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Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Cook a Turkey? Happy Thanksgiving!

I first referred to cooking a turkey in one of my earliest posts called How to Cook a Chicken? And in this post, I actually reference turkey as being the bird that introduced me to the method I now use frequently: Breast Side Down.

What, breast side down?? Yes, that's right. Regardless of how you season your turkey, if you stuff it or don't stuff it, cooking a turkey (or a chicken) breast side down is the key to the juiciest bird you will ever eat. 

As I said in my earlier post... "I love turkey, but as a child, I never really liked the breast meat (unless I smothered it in gravy) because I always found it too dry. That is, until one day, I asked my mom to cook the turkey breast side down. My mom asked me why I wanted her to do this. After all, having a nice, golden breast sitting up on a platter is generally how you serve, then proceed to carve, a turkey during the holidays. It's tradition! I explained to her that I thought if she flipped the bird over, the breast would soak up all the juices dripping through the turkey and into the bottom of the pan, and would soak up the flavors of all the aromatics she used to put in the roasting tray. So, she trusted me and she tried it. The result? A very tender, juicy breast and since then, neither she nor I has ever looked back!"

That was probably almost 15 years ago. And every bird I have cooked since then has been breast side down and amazing.

Here are a few other tips and tricks to make sure your holiday turkey is one to remember:

1. Completely thaw your turkey in the fridge. Putting a turkey on the counter to thaw is just not safe. I would recommend putting the turkey in your fridge about 4-5 days in advance of when you plan to cook it.

2. On the day you plan to cook the turkey, take it out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature (1-2 hours)

3. Generously season the inside and the outside of the turkey. You could use just salt and pepper, or you could use thyme, rosemary, oregano or whatever herbs you wish.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, cover the turkey and cook, breast side down, for about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and cook until the turkey is between 160-165 degrees in the thigh (about 15-17 minutes per pound of turkey). Start checking the temperature about halfway through your calculated cooking time since your exact oven temperature, the turkey etc could contribute to quicker or slower cooking.

5. When the turkey is at about 145 degrees, remove the cover off the turkey to brown the skin.

6. When the turkey has reached 160 - 165 degrees, remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat (the turkey will also continue to cook slightly and the temperature will go up about 5 degrees)

7. Carve and serve with side dishes!


  1. Hi Heather!

    It's Barb, Jenn's friend (and Sarah V's friend, too - small world, eh?)

    Just wanted to say that I totally second the "breast side down" method of turkey cooking. It's been my dad's style for as long as I can remember, and you're the first person I've encountered who uses the same technique!

    Hope to see you again soon!


    1. Hey Barb!
      Nice to hear from you. And yes, it is a small world! Thanks for checking out my blog. Breast side down really is the way to go. I have been advocating it forever but so many people favor the golden brown look of the breast when it's face up. It's a shame, because it really does taste better the other way around!

      Hope to see you soon too!!
      Have a good week!