How To Bake a Turkey - Complete cooking instructions.

Community Help: Turkey Baking Instructions! - Help on how to bake a Thanksgiving turkey

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First off, turkey baking is always based on the size of the turkey. Look at the label on the turkey as this will tell you the number of pounds (lbs) of your turkey, you will use this information for determining how long to bake it.

The first thing you do is get a turkey pan, thats one of those large tin foil looking pans which you will bake the turkey in, which will also keep all the juice pooled in as it cooks. Usually they are just a buck or two to purchase (but be carefull you dont poke a hole in it, see my recommendation below about buying a good reusable turkey pan instead). Also buy the "turkey bags" if you are using a foil pan, which are cooking bags and usually come 2 in a box, so you can use one this year and one next year. This really helps it cook faster and also keeps in the moisture making a juicy turkey. I would strongly recommend using this but you don't have to.

Next, take the wrapping off your turkey (thaw the turkey out of course first, or buy a thawed one which is what I do, otherwise its hard to work with and will take longer to cook), and put it breast side up in the turkey pan. Remove the package from both the neck side and back side, you will have a package in each end. One is the turkey neck and one is the gizzard/liver. If there is plastic on either, remove it, normally just the neck has the plastic to remove and the gizzard has a paper wrap that you can leave on.

Now you are ready to prepare it, many like to marinade the turkey before putting it in the turkey cooking bag, I usually just shake alot of salt, pepper, and red pepper or cajun pepper all over it and rub it in the skin good. Many recommend brushing the turkey with oil also to help keep it moist, however the turkey bag already works great for this. I then throw the neck and gizzard pack in the bag also so it sits at the bottom of the pan, and I usually throw some onion, celery and potato's (all sliced very thick) in the bag also. Close the bag and cut 6 small 1/2 inch cuts in the top to let the steam vent when it cooks.

Now you are set to go, you can also stuff it of course with dressing like many do. Note that you can throw any vegetables in the bag you want, maybe carrots or maybe even jalopena's or other things you may like. Just make sure they are sliced thick because they will be baking way more then enough.

How long do I bake a turkey?
Set the oven to 325, and if your turkey was 12 to 16 lbs, cook between 3 hours and 3.5 hours. If your turkey is 16 to 20 lbs, bake 3.5 to 4 hours. If your turkey is between 20 and 24 lbs, bake 4 to 4.5 hours. These times can vary by a half hour, based on your oven. Note that some instructions say bake at 350 for less amounts of time, however its well known that the turkey is much juicier annd seems to cook better if you cook it longer and use 325 on the oven instead of 350. These are the basics for an unstuffed turkey, if the turkey is also stuffed then simply add 1/2 hour to each of the times above as that makes it take a little longer. I usually prefer to get a turkey that has the thermometer that comes already inserted in some of the turkey's, this also makes it much easier as you just wait for that thermometer to pop out, then you know to take it out earlier or let it go a little longer. This is a great thing, you always know how long to bake a turkey this way, but be sure to place the turkey in the oven so the thermometer is facing you, making it easy to view it when it pops up. See information at bottom, a full turkey pan and thermometer are 2 things that have made turkey cooking so much easier.

How to marinade the turkey before baking?
Note that there are no set rules on what to add to it or how to marinade turkey or turkey breasts, you may want to rub in tobasco, italian spice, or any other types of spices or marinade you may like. Some turkey marinading ideas? Salt, pepper, red pepper, cajun pepper, tobasco, onion power, garlic powder, italian spice, oregano, or even celery salt. You can throw sliced vegetables in the bag like carrots, onions, potatos, celery, garlic, green peppers, tobasco peppers, or even layer fruit on top of the turkey like sliced pineapple. Sliced pineapple is also very easy as you can get canned sliced pineapple almost anywhere. I prefer to keep it basic before cooking and just throw in vegetables, and then add spices later when done as this is when the flavor is best for me, but feel free to experiment for your own taste.


Baking turkey in a pan? Should I use a turkey pan?
One other important thing I would suggest is that if you plan on cooking a turkey many times in the years ahead, I would spend the money and buy a turkey pan. See my turkey pan here. If you look online they all sell many different types of them at amazon.com, walmart.com, target.com, etc. These work great and will save you the trouble of buying the foil pans and bags every year as mentioned above, as the turkey pan with lid keeps all the moisture in and those bags aren't needed anymore either. They also make it far easier to lift the turkey out of the oven and you wont have to worry about accidently puncturing the turkey foil pan, tipping the foil pan or spilling it, or anything like that. Well worth it and it will last a lifetime. I would recommend getting the biggest one that will fit in your oven, and I also recommend making sure it has handles on the side. You should check the measurements from handle to handle and also bottom to top of lid to make sure it fits your oven (most are made to fit of course but always check to be sure). If you get the biggest turkey pan then you can use it not only for large turkeys, but even smaller turkey and can still put lots of vegetables in with it etc. You could even use it for other things like duck, ham, or chicken in the future. The turkey pan that I bought online is called "Granite Ware". It has the lid and handles and I really like it. Its great because its strong and deep, so it holds the turkey juice well and has a high lid so big turkeys can fit in it. The handles on the side make it easy to move the turkey in and out of the over, it really works well. Always remember to set the turkey in the pan breast side up, and get a turkey with thermometer in it! It always tells you when cooked all the way through. Make sure the thermometer in the breast faces closest to your oven door, because you will need to use the hot pad glove to lift the lid briefly to check it, so make it easy for yourself so you can quickly lift the lid and see if the thermometer has popped up yet. Enjoy your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey! :-)