook a turkey (cooking time)
  6. Now it’s time to stuff and flavor the turkey. I don’t stuff my turkey with stuffing, my husband refuses to eat turkeys that way. If you do it, go right ahead. What I do is stuff the turkey with an onion (cut in half) and a head of garlic. It’s delicious.
    Cooking a stuffed turkey
  7. Next, I go in between the skin and the meat and add butter, garlic, and seasoning. When I’m not feeling lazy I’ll add rosemary and sage- but I usually save that for Christmas. Note on garlic in the recipe card below.
  8. Finally, I season the skin with salt, pepper, some sage (or poultry seasoning).
  9. Wrap the legs back up with the skin.
  10. Wash your hands and arms like you’re about the scrub in with Dr.Bailey on a super important surgery.
  11. Bleach down the sink and anything else the turkey touched.
How to cook the best turkey

Best Way To Roast A Turkey

Once your turkey is all prepped and ready to go in the oven – just toss it in. I like to roast mine, uncovered, for roughly an hour to an hour and a half or until the skin is getting beautifully brown and crispy. When it’s at that stage, I put a lid on my roasting pan (if you don’t have a lid, line it with foil). If you want, you can baste at this point.

Truth be told, I rarely baste a turkey.

How Long to Cook a Turkey

As for cooking times and how long you should cook a turkey, I usually roast mine for 3 1/2 – 4 hours. I cook until the meat thermometer reads at least 165F in the breast (180 in the thigh) but it usually reads 170 in the breast. Usually, the frozen turkey will have a suggested cook time, if yours doesn’t (like mine this time around) refer to this chart:

Turkey Cooking Times


When the bird is done, let it stand covered for at least thirty minutes. You want the juices to settle, you can get the gravy and other sides ready now.

Best way to cook a turkey

That’s it, now it’s time to carve that sucker up and enjoy a feast with your family and friends.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The easy way to cook a turkey dinner like a boss! via @Bewitchinkitch #turkeytime #turkeydinner” quote=”The easy way to cook a turkey dinner like a boss! via @Bewitchinkitch #turkeytime #turkeydinner”]

Turkey dinner side dish recipes

  • I shared my family’s classic recipe for homemade turkey stuffing, check it out. I’m going to be totally honest here, this is when we have guests. If it’s just us, we just do Stove Top.
  • Don’t forget to learn how to make turkey gravy!
  • I grew up with this curried cauliflower casserole as a side dish during the holidays.
  • Aside from those, we usually have a salad, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade buns, cranberry sauce, and another vegetable (I typically do corn or roasted broccoli).
  • If you’re gluten-free, try this gluten free stuffing recipe.

How to roast a turkey

Turkey Leftovers? Don’t forget to use up the whole turkey and make these leftover turkey recipes:

Want to up your turkey game? Try this Roast Turkey with Prosciutto, Rosemary, and Roasted Garlic! Yum!

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How to roast a turkey
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4.39 from 34 votes

Roasted Turkey

How to cook the perfect turkey. If you’re looking how to make turkey dinner, this is the post for you. Whether it’s Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving, Easter, or a Sunday supper this roasting a turkey tutorial is for you.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword how to cook a turkey, roast turkey, turkey
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time 20 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Servings 1 whole turkey
Calories 153kcal


  • 1 12-14 lbs turkey thawed (if bought frozen)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic + 4 to 5 cloves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary and sage each
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional: poultry spice


Preheat oven to 325

  • Prep the turkey by unwrapping, rinsing, and patting dry. Make sure the neck and bag of giblets are out.
  • Place turkey in the roaster.
  • Cut the onion in half, and cut the top off the head of garlic. Shove in the cavity. (If you are stuffing the turkey, do this instead.)
  • Go in between the skin and the meat and add butter, garlic, herbs. The additional garlic cloves can be slid under the skin whole or chopped up. I prefer a rough chop.
  • Rub the skin with salt, pepper, some sage (or poultry seasoning if you have none).
  • Wrap the legs back up with the skin.
  • Roast, uncovered, for an hour or until the skin is getting beautifully brown and crispy.
  • Cover it with the pan’s lid or foil and roast for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until or until 165F in the breast (180 in the thigh) and juices run clear.
  • When you take it out of the oven, let it stand (covered) for at least 30 minutes before carving.


Serving: 4oz | Calories: 153kcal | Protein: 34g | Fat: 0.84g | Saturated Fat: 0.27g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 59mg
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With Christmas and the holidays coming up you need this enormous list of cooking and baking must haves from Canadian blogger, The Bewitchin Kitchen. With Christmas and the holidays coming up, you will want to save this!

Also, be sure to check out my Enormous List of Cooking and Baking Must Haves.

What’s your favorite side dish that goes along with turkey dinner?

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How to cook a turkey dinner.

59 comments on “How To Cook a Turkey Like a Boss”

  1. Seriously going to use this when I cook a turkey solo…

  2. I do not stuff my turkey either. I love what you have done though. I am going to try that this time around.

  3. Yum! I can can almost smell it. Now I want turkey. This is a problem since it is just me and Evan on Monday so I’m not making one.

  4. FIRST OF ALL!! The way to make a turkey like a boss is to marry the right man!! LMAO!! My DH make a wicked turkey!! He uses all the wonderful techniques you have, but his special technique is to add bacon to the outside!

  5. I can’t believe how easy you made this look. This is the perfect post to be reading right about now – because my cousin and I are going to do our very first Thanksgiving prep together this year. I was super nervous – but I will just have my handy dandy phone with me – set to this page, and you will make me look so good ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!!

  6. This is a great tutorial, I will admit, I hate cooking the turkey here, always make my husband do it even though I know that it can be so easy! I like though that you don’t stuff it!

  7. Thanks for the skills! This will come in handy for Christmas this year ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Thank you so much for this!! I did everything you said yesterday, and I was able to make an awesome turkey dinner! My husband said it was the best he’s ever had! You have no idea how much this means to my family! I lost my grandmother in March of this year, and she always made the turkey and dressing for every holiday. I wanted to find a good recipe and do a practice run before thanksgiving so I knew what I was doing. Making the turkey helps me remember everything my grandmother did for my family, and I can never thank you enough for this step by step tutorial!

    • Brandi I am so happy I could help you! Your comment made my day, thank you so much ๐Ÿ™‚

      Enjoy your turkey leftovers ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. I was wondering how much butter you suggest when adding it under the skin?

  10. 2 questions please:
    1.) do you peel the head of garlic you stuff in teh cavity or leave it whole and unpeeled?
    2.) do you cook the bird with the turkey lifter?

    Thank you, I’m looking forward to trying this!

    • Hi Becky,

      Yes! I toss the whole head in there, no peel. I just cut the top off so the garlic oils are easily released!

      Yes I do cook the bird with the lifter, the silicone lifter I use is safe to use with heat.

      Happy cooking Becky!!

  11. Thank you for posted step by step detailed instructions! Doing this today!! Wish me luck!!

  12. I might be on duty for cooking this year……bookmarked just in case that happens!

  13. You make it look so easy! Thank you for sharing. ย Do you think or have you ever, prepped the turkey like this the night before? ย 

    • Hey Jenny,

      No I haven’t prepared it the night before. I’ve made the stuffing the night before, held it in a bowl so it was ready for the morning but that’s it. It honestly doesn’t take long to do it before you chuck it in the oven ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. 5 stars
    I haven’t made a turkey in a while, but I did use your post before and it was fabulous. Thank you.

  15. What type of garlic do you use under the skin (minced fresh, powder, salt..)?

  16. 5 stars
    Last year I got turkey cooking advice from 3 people. Combined they made the most epic turkey the world has ever known.

    A) For the instructions? my good friend referenced your post. It was done EXACTLY when predicted, perfectly. LOVED LOVED LOVED the garlic inside and under the skin recommendation.

    B) Bacon lattice. Yes you heard me. Get a pack of THICK-cut bacon. Weave it in a grid on top of your bird. Then follow your instructions. It is crunchy, delicious, and bastes that bird the whole time it’s in the oven. Heaven. Got the skin perfectly browned.

    C)Inside – I used your advice but added to it my friend the chef’s advice – add a Grapefruit and a pack of the Kroger “poultry herbs”.

    Im telling you, i’ve never made a bird before and this will be my pattern from HERE UNTIL THE END OF TIME.

    This year I’m trolling your post for side dishes : ). THANK YOU AGAIN!

    • Alice! Thank you so much for your kind words! Reading this makes me so happy. Bacon makes everything better hey? I made a turkey gravy once with prosciutto, herbs, and white wine once and that was really yummy!

      Try the stuffing ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s my family’s recipe.

  17. Never thought about using the skin to hold the legs. ย Good tip!

  18. Do you let the turkey thaw before you do anything or put it in the oven still frozen? Cooking easter dinner for the first time

    • Hi Lisa,

      Always thaw it completely ๐Ÿ™‚ If it’s too late to thaw in the freezer, thaw it in a sink full of water and replace the water often. Have a great Easter ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. So how many times should you base the Turkey while cooking it…making this today on Thanksgiving

  20. Did you get a pre-brined turkey?

  21. Do you let it sit with seasoning overnight or all in the same day

  22. Looks great! Just wondering how garlicky it tastes and if would be good with less?ย 

  23. Do you put the actual garlic cloves under the skin?? or do you mince them up and put them under the skin??

  24. Hey so I am making my first Turkey super nervous but excited! So I’ve been looking at the comments and I was wondering if when you add the garlic in the inside if you peel it or leave it unpeeled?

  25. Do you put whole garlic cloves under the skin in addition to the head of garlic in the cavity? And do you put the whole sprigs of rosemary and sage in under the skin? Then do you pull that stuff out at the end? Thank you.

  26. Great post! Creates a beautiful turkey. Thank you!

  27. I was wondering if you cook this in a turkey cooker or if you have tried and if it is the same as a regular oven? Thanks

  28. I used this recipe to make my first Thanksgiving turkey. It was anazing! I had lots of compliments and it was very juicy, tender, and had lots of flavor. Thanks so much for sharing โค๏ธ

  29. 5 stars
    This year is a different kind of Thanksgiving. I made this turkey and my family all voted it amazing. I also thought it was way better than your average turkey. I had taken a plate to my grandmother on Thanksgiving who couldnโ€™t be with us. Just heard from her that she thinks it was the best turkey she ever ate!! This from the matriarch of Thanksgivings past! Suffice it to say, this is my Thanksgiving turkey recipe until the end of time:)!

  30. 5 stars
    Made this for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful!! Very moist and delicious! Thank-you !

  31. 4 stars
    I had a 15.84lb turkey this year and cooked it according to the graphs and suggestions from this recipe and it was done in about 2 hours (so by 11am) but it wasn’t dry and everyone loved it! next time I think I will cook it at a lower temperature for little longer. I used Kerrygold butter and added in some garlic herb butter. Use more garlic cloves and a whole onion. I put leftover butter in a small saucepan and every 30 minutes I used it to baste the turkey.ย 

  32. This was the best turkey I have ever madeโ€ฆ and I would consider myself a basic cook. ย It was moist with a h8nt of garlic.. everyone raved about it! ย Thank you!

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