How to Bake a Turkey

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How to Bake a Turkey

There are literally hundreds of ways to cook a turkey. If you are new to cooking this holiday staple, take heart; baking a turkey is a fairly simple endeavor, and it is pretty difficult to ruin the final result if you follow the directions given below carefully.

What You Will Need

  • One 12 lb turkey
  • One stalk celery
  • One onion
  • Four cloves of crushed garlic
  • One stick of butter, sliced
  • One cup water or chicken broth
  • One tsp fresh ground pepper
  • One tsp salt (optional)
  • Half tsp celery seed
  • Half tsp paprika
  • Half tsp. onion powder
  • Vegetable oil
  • One roasting pan
  • Tin foil

Step 1: Getting Started

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Gently wash the turkey and the cavity with warm water, and pat it dry. Put the turkey in a roasting pan. Gently lift the skin of the turkey and place the pats of butter under the skin, ensuring you deposit some in the thighs and legs too.

Step 2: Seasoning

Rub the outside of the turkey with vegetable oil and the crushed garlic. Season the outside of the turkey with celery seed, paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper.

Step 3: Preparing For The Oven

Peel and quarter the onion. This will allow people who don’t like onion bits in the gravy to remove the onion easily once the turkey is cooked. Place the onion pieces around the turkey. Cut the celery stalk in half, and place it in the cavity of the turkey along with one piece of the onion and a pat of butter. Tie or skewer the legs so that the turkey retains its shape during cooking.

Step 4: Final Touches

Pour the water or chicken broth into the roasting pan with the onion pieces. You may find your gravy has a better taste when you use chicken broth instead of water, but either will do. Cover the top of the turkey with a tinfoil tent. Place the turkey on the lower shelf of the oven.

Step 5: While Your Turkey Bakes

While the turkey is cooking, frequently baste the turkey with the juices. During the last 30 to 45 minutes of baking, remove the tin foil tent so that the skin will brown nice and crisp.

Step 6: Cooking Time

A good rule of thumb when you are baking turkey is to cook it for 20 minutes per pound. So, a 12 lb turkey should be cooked for approximately 4 hours. Use an internal thermometer in the deepest part of the turkey; when the temperature reaches 180°F, your turkey should be done.

Stuffing The Turkey

Although Americans cooked their turkey stuffed in the past, we now know that the risk of food poisoning is great. It is recommended that you cook your stuffing in a separate pan and put it in the oven during the last 20 to 30 minutes of baking your turkey. For those who insist on stuffing their turkey, add 5 minutes per pound for cooking time. Place it loosely in the cavity and don’t overstuff.

We have two more recipes for stuffing: a basic turkey stuffing that allows for variations (Tips on how to make turkey stuffing), and an oyster version for seafood lovers (Learn how to make oyster turkey stuffing).

A Family Tradition for Centuries

Making a holiday turkey has been a tradition in the United States since the pilgrims first broke bread with the Indians. Turkey is delicious when it is cooked properly, and the savory smell that fills the house is delectable. Nothing calls forth the holidays like the scent of turkey slowly baking in the oven.


Some people would argue that the best part of a turkey dinner are the leftovers for days afterwards. Not sure what to do with them all? Check out this website for ideas for your turkey leftovers.

Turkey Baking Image Gallery