Cooking Turkey 101: How to Prep and Cook a Bird 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 cooking turkey 101 basics: turkey recipes, Test Kitchen tips, and information on cooking a turkey that makes Thanksgiving dinner a success.

01 of 14

Must-Have Turkey Safety Tips

Glazed Roast Turkey
Blaine Moats

Cooking a large bird may seem daunting, but it doesn't need to be. Follow these cooking turkey 101 Thanksgiving safety tips to ensure your dinner is juicy, delicious, and safe to eat.

02 of 14

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 14

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 14

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 14

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 worth it, taking a few precautions when working with hot oil is important. We'll break down the dos and don'ts of frying a whole turkey.

06 of 14

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.

07 of 14

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.

08 of 14

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.

09 of 14

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. Then, once your stuffed turkey has roasted, we'll walk you through how to remove the stuffing for a picture-perfect presentation.

10 of 14

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 essential to cook the bird thoroughly to ensure the stuffing is safe to eat. Our Test Kitchen shares how long to cook a stuffed turkey for delicious (and safe!) results.

11 of 14

How to Cook Turkey in an Electric Roaster

thanksgiving turkey
Greg DuPree

When cooking Thanksgiving dinner, many dishes are vying for oven space. Help alleviate the demand by cooking your turkey in an electric roaster ($94, Walmart). We'll teach you our tricks for juicy turkey, including how long your bird should cook.

12 of 14

How to Carve a Turkey

carving turkey drumsticks
Andy Lyons

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

13 of 14

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.

14 of 14

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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