The BEST Thanksgiving Turkey (How To Cook A Turkey)

With turkey day coming up, you need the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe ever! Make the juiciest and most tender turkey you have only dreamt was possible with this easy turkey recipe.

Let’s touch on all things Thanksgiving today! I know that in our house it’s one of our favorite holidays. We probably go a little overboard, but honestly, that’s what makes it fun. 

One of our most popular posts is How To Cook A Thanksgiving Turkey in a Convection Oven, but we thought that we would share how to cook the perfect turkey in a conventional oven!

How much turkey does each person need?

The first thing to think about is how much turkey do you ACTUALLY need to make. 

If you are wondering 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. 

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. This article from the HuffPost is also is a great resource and gives you an idea of how much to cook per person. 

What else should you cook for Thanksgiving to pair with Mom’s Thanksgiving turkey recipe? A few great ideas on what to serve alongside your turkey would be Grandma’s Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing, Homemade Green Bean Casserole (without condensed soup), and our Honey Roasted Cinnamon Butternut Squash.  


Ingredients needed to make Mom’s Thanksgiving turkey recipe:

  • Whole turkey
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Turkey broth
  • Butter

Key tools to help make it easier:

  • Baster
  • Roasting pan (I love this one!)
  • Basting Brush (check this one out)

How to thaw the turkey safely

There are a few ways you can thaw a turkey safely for this recipe.

  • 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 safely prep your thawed 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.

  • Set the turkey in a roasting pan breast side up.
  • You don’t have to have a nice big roasting pan to get a delicious turkey.
  • Your roasting pan can be a metal one, or you can purchase an aluminum roasting pan. You can find a roasting pan on Amazon HERE or even at the dollar store.

Now, let’s talk about how to cook the perfect turkey with this easy turkey recipe for beginners and seasoned cooks alike! This recipe will also teach you how to cook a turkey in the oven to be MOIST! That’s right . . . say goodbye to those dry and chewy turkeys. 

How to properly prepare the turkey

Begin by preheating the oven to 325 degrees and removing the turkey from the wrapping. Then, remove the neck, giblets, and gravy packet (if one is included). 

Start seasoning the turkey by putting salt and pepper inside the cavity of the turkey. Tuck the wings of the turkey underneath. This will prevent them from burning. 

Next, be sure to tie the legs together or leave on the plastic clip that holds them together.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and baste that over the entire turkey. 


Then lightly salt and pepper the whole turkey. Also, be sure to add about 1 cup of water or turkey broth to the bottom of the roasting pan. This helps keep the turkey moist during the cooking process.


Cooking your perfect turkey

Before placing the turkey into the oven, Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. 

Pro Tip: You want to put it on the side that you will be able to see when you open the oven door. This way you will be able to easily see the temperature of the bird.

A lot of turkeys will already have a tender pop up timer that comes already inserted into the bird. We have had good luck with those and they have been pretty accurate as to when the turkey is fully cooked. But, you can also insert a meat thermometer to be completely safe. 

Next, place the foil over the turkey and have it loosely tented. Then place the prepared turkey in an oven that has been preheated to 325 degrees. 


You may need to remove one of your oven racks so that your turkey will fit into the oven. Do not let the foil tent touch the top of your oven.

Leave the turkey in the oven until the meat thermometer reaches between 165-180 degrees and the run clear from the moist turkey. 

Once the turkey has reached the correct temperature, take it from the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes before slicing it, giving you the perfect amount of time to whip up a Homemade Turkey Gravy to go with your turkey and mashed potatoes!

Do you have a convection oven? You’ll love this post on How To Cook A Turkey In A Convection Oven. Whatever oven you might have, these turkey recipes turn our moist and absolutely delicious. 

How long to cook a turkey

Normally you can find cooking times on the back of the turkey packaging. Here are some approximate times for cooking a turkey-

325 F oven-

  • 8-10 pounds 3 to 3 ½ hours
  • 10-14 pounds 3 ½ to 4 hours
  • 14-20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours
  • 20-22 pounds 4 ½ to 5 hours
  • 22-24 pounds 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours

About 30-40 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil tent to let your turkey skin turn golden and a little crispy. You’ll have a moist and tender turkey underneath the golden skin.

Tip: Use this delicious turkey to make our Leftover Thanksgiving Dinner Casserole for an amazing meal in one dish!



We have an awesome video that you can watch on our YouTube Channel to help make your Thanksgiving a breeze! Make these 4 Easy Instant Pot Thanksgiving recipes to cut down on your time in the kitchen this Thanksgiving!


Turkey cooking tips:

  1. It’s not necessary to baste the turkey during the cooking process. When you are constantly opening the oven, you will lose oven heat which will take longer for the turkey to cook and may dry it out.
  2. Don’t cook your stuffing inside your turkey. If you fill the cavity of your turkey with stuffing, your bird will be done cooking and your stuffing will not yet be to a safe temperature to eat. Cook your stuffing in a casserole dish and then fill the turkey cavity with prepared stuffing before.

If you are looking for things to do with your leftover turkey check out this leftover turkey post on what to do with all of the extra turkey meat!

Complete your Thanksgiving meal with our favorite dishes:

Still need some dessert for Thanksgiving?  Check out this list of 50 of the BEST Thanksgiving dessert recipes!


Serves: 12

The BEST Thanksgiving Turkey (How To Cook A Turkey)

10 minPrep Time

3 hr, 30 Cook Time

3 hr, 40 Total Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 1 whole turkey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can turkey broth (or chicken broth)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Remove wrap from thawed turkey, and then remove neck, giblets, and gravy packet if one is included.
  3. Place turkey into roasting pan breast side up.
  4. Tuck turkey wings under and tie or clamp legs together.
  5. Salt and pepper the inside cavity of the turkey.
  6. Dry outside of turkey with a paper towel (don’t wash or rinse your turkey because you will contaminate your sink. The bacteria will die when it cooks in the oven).
  7. Baste turkey with melted butter. Salt and pepper all over.
  8. Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Meat thermometer should reach between 165 and 180 degrees and the juices should run clear.
  9. Add broth into the bottom of the pan. (Water will also work.)
  10. Tent foil over the turkey as it cooks.
  11. After you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for about 1 minutes before slicing. This gives you time to get a few more things done for the big meal.
  12. Keep turkey covered with foil to keep warm while it rests.


We used a 12 pound turkey and it fed about 12 adults. If feeding children, you would be able to feed more people.



8283 cal


355 g


8 g


1183 g
Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

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