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How to Cook a Whole Turkey for the Holidays

Nyesha loves writing content about cooking & food recipes, restaurant reviews, movie reviews, television shows, weddings, and poetry.

Learn how to cook a delicious whole turkey for the holidays

Learn how to cook a delicious whole turkey for the holidays

How to Cook Moist Turkey

Do you feel intimidated by the thought of roasting a whole turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Don't be! The task is not as daunting as you might think.

Sometimes, turkey can have a dry and bland taste, but this recipe will yield a moist, flavorful, savory and delicious bird. One of the secrets of this recipe is placing butter the skin, which helps keep the meat moist during the cooking process.

I often prepare turkey for New Year's Day or other special occasions, but when Thanksgiving is coming, you know it's turkey time! Here is an easy-to-follow recipe (minimal ingredients and easy on the budget) for cooking your own homemade turkey for beautiful presentation and carving at your Thanksgiving table.

A whole delicious turkey will look lovely on your dining table on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, or any special occasion!

Ingredients

  • 1 whole 12-13 pound turkey
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • Butter, as needed

Instructions

  1. Wash your turkey well with water, inside and out, removing all giblets.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, parsley, garlic, and ginger. Generously rub this seasoning mix on the inside and outside of the turkey.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit to get under the skin of the turkey. Sprinkle a few of the seasonings and place a large pat of sweet cream butter under the skin of the turkey (see photo guide). Notice how the pat of butter is protruding from under the turkey skin. It will melt during the cooking process.
  4. Place the whole turkey in a deep roasting pan with 1 1/2 cups of water.
  5. Place the pan in a preheated oven at 425 degrees.
  6. After 25 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and insert generous spoonfuls of prepared stuffing into the cavity of the turkey.
  7. Place the turkey in its pan back in the oven and continue cooking for 4 hours, reducing heat to 375.
  8. You can remove the pan once per hour of cooking time to pick up turkey drippings surrounding the bird with a spoon and pour it back on top of the bird. This continued basting process will help to keep the turkey moist and tender.

Notes: Four hours may seem a long cooking time, but you won't regret it. Your turkey will be moist and delicious, very well cooked, and not at all dry. While the turkey is in the oven, you can be preparing other dishes as well.

Photo Guide

Butter under the turkey skin

Butter under the turkey skin

best-whole-turkey-recipe
Raw whole turkey, prepped for cooking

Raw whole turkey, prepped for cooking

A delicious plate of turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, and rice

A delicious plate of turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, and rice

Turkey Leftovers

When you cook a whole turkey, often you will end up with leftovers. If you end up with a lot, you may wish to freeze a portion. Fortunately, there are many tasty dishes you can prepare with leftover turkey, including turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, and more.

Cooking Your First Whole Turkey?

Last year, I was chatting with a 30-something-year-old friend that was cooking a turkey for the first time, and she was speaking of the task as almost a rite of passage experience. If you are a big foodie and enjoy cooking like me, I would agree that cooking your first turkey does feel a bit momentous!

Thanksgiving day is such a heartwarming holiday, well associated with family time. As families get to spend enjoyable time together, the turkey is one of the many warm comfort foods to share.

Thanksgiving day is such a heartwarming holiday, well associated with family time. As families get to spend enjoyable time together, the turkey is one of the many warm comfort foods to share.

whole turkey, rice, cranberry sauce and pie

whole turkey, rice, cranberry sauce and pie

© 2011 Nyesha Pagnou MPH