With Thanksgiving day coming up, how to cook a turkey is one of the most important parts of the meal!
While most people like to cook their turkey in the oven, we wanted to share with you our favorite ways to cook a turkey and have it turn out perfect every time!
How much turkey does each person need?
The first thing to think about is how much turkey do you ACTUALLY need to make.
To know how many people your turkey will feed, a good rule of thumb is that whatever your turkey weighs, that is approximately how many people it will feed (1 pound per person).
If you know you have a lot of small children, then you may be able to stretch it a little farther than that.
If you want to have leftovers, plan on 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person.
If you are planning Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to check out all of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes:
- 30 Minute Dinner Rolls
- Grandma’s Thanksgiving Stuffing
- Green Bean Casserole
- Slow Cooker Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- How To Make Turkey Gravy From Scratch
- Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
- Strawberry Jello Fluff Salad
- Easy Sweet Cornbread
- Simple Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin Dump Cake
- Fluffy Cranberry Salad
- Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- The BEST Candied Yams without Corn Syrup
- Slow Cooker Creamed Corn
How to thaw a turkey safely:
There are a few ways you can thaw a turkey for your Thanksgiving feast.
- We always say that the quickest way to thaw a whole turkey is in a bath of cold water.
Thawing in cold water takes about 30 minutes per pound.
One thing to know is that you will need to refresh the water every 30 minutes or so. We also will often add ice to the water to ensure that the water is very cold.
- Another way to thaw your turkey is in the fridge.
Set the turkey on a cookie sheet because this will catch any liquid that could drip off your turkey while thawing. Be sure to have about 1 day of refrigeration for every 5 pounds of the turkey.
How to prep the turkey:
Once your turkey is thawed, remove the packaging from the turkey.
Remove the giblet packets (they contain the gizzard and heart) and the neck is there too. Check both ends of your turkey for these packets because it is often found in the neck and end cavities.
STOP! There is no need to rinse your turkey – all that it will do is contaminate your sink. The bacteria you are trying to rinse off will die when it cooks in the oven.
Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
Your turkey is now ready to cook! Choose one of the following methods to cook your turkey:
How to cook a turkey in a slow cooker:
Because of the size of a slow cooker, you will want to use a turkey breast or small turkey roast.
Using a slow cooker works perfectly if you only need your turkey to feed 8 or less people.
We get asked almost daily which slow cookers we use. CLICK HERE to see which slow cooker we used for this recipe!
To cook the turkey, spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and place turkey inside.
In a small bowl, mix together the water and seasonings and spread evenly over turkey.
Cook on low for 8-9 hours (or until turkey is very tender and the seasonings have flavored the meat).
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and make sure it reads at least 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) to ensure that your turkey is fully-cooked.
To eat, remove turkey from slow cooker and slice.
Another great perk to using a slow cooker is that you can throw in vegetables or stuffing in with the turkey, which takes care of a side dish at the same time.
Here is a great recipe that cooks the turkey and stuffing at the same time: Slow Cooker Turkey and Stuffing
Our favorite recipe to cook a turkey in a slow cooker: Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
How to cook a turkey in the Instant Pot:
Cooking your turkey in an Instant Pot is similar to the slow cooker version: you will want to make sure that you use a turkey breast and that you only need turkey for 8 or less people.
CLICK HERE to see our favorite Instant Pot!
Start by drizzling the olive oil all over the turkey breast and rub it in very well.
Use your favorite seasonings and rub it all over the whole turkey breast, making sure it’s covered evenly to distribute the flavor.
In the bottom of the Instant Pot, place the trivet (the wire rack that comes with the Instant Pot) with the handles up. Afterward, pour a ½ cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot.
Once the Instant Pot is set up, put the seasoned turkey breast onto the trivet. Continue by placing the lid on top; be sure close it by turning it all the way as the Instant Pot will not turn on if it’s not secure.
To start the cooking process, press the MANUAL (or PRESSURE COOK) button and set the timer to 25 minutes. It will not start right away, so don’t panic. Once it is fully pressurized the 25 minutes will show up on the digital screen and it will start counting backwards.
After the 25 minutes is up and the Instant Pot cycle is complete, let the Instant Pot do a natural release. The natural release takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes. You will know it’s done when you hear the pin drop.
Now you can carefully unlock and remove the lid from the Instant Pot.
Next, lift the trivet out of the Instant Pot by grabbing the handles and transfer the turkey breast to a cutting board. Make sure to cover the turkey completely with aluminum foil and let the turkey rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into it.
If you enjoy a crispier skin then throw the turkey in the broiler for about 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you want it.
Then just cut it into slices and serve it with your favorite sides.
If your family enjoys cranberry sauce with your turkey take a look at this recipe that you can make right in your Instant Pot!