Thanksgiving turkey can be intimidating, we often get all the questions, from how long to brine and bake a turkey to what’s the temperature for cooking a turkey? This EASY Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe and instructional post answers all those questions for a whole turkey and breast. We encourage you to read through the Bolded topics instead of scrolling to the recipe only. Enjoy!
About our Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Our easy recipe shows you how to cook a turkey whether you are using the whole turkey or just the breast. It will provide the information for how long to brine and what that is, temperature for cooking the turkey and how long to bake. This crazy simple turkey recipe comes out succulent, juicy and fall of the bone every time.
How To Thaw A Turkey Safely
If you are buying a frozen turkey, the first thing is the thawing process. Per the USDA- The safest way to thaw a whole turkey for any recipe is in the refrigerator. On average a whole turkey will take about 24hrs per 4-5lbs. Example- a 12lb bird will take about 3 days to thaw. As a general rule of thumb we personally pull ours out on Sunday or Monday since Thanksgiving is on Thursdays.
What is a Turkey Brine
A turkey Brine is basically just water and salt. A recipe typically the ratio lies within 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon water. For less, 1 tablespoon salt per 1C water works. The meat absorbs the brine resulting in a juicy succulent Thanksgiving Turkey that is out of this world tender.
How Long To Brine A Whole Turkey
A whole turkey typically needs at bare minimum 16hrs soaking in the brine, however it can go up to 24hrs especially for a larger bird. We tend to make our brine and place the turkey in it in the refrigerator the previous afternoon. It's recommended to place the turkey in the brine breast side down. The turkey breast meat tends to dry out first during the cooking process.
How Long To Bake A Whole Turkey
How long to bake will depend on the size of your turkey, a large bird can take about 5hrs. 15 minutes per pound or 4lbs per hour is typical. Here are some recipe guidelines to help you gauge a timeframe for baking your Thanksgiving Turkey. It is recommended to always use a meat thermometer to ensure the minimum temperature for your turkey is 165 degrees, internal temperature. We do not rely solely on the manufacturer pop up timers.
- 10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-½ hours
- 18 to 22 pounds 3-½ to 4 hours
- 22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-½ hours
- 24 to 29 pounds 4-½ to 5 hours
How To Prep A Turkey for Cooking
Prior to Brining- The first thing is you want to remove the giblets, turkey packet and neck from the turkey cavity. Then you will rinse and then follow the steps for brining as directed below. This recipe can be used any time of the year, because after all, Turkey isn't just for Thanksgiving!
How to Cook Turkey Breast
If you opted for a turkey breast rather than whole turkey the cook time will change drastically. The brine process and recipe below can still be the same. To cook turkey breast simply decrease the cooking time, however still follow the time guidelines above.
Temperature for Cooking a Turkey
The temperature for cooking a turkey can actually change based on elevation locations and oven types, however typically baking a turkey on 350 is best. We use 350 degrees for this Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe.
What To Pair With Roasted Turkey for Thanksgiving
- Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese | A great side that is cheesy, hearty, and a low carb side dish. I highly recommend trying this mac if you haven't tried it.
- Instant Pot Keto Cauliflower Mash | This is a fantastic alternative to mashed potatoes, that is made in the Instant Pot.
- Green Bean Casserole | This casserole is rather easy to make and a classic side dish that is low carb. Give this keto green bean casserole a try and see how you like it.
- Garlic Ranch Roasted Turnips | Try this turnip recipe, it is loaded with ranch and garlic flavor. I have fallen in love with a roasted turnip.
- DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR KETO GIBLET GRAVY!
How To Reheat Roasted Turkey
Roast turkey can become dry once it's reheated. Adding a little turkey broth or even chicken stock to the meat as you heat it up and it will help to keep your turkey moist and prevent it from drying out. My favorite thing to do with leftover turkey is use leftover gravy or make a new batch. Then add chopped turkey to the gravy. Let it simmer until heated. Put over mashed cauliflower, potatoes or toasted bread!
Or Skip Reheating The Turkey
A few great ways to use leftover turkey without reheating it is in sandwich recipes. Two of our favorite ways to prepare leftover Thanksgiving Turkey is either turkey salad or those Thanksgiving sandwiches.
- Lightly toast bread
- spread cranberry sauce on one and mayo on the other
- add a scoop of stuffing, spread it out
- add turkey
- drizzle with gravy (optional)
This is my husband's absolute most favorite leftover preparation. Throughout the year he makes me short cut it using thick sliced deli turkey. I think he would eat them weekly!
Making Our Brined Whole Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- Turkey Brine
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 2 gallons water
- 12lb Turkey
- Any additional Seasonings you want to add (optional)
- For the Turkey (if NOT stuffing)
- Brined Turkey
- 1 teaspoon each :
- Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, ground sage (or Bell's seasoning), paprika
- 3 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 apple, quartered (for cooking only)
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 stalk celery, cut into pieces
- The day before cooking:
- Remove turkey from packaging. Remove gravy packet (if included) and giblets. Rinse well on the inside and outside.
- In a large stock pot, dissolve kosher salt in water. Once the salt is completely dissolved, add the turkey to the pot. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to cook:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove turkey from the brine, rinse well on the inside and outside. Pat dry. Place in a roasting pan and bend wings under the bird or cover with foil.
- To the cavities of the turkey, add apple and vegetables. Apple will not add carbs UNLESS you are using the juice to make gravy later. If so, omit it.
- Baste the turkey with olive oil and generously salt, pepper and seasonings on all sides. Cover with foil (remove for the last 30 minutes)
- Place turkey in the oven and cook according to the chart below or until reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- When done, allow the turkey to rest for 20 to 30 minutes prior to carving.
We do not baste throughout , covering with foil helps to keep the turkey moist by trapping the steam inside and the brine has done it's job.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 180Total Fat: 6gNet Carbohydrates: 1g
Owner & Lead Recipe Developer for It's Simple! since 2015, where you will find our best Family Favorites & Keto Low Carb Dishes with Helpful Cooking Tips & Hints in each post. Many Thanks for Stopping By, Enjoy!