Turkey is a lean meat that many people enjoy during the holidays or for their health. It is incredibly tasty and filling, especially with starchy sides like potatoes and green vegetables. The meat of a turkey is packed full of excellent nutrients, proving its worth as a favored food. Sometimes, figuring out how to cook turkey perfectly can be a learning curve. Most people enjoy a juicy, succulent, and savory turkey, which is why it can be sorely disappointing when it comes out dry and needs more flavor. This article will discuss a few different ways to cook a turkey perfectly to enjoy the health benefits and the juicy and mouthwatering flavor!
How Healthy is Turkey?
Turkey is full of health benefits. For starters, it has plenty of protein. One of the fantastic facts about protein is that it can make us feel fuller for longer. When we feel fuller, we will eat less, and this is one reason turkey is prevalent during health journeys. Turkey is also full of vitamin B and minerals like zinc and phosphorus.
While dark meat and the skin contain more calories than white meat, turkey may be a better alternative than red meat.
How to Cook Turkey Perfectly
If you are searching for new ways to cook turkey perfectly, consider one of the cooking methods below. Nothing beats a succulent and tasty turkey for Thanksgiving or any day of the week! Before we get into the best ways to cook a turkey, let's review a few of the best methods to prepare turkey.
How to Best Dethaw a Turkey
One of the necessary steps to prepping turkey involves dethawing it. This step is especially beneficial before Thanksgiving or a big meal. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are three ways to thaw a turkey safely.
The first recommended method of dethawing turkey is by using the refrigerator.
- Set the turkey in the refrigerator several days in advance.
- The general rule is one day for every four to five pounds of turkey.
- The turkey will be safe to eat for two days after dethawing.
If you are in a pinch or need more time to dethaw a turkey several days in advance, there are two other methods to try. These two methods must be done on the day of cooking the turkey to be considered safe.
How to Dethaw a Turkey on the Day Of Cooking
The first method is dethawing in cold water.
- First, keep the turkey in the packaging.
- Place the turkey in a sink of cold water.
- Replace the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. (This step ensures the turkey doesn't surpass a safe temperature.)
- The general rule is to immerse the turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound.
- Cook right after dethawing.
Dethawing a turkey in the microwave.
- First, make sure that the size of the turkey and microwave is safe to move forward with this method by checking the owner's manual.
- Then, take all the wrapping off the turkey.
- Use a microwave-safe dish to put the turkey in and keep the juice from dripping everywhere.
- For this method, you will need to use the defrost function.
- Dethaw the turkey for six minutes per pound.
- Rotate often.
- If the turkey starts to cook, stop the microwave and rest for five minutes.
- It's possible to cover the tips, drumsticks, and wings with foil if you need to keep them from starting to cook.
- Cook right after dethawing.
How to Prep a Turkey
Another important step after dethawing is prepping a turkey.
- One of the first steps of prepping a turkey is brining it. You can skip this part if you are cooking a kosher or self-basting turkey.
- Consider whether or not you will be dry or wet brining.
- Brining should be done 24-72 hours before cooking the turkey.
- After brining a turkey, pat it dry and then remove the giblets.
- Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Before cooking, consider tucking in the turkey wings. This will keep them from overcooking. You do this by placing the turkey with its breast side up and turning the wings tips to point to the front of the turkey. Then, tuck them underneath the bird.
- Season the turkey with oil or butter (if desired), salt and pepper, and any other seasoning. Be sure to gently rub the seasoning and butter underneath the skin by pulling it away from the meat.
How to Slow Roast Turkey in the Oven
Slow roasting a turkey in the oven is one of the most popular methods. Here are the steps to follow:
- First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit; this allows for even and slow roasting.
- Next, tent the turkey with foil by placing it over the top of the pan.
- Now, allow the turkey to roast for two hours.
- After the two hours, take it out of the oven and baste the turkey again with oil or butter.
- Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to cook.
- You will know the turkey is done when the juices run clear after cutting the leg and thigh, and the turkey has an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from heat and allow the turkey to rest for up to 30 minutes.
Note: If preferred, stuff the turkey before placing it in the oven.
How to Cook Turkey in a Crockpot
Cooking a turkey in the crockpot is also a possibility.
- First, prepare the turkey for cooking in any method you prefer, such as with stuffing mix or vegetables and apples.
- Rub the turkey with oil or butter and seasoning.
- Place in the crockpot and cover.
- Cook on low for eight and a half hours.
- When the turkey reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from heat and enjoy!
You can follow these same steps when cooking a smaller turkey breast.
How to Cook Turkey in an Air Fryer
While cooking a turkey in an air fryer may not be a person's first choice, it can still produce juicy and delectable meat to eat any day of the week!
- For this method, you need a smaller turkey, between 15-20 pounds, or a turkey breast.
- First, prepare the turkey with butter, salt, pepper, and other seasoning. Be sure to rub underneath the skin as well.
- Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put a turkey stand in the turkey's cavity and into the basket. If you are not using a whole turkey, skip this step.
- Then, place it into the air fryer.
- Cook the turkey for eight minutes per pound of turkey.
- Check the internal temperature to ensure it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then remove from heat.
- Rest the turkey for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Enjoy with any mouthwatering sides!
How to Cook Turkey Breast Perfectly
Since turkey is a healthy and lean meat, many enjoy it on days other than Thanksgiving or Christmas, sometimes opting for just the turkey breast instead of the whole turkey! Try this baking method when cooking just the turkey breast.
- First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix butter and any seasoning of your choice.
- Pull the skin loosely from the meat, then rub the butter and seasoning mixture over the meat underneath the skin.
- Rub the butter and seasoning mixture over the skin.
- Place the turkey breast into the oven for 20 minutes per pound.
- The breast is done when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Enjoy while hot!
Best Turkey Recipes to Try Today
- The 4 Best Traeger Smoked Turkey Recipes
- Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast Recipe
- Roasted Turkey Breast
- Juiciest Roast Turkey Breast- Easy Recipe & Tutorial
- Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
- Holiday Turkey with Maple Glaze
One Last Note
Turkey is a healthy and mouthwatering meat. While many enjoy it, especially on holidays, one common complaint is how dry a turkey can get while cooking. Following these simple techniques, you may find one of your new cooking methods for your best and juiciest turkey yet!
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Steve Lalich/Shutterstock.com.