How to Cook a Turkey: 11 Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

cook-turkey-thanksgiving-recipesOne of fall’s favorite traditions is coming up: Thanksgiving! It’s a great opportunity to showcase your special family traditions and famous recipes. However, you can never forget about the star of the meal: the turkey! To help you make the perfect dish that your guests will gobble right down, here is how-to guide on the 15 best Thanksgiving turkey recipes:

1. Apple Roast Turkey

This recipe combines the amazing and warm flavor of apple to your roasted turkey and adds a tasty fall spin! What you’ll need is a whole turkey with the neck and giblets removed, ½ a cup of cubed butter, 1 cup of chopped celery, 1 ½ cups of toasted bread cubes, ¼ cup of chopped onions, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 2 cored and halved apples, 2 cups of apple juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Then, carefully loosen your turkey skin on its breast by gently sliding your hand in between the skin and the turkey. Place the pieces of butter in between the skin and the breast.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the celery, bread cubes, and onions and season the mixture with the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Use this mixture to stuff into the cavity of your turkey and place the apples halves in with it as well.

Put the turkey into a roasting bag and pour the 2 cups of apple juice over both the outside and the inside of the turkey. Next, close the bag and place your turkey into a large roasting pan with the breast side up. Bake the turkey for about 3 to 3 ½ hours, or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (measure this at the meatiest part of the thigh).

Remove the turkey from the bag and transfer to a serving platter. Let stand for about 20 minutes and serve!

2. Buttery Roast Turkey and Gravy

Don’t believe the idea that you need to be a master chef to achieve a juicy turkey – using butter is one of the best tricks for a juicy turkey! For this recipe, you’ll need 1 whole turkey with the neck and giblets taken out and saved, 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped ribs of celery, 2 chopped carrots, 3 sprigs of rosemary, ½ bunch of fresh sage, ½ a stick of butter, 1 bay leaf, 6 cups of water (or to enhance flavor, use chicken broth in place of water), 2 tablespoons of turkey fat, 1 tablespoon of butter, ¼ cup of all-purpose flour, 3 cups of turkey pan drippings, ¼ teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of chopped sage, and salt and pepper to taste.

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Mix together the poultry seasoning and salt and pepper into a small bowl. Then, tuck your turkey’s wings under its body, and season the cavity with about 1 tablespoon of the poultry seasoning mix. Put the remaining poultry mix aside. Mix together the onion, celery, and carrots into a bowl. Stuff ½ a cup of the veggie mix, rosemary, and ½ bunch of sage into the cavity then tie the legs together with cooking string. Carefully loosen the skin on top of the turkey breast and place 2 tablespoons of butter under the skin and spread it evenly. Spread the remaining butter over the outside of the skin and sprinkle the remaining poultry seasoning mix on top. Spread the rest of the onion, celery, and carrots into a large roasting pan and place the turkey on top of it. Fill the pan with ½ inch of water and place a sheet of aluminum foil over the turkey.

Roast your turkey for about 3 and a half hours, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F, and remove the foil during the last hour of cooking while basting it with the pan juices. While your turkey is cooking, make the stock. Place the neck, heart, and gizzards into a pan with the bay leaf and water. Simmer them over medium heat for about 2 hours. Strain the turkey giblets from the stock and remove the giblets, then there should be at least 4 cups of stock. Take the turkey out of the oven and cover it with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil. Allow the turkey to rest in a warmer or warm area for about 10 to 15 minutes before you start the slicing.

Pour the pan juices into a saucepan and set it aside. Scrape the turkey fat from the pan juices, which should be about 2 tablespoons. Heat the turkey fat and 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. Take the onion from the roasting pan and place it into the saucepan. Cook the onion until it’s browned and then stir in the flour. Cook this for about 5 more minutes, then whisk in 4 cups of the turkey stock and pan juices until smooth; make sure to take off any foam. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and simmer until the gravy has thickened. Stir it constantly for about 10 minutes, then place the tablespoon of chopped sage in and season with salt and pepper.

3. Simple Roast Turkey

This recipe is nothing flashy or overwhelming, just a simple and delicious roasted turkey! All you need for this recipe is 1 whole turkey, ½ cup of softened unsalted butter, 1 ½ quarts of turkey stock, 8 cups of prepared stuffing of your liking, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and place the rack on the lowest level of the oven. Take out the turkey neck and the giblets, then rinse and pat dry your turkey with paper towels. Place the turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Lightly fill the cavity with your stuffing. Then rub the outside of the skin with the softened butter and season it with salt and pepper. Arrange a tent of aluminum foil over the turkey. Pour 2 cups of turkey stock into the bottom of the roasting pan and place the turkey into the oven. Every 30 minutes, baste the whole turkey with the juices from the bottom of the pan. If the drippings start to evaporate, then add stock to re-moisten them, about 1 to 2 cups at a time. After 2 ½ hours, remove the aluminum foil. Roast the turkey until you place a meat thermometer into the thigh and it reads 180 degrees F. This should take about 4 hours altogether. Take the turkey out of the oven and let it stand 20-30 minutes before carving!

4. Grilled Turkey

Take a break from the traditional oven-roasted turkey this year and make a tender and juicy grilled turkey! You only need 4 ingredients for this recipe: 1 whole turkey, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste!

Set your grill on medium-high indirect heat to prepare. Rinse your turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Turn the turkey’s wings back to hold its neck skin in place and tuck its legs under the body. Brush your turkey with the vegetable oil and season it with the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper inside and out.

Place the turkey breast side up on a metal rack inside of a roasting pan. Put the pan on the prepared grill and cook for 2 to 3 hours until the internal thigh temperature reaches 180 degrees F. Take the turkey from the grill and let stand 15 minutes before serving!

5. Beginner’s Turkey with Stuffing

If you haven’t made a ton of Thanksgiving turkeys in the past, this easy recipe will help you achieve a delicious turkey with novice skills! You’ll need one 12 pound whole turkey, one 6 ounce package of dry bread stuffing mix, 1 cup of water (if you want to add more flavor, use chicken stock instead of water), 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 cup of chopped celery, 1/3 cup of chopped yellow onions, 4 slices of toasted white bread ripped into small pieces, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Then, rinse your turkey, remove the giblets and place it into a roasting pan. Make the stuffing according to the directions on the package and mix in your water or chicken stock. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and then stir in the celery and onions until cooked and tender. Toss in the celery, onion, and toasted bread pieces into the stuffing and then season it with salt and pepper. Stuff the body cavity with the stuffing and then rub the outside of the turkey with vegetable oil.

Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and roast for about 3 ½ to 4 hours, or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F on a meat thermometer. Take off the foil during the last half an hour of cooking so the turkey gets nice and brown!

6. Deep Fried Cajun Turkey

Mix it up and add some Cajun flair to your Thanksgiving meal! All you need for this recipe is 1 whole turkey with the neck and giblets removed, 3 gallons of peanut oil for frying, ¼ cup of Creole seasoning, and 1 white onion.

In a turkey fryer or large stockpot, pour in the peanut oil and heat it until it reaches 400 degrees F. Make sure you don’t let the oil spill over by leaving room for the turkey. Place a layer of food-safe paper bags on a large platter. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Then rub the Creole seasoning all of the turkey and on the inside as well. Be sure that the hole at the neck is opened at least 2 inches wide so the oil is able to flow through the turkey.

Place the white onion and the turkey in a drain basket, and make sure the turkey is placed in neck end first. Lower the basket into the hot oil until the turkey is completely covered. Keep the temperature of the oil at 350 degrees F and cook the turkey for about 45 minutes. Once it’s done cooking, carefully take the basket out of the oil and drain the turkey. Place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and make sure it reads 180 degrees F. Finish draining the turkey on the platter with the paper bags and serve!

7. Smoker-Cooked Turkey

This is a great way to put your smoker to use and make a smoky, tender turkey! You’ll need 1 whole turkey with the neck and giblets removed, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt, ½ cup of butter, two 12 fluid ounce cans of a cola-flavored soda, 1 quartered apple, 1 quartered onion, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of black pepper.

Preheat your smoker to 225 to 250 degrees F (using hickory chips or hickory wood creates a great smoky flavor). Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub the garlic over the outside of the turkey and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place the turkey in a disposable roasting pan and fill the cavity with butter, cola, the apple, onion, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.

Cover the turkey with aluminum foil. Smoke the turkey for about 10 hours, or until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F. Baste the turkey with the juices from the bottom of the pan every 1 to 2 hours.

8. Rosemary Turkey

This Rosemary turkey recipe will give your turkey a blast of flavor! All you need is 1 whole turkey, ¾ cups of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary, 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of black pepper and salt to taste.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Mix the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, basil, Italian seasoning, pepper and salt into a small bowl and set it aside. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with a paper towel and remove any fat deposits. Slowly work your fingers between the breast and the skin to loosen the skin, but be careful not to tear it. Spread a substantial amount of the rosemary mixture under the skin and over the thigh and leg. Rub the remaining rosemary mix over the outside of the breast and use toothpicks to seal the skin over any exposed meat of the breast.

Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and add about ¼ inch of water to the bottom. Cook in the oven for about 3 to 4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F.

9. Maple Roasted Turkey

Add a sweet hint of flavor to your turkey this year by adding the delicious taste of maple. What you’ll need for this is 1 whole turkey with the neck and giblets removed, 2 cups of apple cider, 1/3 cup of real maple syrup, 2 ½ tablespoons of chopped thyme, 2 tablespoons of chopped marjoram, 1 ½ teaspoons of grated lemon zest, ¾ cup of softened butter, 2 cups of chopped onion, 1 ½ cups of chopped celery, 1 ½ cups of chopped carrots, 3 cups of chicken broth, ¼ cup of all-purpose flour, 1 bay leaf, ½ cup of apple brandy, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix the apple cider and maple syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook this until it’s reduced to about ½ a cup then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of thyme, 1 tablespoon of marjoram, and the lemon zest. Mix in the butter until it’s melted and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cover the mixture and refrigerate it until it’s cold.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Keep aside ¼ cup of the maple butter and rub the remaining maple butter under the skin of the breast and on the outside of they turkey. Place the onion, celery, carrots, turkey neck, and giblets around the turkey in the pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thyme and 1 tablespoon of marjoram over the vegetables and pour 2 cups of broth into the bottom. Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees F after the 30 minutes, and cover the entire turkey loosely with foil. Continue to roast the turkey for about 2 ½ hours, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees F on a meat thermometer.

Take the turkey out of the oven and place on a platter to let it stand for 30 minutes. Drain the pan juices into a large measuring cup and remove any excess fat. Add enough chicken broth to the pan juices so it measures about 3 cups and transfer the liquid to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix ¼ a cup of the maple butter and 1/3 a cup of flour until smooth in a small bowl. Whisk the flour and butter mixture into the broth and juices, then stir in the remaining thyme and the bay leaf. Boil this until reduced to the consistency of a sauce, and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes. Mix in the apple brandy and season with salt and pepper!

10. Herb-Glazed Turkey

Add a delicious herb taste to your turkey with this recipe! You’ll need one 16 pound whole turkey with the neck and giblets removed, ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, 1 ½ teaspoon of ground thyme, 1 cup of honey, ½ cup of melted butter, 2 teaspoons of dried sage leaves, 1 tablespoon of minced parsley, and 1 teaspoon of dried basil. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and rinse and dry the turkey. Brush the inside and outside of the turkey with olive oil. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and thyme in a small bowl and sprinkle this mixture over the turkey.

Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and place the turkey in oven to roast for 2 hours. Mix together the honey, melted butter, sage, parsley, basil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a bowl and mix until blended. Remove the turkey and brush the turkey with the honey glaze, then put the turkey back into the oven. Roast the turkey for about 2 more hours, or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees F on a meat thermometer. Continue to glaze the turkey while it cooks. Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and cover it with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil to allow it to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes.

11. Orange-Maple Glazed Turkey

If you’re a fan of citrus tang, this recipe is perfect for you! What you’ll need for this recipe is one 20 pound whole turkey with the neck and giblets removed, 1 teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, ¼ cup of softened butter, 3 tablespoon of chopped thyme, 3 tablespoons of chopped sage, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ cup of orange juice, ½ cup of maple syrup, 1 cup of divided chicken broth, and ½ cup of dry vermouth.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and grease a roasting pan. Mix together the salt and pepper in a bowl and set it aside. In another small bowl, mix together the butter, thyme, and sage. Place the turkey into a roasting pan and carefully separate the skin from the breast through the neck cavity. Spread the butter mixture over the breast and press the skin down on top of it. Brush the outside with the olive oil and sprinkle it with the salt and pepper mix.

Whisk together the orange juice, maple syrup, and half of the chicken broth. Cook the turkey in the oven for about 3 hours, basting it every 30 minutes with the maple syrup mixture. Cook until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees F. Remove the turkey and cover it with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. After the turkey is done resting, place it on a serving platter. Put the roasting pan on a stove and stir in the remainder of the chicken broth with the vermouth. Bring this to a simmer over medium-high heat, then scrape the bottom of the roasting pan to dissolved the browned pieces and simmer over medium-low heat until the gravy gets thick, which should take about 10 minutes. Strain the gravy before serving with the turkey.

Whisk together the orange juice, maple syrup, and half of the chicken broth. Cook the turkey in the oven for about 3 hours, basting it every 30 minutes with the maple syrup mixture. Cook until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees F. Remove the turkey and cover it with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. After the turkey is done resting, place it on a serving platter. Put the roasting pan on a stove and stir in the remainder of the chicken broth with the vermouth. Bring this to a simmer over medium-high heat, then scrape the bottom of the roasting pan to dissolved the browned pieces and simmer over medium-low heat until the gravy gets thick, which should take about 10 minutes. Strain the gravy before serving with the turkey.

About Big R

Bill and Pat Crabtree originated the Illinois Big R Stores in 1964. The first store opened in Watseka, Illinois. To date 18 stores have been opened in central Illinois and northern Indiana.

We have 11 stores in Illinois including Watseka, Gibson City, Danville, Tilton, Pontiac, Morris, Washington, Rochelle, Pekin, Homer Glen and McHenry. Our 7 Indiana stores include Warsaw, Wabash, Crawfordsville, Michigan City, Elkhart, Marion and Rochester. We recently expanded to Northwest Ohio, adding stores in Lima and Findlay (Coming Soon).

The offices and warehouses for Big R remain in Watseka, IL. Joining the company in 1973, Jerry Gibbs now provides family leadership for the company. New generations of the Crabtree family continue to participate in the business.

Farm and Ranch store owners in the western states started the Big R brand name; they chose the name “Big R” to convey the “Ranch” identity. The Big R group is now comprised of 12 independent owners with a growing 75 + stores throughout the U.S. They all are members of Mid-States Distributing Company of St. Paul, MN. The Mid-States Coop has over 600 stores throughout the United States and Canada.