turkey centerpiece thanksgiving

Turkey FAQ – The Most Frequently Asked Turkey Cooking Questions, Answered

There are so many questions about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey that go unanswered each year. The ButcherBox Kitchen tries to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about cooking a turkey we’ve heard to make your experience as great as possible.

Enjoy!

Is it better to use butter or oil to baste or coat a turkey?

We think using butter to coat and baste your turkey creates a golden brown turkey and serves as a way to add more flavor. Check out our recipe for an all-purpose butter that is perfect to use on your turkey.

Can you butter a turkey the night before cooking?

Yes. The earlier you season a turkey the more time it has to absorb the flavors.

How do you tuck in turkey wings?

Fold the last joint of the wing back and under the second joint. This holds the wing in place and against the body, which helps the turkey cook evenly.

Should I wash my turkey before cooking it?

There is no need to rinse the turkey. Use a paper towel to pat it dry and to clean out the cavity before seasoning. The USDA recommends that—to prevent cross-contamination—you do not rinse a turkey.

Do you cook a turkey covered or uncovered?

Covering the turkey breast with foil for the first 2-3 hours will help keep the breast moist as the legs and thighs typically need longer to cook. If you are worried about overcooking, try using a roasting bag.

How do you keep a turkey moist?

To keep your turkey moist when roasting, make sure you start with a half-inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan (turkey stock or chicken stock work best). Keep the turkey pan tightly covered with foil for the first 2 hours of cooking. Baste often. Additionally, cooking the turkey breast-side-down for the first two hours will help to keep the turkey moist.

Do you use water in the bottom of the turkey pan to keep it from drying out?

We recommend using turkey or chicken stock or some kind of flavored liquid.

What side do you cook a turkey on?

You can cook a turkey on either side but for a beautiful golden breast, the last two hours should have the breast facing up. One great method to get an evenly cooked bird is to start breast-side down and then flip the turkey at the halfway point of cooking.

turkey roasting in oven

How long does it take to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving?

The best way to figure out how long it will take to cook a turkey is to estimate roughly 20 minutes per pound of turkey. ButcherBox turkeys are leaner than the average bird, so these approximate cook times might differ from the USDA’s cooking times, about 13–15 minutes per pound to roast. Please use a meat thermometer to ensure your turkey is fully cooked, reaching 165°F in the thigh and breast.

Here are estimated cooking times based on your turkey’s weight and preparation:

Turkey Weight Average Roasting Time @ 325°F (Unstuffed) Average Roasting Time @ 325°F (Stuffed)
10 – 14 lbs 2 ½ – 3 ½ hrs 3 – 4 hrs
14 – 18 lbs 3 ½ – 4 ½ hrs 4 – 5 hrs
18 – 22 lbs 4 ½ – 5 ½ hrs 5 – 6 hrs

Should I roast my turkey at 325°F or 350°F?

Lower is better, so stick with 325°F. This allows the turkey to cook without allowing too much moisture to evaporate.

How do you get a turkey golden brown?

Baste it often, every 30 minutes if possible with butter and the drippings. Additionally, rotate the turkey in the oven every hour or so for even coloring. Tip: Start with a high heat (425°F) for the first 30 minutes and then dropping the temp to 325°F will help get a golden brown breast.

How do you cook a turkey without an oven?

You can use a slow cooker or an instant pot, especially if you break the turkey into eighths. You can grill a turkey or smoke a turkey on a grill—spatchcocking the bird can help with this. Or, you can deep fry your bird (DO NOT deep fry a frozen turkey!). For smaller appliances, we recommend cutting the turkey up into manageable pieces first.

smoked turkey

 

How do I stop a turkey from burning?

If the turkey starts to get too dark, cover those areas with foil. Cooking at a lower temperature and basting often will also help.

How do you carve a turkey?

First, let it rest. Then, cut off the thighs and the wings. Next, slice away the entire breast so that you can cut that up on a cutting board. For the specifics, check out our tips on “How Best To Carve a Turkey.”

Yankel Polak

Yankel Polak is the Head Chef at ButcherBox.

Chef Yankel shooting in the ButcherBox Test Kitchen
ButcherBox Kitchen

The ButcherBox Kitchen is a test kitchen and studio based in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Contributors have included Yankel Polak, Emilie Abijanac, Leigh Belanger, Simeon von Berg, Jennifer Valley, and others.