How to Cook a Turkey

Turkey has long been the go-to meat to grace the dining table and be the centre-piece for Christmas and Thanksgiving feasts. However, each year comes loaded questions such as, “How do you cook a turkey?” “How long should you cook a turkey?” and “What size turkey should I get?” These questions and more will be answered in this article, and all your fears and worries will be sated.

How Much Turkey to Buy

The general rule is 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. Of course, this is entirely dependent on whether you like leftovers or not. If you’re not going to go down the road of next day sandwiches or a warm turkey soup, then 1 pound per person should suffice. A typical 14-pound bird serves 16 people.

Thaw the Turkey

Don’t forget to thaw your bird! Every 4 pounds of frozen turkey will need 24 hours of thawing time. For a 14-pound bird, plan on pulling the turkey from the freezer five days before the big feast. Move it to the fridge for safe thawing.

How to Prepare your Turkey

Peel the bird from its packaging and remove all of the giblets (those meaty pieces) from inside the turkey. They tend to hide out deep inside the bird. Next, remove and toss any large pockets of fat along the neck.

Give your bird the rubdown with an ample amount of salt. Massage it all over the outside of the turkey. This is the secret to getting that extra-crispy skin we all crave on the Christmas holidays. Return the bird to the fridge when you’ve finished.

Save the neck when removing the giblets as this can used for making a seriously good gravy.

In order to end up with a deliciously moist turkey, there are a couple of methods:

The first is brining, a process that involves soaking the turkey in a water, salt and herb solution overnight to infuse the bird with moisture and flavour.

The second possible method is to stuff the turkey with aromatics like apples, citrus, vegetables and herbs, rather than stuffing. As the turkey roasts, the aromatics will breakdown and boost the bird’s moisture.

The Big Roast

Step 1. Plan on starting the turkey at least four hours before you sit down for dinner, or earlier depending on the size of your bird. Remove the turkey from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The turkey will cook more evenly by warming up a bit.

Step 2. The most delicious home-made gravy comes from tasty pan drippings. For this to happen, you’ll want to add veggies like roughly chopped onion, celery and carrots to the bottom of the pan along with the turkey neck. Cover with the perforated rack or grill grate. The vegetables will help flavour the drippings as well as help protect them from evaporating away in the oven.

Step 3. Before seasoning your turkey, you will first need to pat it down with paper towels. Next rub it down with a bit more salt and then with your favourite seasonings. If you have fresh herbs, add a handful to the cavity, along with some wine or water. It helps keep the turkey moist.

Step 4. Truss and brush. Tie the drumsticks together with string, and brush the skin with melted butter or oil.

Step 5. Let’s start roasting! Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven and follow the cooking times above based on the weight of your bird. About 40 minutes in, reduce the oven temperature to 325F for the remainder of the roasting time. Try to resist the urge to peek inside the oven while the turkey’s roasting. Opening the door cools the oven, adding extra cooking time.

Step 6. Tent and baste. Roast until the skin is a light golden colour, then cover the breast loosely with a foil tent to prevent further browning. During the last 45 minutes of roasting, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but does help promote even browning. The table below shows how long you should cook your turkey depending on its size.

Turkey Weight


Cooking Time

10 to 12 lb

6 to 8

2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours

12 to 14 lb

8 to 10

2 3/4 to 3 hours

15 to 18 lb

10 to 12

3 1/4 to 4 hours

18 to 20 lb

12 to 14

4 to 4 1/4 hours

20 to 22 lb

14 to 16

4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours

23 to 24 lb

16 to 20

5 to 5 1/4 hours


Step 7. Check the temperature and remove. Remove the turkey from the oven when the internal temperature is 5 degrees below the desired doneness. Don’t worry, it’ll still be safe to eat. Your turkey will continue to cook after you take it out from the oven. By removing the bird early, you’re actually ensuring that it doesn’t overcook or dry out.

Step 8. Allow it to rest. Let it stand for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving.

While the turkey is resting, check the temperature again after 10 minutes to ensure the turkey has reached 165 degrees F.

Make your Gravy

Use the 20 to 30 minutes while your turkey is resting to make a delicious gravy, using your drippings and broth, flour, milk and seasoning.

Carve your Turkey

If you've remained patient and let the turkey rest before carving, you're already halfway there! Resting the turkey lets the juices redistribute, ensuring that your turkey isn't dry but also avoiding a big juicy mess on your cutting board, making it harder to carve.


There’s only one thing left to do—dig in! This crispy, golden-brown wonder will steal the show and delight friends and family. Give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the spoils.