It’s turkey time! In addition to being one of the staples of the holidays, turkey is a supremely versatile protein. It’s super lean, inexpensive, and rich in nutrients.
To help you get a turkey leg up on the season, here are some essential ways to tackle the whole bird painlessly — along with some of our favorite superstar turkey recipes.
There are a few things you need to do before you start cooking:
Feeding a crowd? Wow ’em with this no-fuss oven-baked turkey simply seasoned with oil, salt, and pepper. Best of all, this recipe is suitable for an air fryer or a grill too (and we’ve got the deets on all of them)!
To cook a turkey in 2 hours, you’ll need a spicy-hot oven and smallish bird. Many turkey-in-a-hurry recipes online (including this one) are loosely based on a recipe by the OG (Original Gourmet) herself, Julia Child.
Quick-fast roast turkey
- 1 (12-pound) turkey
- At least 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Prepared stuffing or chopped veggies like onion and carrots (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Place thawed, rinsed, and dried turkey on a roasting pan and brush the outside with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can salt and pepper the inside cavity too (and while you’re in there, double-check that you removed the gut-bag).
- If adding veggies or stuffing, put them in inner cavity of turkey now. Keep in mind that these additions can increase the cooking time by 30 minutes to 1 hour (or more, if you’re a particularly enthusiastic and thorough turkey stuffer).
- Pour about 1 cup water into the roasting pan.
- Roast turkey, uncovered, for 1 hour, then baste it with more oil and return it to oven. If the outside is getting too brown, cover it with aluminum foil. Add more water to the pan if needed.
- Roast in 30-minute increments from this point forward, until a meat thermometer registers 165°F (74°C) in the thigh and any veggies or stuffing are fully cooked.
- Let turkey rest for 10–15 minutes before carving.
For a more traditional and perhaps less frantic turkey-roasting experience, you can take the classic route of a lower temp (about 350°F/177°C) and a longer cooking time, easily 3 hours or longer for a 12-pounder (and even longer if it’s stuffed).
You’ll want to baste regularly with oil, and you can tent the turkey with aluminum foil if the outside is cooking too quickly. The same temperature guidelines apply here. See our tips below for keeping your gobbler from getting dry.
Luckily, the air fryer’s got you! Not only does an air-fried turkey have that same tender, fall-apart meat and crispy skin, it’s also way healthier and, um, less dangerous.
Now, your standard countertop air fryer won’t be able to handle this job. You’ll need one that’s made for big birds.
Most small turkeys can cook in a larger air fryer as quickly as 10 minutes per pound, with the same prep work detailed above for a roasted turkey. The downside? This isn’t the route you wanna go if you plan to stuff your turkey.
Are you a budding grill master? With the right tools and a large enough grill, you can actually grill a whole turkey to smoky perfection. Now that’s something to be thankful for.
You’ll need a large gas-powered grill (charcoal is too difficult to keep evenly hot for long periods of time). And, as with our quick-roasted turkey, you’ll want high heat (about 450°F/230°C) and you’ll definitely want to keep some water in the roasting pan to prevent scorching.
It’s hard to guesstimate cooking time because outdoor grilling will be profoundly affected by the temp. If it’s frigid out, your bird is gonna take a bit longer. Opening the grill lid to check on it regularly will also slow it down, so try to keep that to a minimum.
Plan on at least 2 1/2 hours, and make sure it reaches the correct internal temp of 165°F (74°C). Although grilling a stuffed turkey isn’t really advised, you can’t go wrong filling that turkey butt with aromatics like garlic, onion, and rosemary.
If you’re looking for something a little different from the basic options above, here are five of our favorite highly rated turkey recipes that will have your Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving guests raving (or make your weekly meal prep a total cinch)!