plan for people.

I generally plan for about 1 lb of turkey per person. If you have big eaters, plan for 1.5 lbs of turkey per person. It’s always better to have leftovers than not enough turkey! 

Thanksgiving Turkey

when to buy the turkey.

Buy your turkey at least 5-7 days before Thanksgiving. You can purchase it much earlier than that and just keep it in your fridge. Your turkey will take about 1 day for every 4 lbs to thaw in the fridge. If you have an 8lb turkey, it will only take about 2 days. If you have a 20lb turkey, it will take about 5 days to thaw. So plan accordingly! 

Thanksgiving Turkey

not straight from the fridge.

Let your turkey sit at room temperature for about 1 hour before putting it in the oven. A chilled turkey will take longer to cook and will cook unevenly! So pull it out of the fridge and let is sit there to warm up for a bit.

dry & season.

Dry your turkey, just with paper towels, outside and inside. This will help the seasoning stick to the turkey and it will help you get that crispy skin. You also want to season (outside AND inside) with salt and pepper. I like to mix the salt and pepper into some butter and spread that all over my turkey. Perfection.

Thanksgiving Turkey

to stuff, or not to stuff.

I tend to not stuff my turkey because it takes longer to cook, and it’s one more thing for me to worry about. If you do stuff your turkey, just make sure the stuffing is completely cooked through to a temperature for 165. Also, don’t stuff it SUPER full, just lightly stuff it. The more stuffing you pack in there, the longer it will take to cook.

to baste, or not to baste.

I say – don’t baste! It makes the skin soggy instead of crisp, it changes the temperature in the oven when you keep opening it to baste, and it is just one more step! Your turkey will be just as delicious, and just as juicy if you don’t baste it. 

Thanksgiving Turkey

toss the pop up timer.

Those popup timers usually result in extra dry turkeys. Instead, use your own instant read thermometer. About 30 minutes before your turkey is supposed to be done, start taking the temperature of your turkey. I like to test the front of the thigh, the back of the thigh, and the breast on both sides. Each one should read at least 170 degrees. This will result in a much juicer turkey than relying on your popup timer.

Thanksgiving Turkey

cook time.

You want to estimate cooking the turkey at about 15 minutes per pound. Mine seem to take a little bit less time than that, more like 12 minutes per pound. So just check the temperature when the time gets close!


Rest your turkey for at least 30 minutes after it is roasted and before you carve it. That means, you have to plan for it to be finished before your scheduled eating time!



Simple Thanksgiving Turkey

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Print Recipe


  • 1 frozen turkey
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • fresh herbs (optional)
  • onion chunks (optional)
  • apple chunks (optional)


  • Purchase a turkey based on how many people you are serving (about 1 lb turkey per person), and thaw it in the fridge (about 1 day for every 4 lbs).
  • The morning you are going to cook the turkey, take it out of the packaging, remove the neck and giblets, and place in your roasting pan. Let sit for 1 hour.
  • Using paper towels, dry the turkey both inside and out.
  • Mix together butter, salt, and pepper. Rub the turkey, inside and out, with the butter mixture. You can also add fresh herbs to this mixture if you have them.
  • If you have them on hand, place a few onion chucks, apple chunks, and fresh herbs into the cavity of the turkey.
  • Cook the turkey according to the size (about 15 minute per lb). The turkey is done when it reaches 170 degrees (in the thickest part of the thigh and the breast).
  • Let turkey sit for 30-60 minutes before carving.

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