Essential Turkey Tips Every Home Cook Should Know

Roasting a bird for the first time? Master these basics from our Global Meat Buyer to pull it off every year.

Raw turkey with herbs in roasting pan

There’s no better feeling at Thanksgiving than pulling off a perfectly juicy, crispy turkey. But whether it’s your first or fortieth time, cooking the centerpiece of your meal can feel like a big task. Don’t fret — we’ve rounded up top turkey cooking tips from our Global Meat Buyer Theo Weening to help bring extra joy to your table this year.

1. Start with a high-quality bird.

If you’re going to cook the best turkey, you have to start with a high-quality turkey. All of the birds in our Meat department are third-party audited to meet over 100 animal welfare standards. Our birds are also Animal Welfare Certified (except kosher turkey). And, like all meat and poultry in the department, the animals must be raised with no antibiotics ever, and no animal by-products in feed. We know our suppliers; we know how they raise their turkeys.

For more information about types of turkey and how much to buy, check out our Turkey Buying Guide.

2. Dry brine for more flavor.

What’s the secret to a juicy, crispy bird? Dry brining. This simple technique involves rubbing salt, sugar and seasonings directly onto the turkey skin and meat. It’s different from wet brining, which involves soaking meat in a solution of water, salt and seasonings. It also takes up much less space and causes half the mess. Try our Herby Dry Brined Turkey to get started.

How to Dry Brine Turkey

3. Know the signs of a perfectly cooked bird.

How do you know when your turkey is cooked? I recommend placing an instant-read meat thermometer in the meatiest part of the leg — just make sure you don’t hit the bone, or you’ll get an artificially high reading. If the thermometer registers 165°F, your turkey is perfectly cooked.

4. Don’t forget to rest!

I know — it’s tempting to slice into your beautifully roasted bird the moment it comes out the oven. However, doing so can mean the difference between tender, juicy meat and dry, overcooked meat. Allow your turkey to rest (covered) after cooking for about 30 minutes. This redistributes the juices and makes for smooth carving.

5. Present your platter proudly.

At last, time to present your bird. Carving a beautiful turkey takes practice, but it’s well-worth the effort. Check out Guide to Carving Turkey to master the technique. (Pro tip: To get familiar with where to make your cuts, try practicing on a whole chicken.) After carving, put breast meat slices in the middle with the drumsticks together to one side and the thigh meat together on the other. Then, at each end of the platter, place one wing. Finally … eat it, of course.

6. Store leftovers with care.

Turkey leftovers generally should be good for 3 – 4 days in the fridge or for 3 – 6 months in the freezer. To store, divide the meat into smaller portions and refrigerate in covered containers. Enjoy within three to four days. You can also freeze leftover turkey — remove the bones first and try to use within two to six months for the best quality. For more tips on safely thawing, cooking and storing turkey, check out the USDA’s Food Safety Guide for Turkey.

You've got the turkey down. What about the side dishes and desserts? Our holiday catering has got you. Here are several different ways to order and stock up:

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