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The juiciest Thanksgiving turkey

written by Hans Eisenman
11 · 27 · 21

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Info: these notes have been refined from cooking “the best” (per my kids), juicy, buttery turkey ever. Turkey can be super dry and boring. (Deep fry recipes are probably a response to that fact.) I seem to have fixed that with the help of Trader Joe’s on-turkey recipe and some refining thanks to the legendary Alton Brown.

Calculating approximate cooking time by weight

It can be helpful to know roughly how long it’s going to take to cook your turkey based on its weight (even though you’re going to use temp as the final judgement on when to pull it out of the oven).

There are two ways I have found this helpful:

  1. Planning your day and knowing when to tell folks dinner will probably be ready
  2. As a cross-check against your temperature reading. If it should take a 20 pound turkey 4.5 hours to cook, and in 3.5 hours your thermo is telling you it’s at 160 degrees, you almost certainly have your thermo in the wrong place.

It’s a HUGE pain to take a turkey out too soon, find out it’s still rare in some spots while carving, and then have to carve it and cook each part some more based on how done those parts look–trust me.

So use a weight-time calculator like this one at the Food Network to know roughly what to expect. I have found them to be pretty on the money give or take about 30 mins in my experience.


  • Remove neck and gizzards from turkey cavity
  • Stuff with herbs
    • Don’t put stuffing in bird (watch Cooking Perfect Turkey Pt 1 to see why,  if you haven’t already-4 mins)
    • Use herbs and stuff instead (I skipped over that part this year–already had stuffing in it)
  • Then truss the turkey if needed
  • Then prep turkey with butter
    • Loosen skin by sliding fingers under the turkey breast and working down to the thigh.
  • Cut butter [I use Kerrygold’s from Costco] into pats and carefully push under skin; gently massage in.
  • Rub butter all over skin and interior of bird.
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning of choice.
  • Set remainder of butter aside and and baste bird.
  • Tuck wing tips under shoulders and tie legs together with kitchen twine if needed (if not already trussed somehow), make sure to tuck skin flap in before tying legs.
  • IMPORTANT: Make a aluminum foil triangle before putting bird in oven per this video:
    • Make it so it only covers the breast and not the legs
    • Why:
      • Makes dark meat at 180 while
      • White meat stays at 160 (and this is where your thermo is)
    • Don’t forget to grease triangle up so it doesn’t stick!

Cooking steps

  • Preheat oven to 500 deg F
  • Make sure you have your thermometer placed in the deepest part of the breast, avoiding bones. Alton describes this pretty well here:
  • Cook 30 mins at 500 deg F to brown
  • Apply Triangle
  • Reduce often to 350 deg F
  • Cook until:
  • Internal temp of 161 deg F throughout the bird
    • Note: I use a chef’s hand thermometer to poke around the breast (nice and deep) to find any areas which are not yet 160 deg.
    • If I find any, I reposition my digital meat thermo to that spot if possible
      • You’ll know when you’re there when the temp starts dropping
  • Then cook a bit more until that spot is 160
  • Remove bird when done
  • Rest (30 min typically)
  • Carve
  • Eat
  • Nap!

Hans Eisenman

Husband, father, nerd and more or less in that order. I love tech, especially tools that will help me get more done in less time. Everything I talk about, I've tried (or will state I haven't). Current obsession: the FEDIVERSE.

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