Exactly What You Need to Know About Cooking a Turkey for Thanksgiving

thanksgiving turkey in roasting pan
Photo: Brie Passano

Mastering the turkey basics can be tricky. Even experienced cooks get nervous when it's time to prepare Thanksgiving's main entree. Let us relieve the pressure with our turkey recipes, Test Kitchen tips, and information on cooking a turkey that makes Thanksgiving dinner a success.

01 of 17

Must-Have Turkey Safety Tips

Glazed Roast Turkey
Blaine Moats

Cooking a large bird may feel like a daunting task but it doesn't need to be. Follow these Thanksgiving turkey safety tips to ensure your dinner comes out juicy, delicious, and safe to eat.

02 of 17

How Much Turkey Do I Need?

Maple Sage Turkey
Andy Lyons

Whether you're hosting a crowd or planning a small family dinner, knowing how much turkey you'll need can help avoid mountains of leftovers or running short on meat. Get our best tips for buying a turkey and figuring out just how big of a bird you need.

03 of 17

How to Brine a Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Brining involves submerging your turkey overnight in a mixture of salt, water, and often added spices. The result is tender, flavorful meat with every bite. We'll show you how to brine a turkey in just four simple steps.

04 of 17

How to Roast a Turkey

thanksgiving turkey in roasting pan
Brie Passano

For many of us, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a roasted turkey. Learn everything you need to know about how to roast a turkey, from thawing to trussing. We've included our best tips and tricks to make roasting a Thanksgiving turkey easy!

05 of 17

How to Smoke a Turkey

Smoked Turkey

This year, try something new! Smoking your Thanksgiving turkey results in a succulent bird that's filled with flavor. You'll learn how to smoke a turkey from brining the bird to carving the finished dish.

06 of 17

How to Deep-Fry a Turkey

Deep-Fried Cajun Turkey
Marty Baldwin

When deep-frying a turkey, it's crucial to keep safety in mind. While the crispy, juicy results are totally worth it, it's important to take a few precautions when working with hot oil. We'll break down the do's and don'ts of frying a whole turkey.

07 of 17

How to Make Stuffing

Spiced Turkey with Cherry-Pear Glaze
Andy Lyons

An essential part of how to prepare a turkey is the stuffing, of course! Always mix stuffing ingredients just before stuffing and roasting the bird—do not stuff in advance. Learn how to make stuffing in just a few simple steps.

08 of 17

How to Cook Turkey Breast

Ginger-Orange Glazed Turkey Breasts
Andy Lyons

Cooking turkey breast is a simple way to serve up a taste of the holidays for small gatherings or Thanksgiving dinner for two. We'll show you how to cook turkey breast in the oven so it comes out juicy and succulent every time.

09 of 17

How to Cook Two Turkeys Together

Honey Roast Turkey
Robert Jacobs

Feeding a crowd but only have one oven? Don't stress! Here's how to cook two turkeys together so each roasts to juicy perfection. We're also sharing ideas for alternative cooking methods like smoking, grilling, and frying.

10 of 17

How to Stuff a Turkey

finishing filling turkey with stuffing
Scott Little

Stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey takes just a bit of time and technique. We'll show you how to stuff a turkey including step-by-step photos and Test-Kitchen secrets. Once your stuffed turkey has roasted, we'll walk you through how to remove the stuffing for a picture-perfect presentation.

11 of 17

How to Make a Gorgeous Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving turkey
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Causey.

Food stylist Rishon Hanners shares must-have tips and tricks for presenting a showstopping Thanksgiving turkey. Just a few simple steps will take your bird from ho-hum to truly memorable.

12 of 17

How Long to Cook a Stuffed Turkey

roast turkey on platter with oranges and bowl of cranberry sauce
Andy Lyons

Juicy stuffed turkey is a Thanksgiving classic. However, it's important to cook the bird fully to ensure the stuffing is safe to eat. Our Test Kitchen shares just how long to cook a stuffed turkey for delicious (and safe!) results.

13 of 17

How to Cook Turkey in an Electric Roaster

thanksgiving turkey
Greg DuPree

When it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner, there are a lot of dishing vying for oven space. Help alleviate the demand by cooking your turkey in an electric roaster ($90, Walmart). We'll teach you our tricks for juicy turkey including how long your bird should cook.

14 of 17

How to Carve a Turkey

carving turkey drumsticks
Andy Lyons

After you've successfully roasted the turkey, it's time to carve it and serve! Start by removing the drumsticks before moving on to breasts, wings, etc. We'll show you how to carve a Thanksgiving turkey with ease.

15 of 17

How to Make Turkey Gravy

Make-Ahead Gravy for Thanksgiving
Andy Lyons

Let's be honest, gravy makes everything better. We love spooning it over our turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Serve up a classic turkey gravy in just 15 minutes with our helpful tips.

16 of 17

How to Make Turkey Ahead

Peach-Glazed Roast Turkey
Con Poulos

Ease the stress of Thanksgiving entertaining by cooking your turkey ahead. Prep and prepare your roast turkey up to a day before serving. Reheat the meat in the oven and serve in just one hour of cook time.

17 of 17

How to Defrost a Turkey

placing frozen turkey glass dish fridge thaw
Blaine Moats

Often when you buy whole turkeys, they come partially frozen. Before cooking, you'll need to thaw your bird properly. Get our best tips for how to thaw a turkey in the fridge or sink.

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