5 Ways To Prepare Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Nov 6, 2023

how to prepare your turkey

It seems like there are a million ways to dress and cook a turkey.

And whether you’re a seasoned chef or a first-time Thanksgiving host, we all want the same thing: juicy, flavorful meat with golden, crispy skin.

From spatchcocking and smoking to deep-frying and more, this quick, comprehensive guide will show you our top five go-to techniques, outlining why they work and what you need to pull them off.

Don’t let Thanksgiving catch you by surprise! Check out our Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide for tips and tricks from our chefs to ensure the big day goes off without a hitch!

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how to spatchcock a turkey


Spatchcocking (or butterflying) your turkey is a great way to make sure you get an even cook and golden-brown, crispy skin—in half the time.

To start, you’ll want to use a quality knife to remove the backbone, allowing you to flatten the turkey. Once it’s flattened, season it with your choice of herbs and spices and roast until your turkey reaches the desired internal temperature.

Since the entirety of the skin and meat are exposed to even heat, you won’t end up with dry breast meat—everything will be perfectly juicy.

how to deep fry a turkey


With the right equipment, safety measures and a thawed, brined, patted-dry turkey—anyone can try their hand at deep-frying. Not only will it slash your cooking time in half, but it’ll free the oven for sides.

You’ll want to heat your deep fryer (or large capacity, stainless steel stockpot) and oil to 350–375°F. Then, gently lower the turkey into the hot oil and cook until it turns a beautiful golden hue. A 12–14-pound turkey typically takes 36–52 minutes.

To ensure it’s perfectly cooked, employ a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. When it reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and 175°F in the thigh, your turkey’s done! Then, lift the turkey out of the pot or fryer and allow the excess oil to drain for a few minutes.

Last but not least, place the fried turkey on a clean surface or cutting board, and let it rest for about 20–30 minutes before carving.

how to smoke a turkey


There’s only one way to get that irresistible smoky flavor, and that’s by smoking your turkey.

Start by seasoning the turkey with a dry rub or brine to enhance the taste. When it comes to equipment, the Nordic Ware Stovetop Kettle Smoker is an excellent choice if you have a smaller bird and want to free up the oven. Or if you have a smoker, simply preheat and prepare it with your chosen wood chips for that authentic smoky aroma.

You’ll want to smoke the turkey at a low temperature until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Your turkey may take up to 12 hours to cook, but the flavor will be worth it.

how to cook a turkey in parts


Here’s the problem with turkey: anything above 145°F is going to give you dry white meat. But dark meat has to be cooked to at least 165°F. How do you cook one bird to two different temperatures? You can’t. So, roasting your turkey in parts is a clever way make sure everything from the breast to the legs cooks evenly.

Start by breaking the turkey into parts: breasts, thighs, wings and legs. Use a quality chef’s knife when you do this.

Season the parts individually and place them in separate roasting pans in a 275°F oven. Pull out each of the separate parts when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. After that, crank the oven up to 500°F and pop everything back in to crisp up the skin. Roasting in parts should take less than 2 hours for a 12–15-pound turkey—a huge time saver compared to more traditional methods.

Once everything’s cooked to perfection, you can either serve the parts individually or reassemble them for a more creative presentation.

how to roast a turkey


All these aside, roasting your turkey whole is a trusted method whether you’re a beginner or seasoned chef. Regardless of turkey size, brine or no brine, free-range or frozen—the choice is yours.

Cooking times will vary, but the technique will be the same.

You’ll start by seasoning the entire bird with your choice of herbs and spices. Use a quality roasting pan with a rack to make sure everything cooks evenly. As it roasts, baste the turkey to keep it moist and monitor the internal temperature using a reliable thermometer. Then pull the turkey out of the oven, grab a good cutting board, and let it rest for about 15 minutes before you start carving.


How long should you cook the turkey? 

13 minutes per pound if roasting empty and 15 minutes per pound if stuffed.

What temperature should you cook the turkey? 

Preheat the oven to 450°F then drop the temperature to 350°F about an hour after putting the turkey in the oven.

What temperature should the turkey be cooked to? 
A minimum of 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.

How long does the turkey need to rest? 

At least 15 minutes before carving.


No matter what cooking method you choose—with the right guidance and tools at your disposal, we have no doubt your turkey will turn out perfect: crispy skin, tender meat and well-seasoned.

Don’t let Thanksgiving catch you by surprise! Check out our Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide for tips and tricks from our chefs to ensure the big day goes off without a hitch!

Read More

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