Best Ways to Prep a Turkey

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Want to “wow” your family and friends with a knock-out feast featuring a freshly roasted turkey? Before you think you’ve gotten in over your head, know that it's easier than you think to get your bird prepped. We've put together a few helpful basics that will lead to one tasty turkey, from brining to removing the innards (don't want to forget this step!). Let's get started.

(Image: Getty)

Tip

  • It is recommended that you wear disposable, food-handling gloves when working with raw turkey.

1. Defrosting the Turkey

There are a number of ways to properly defrost a turkey, but the safest way we recommend is thawing it inside the fridge to prevent any bacteria growth. Plan to thaw the turkey for 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. If you’re pressed for time, you can also do a cold water soak or on the counter, as long as the surrounding temperature remains below 40 F.

Defrosting the turkey completely is important to ensure even cooking.
Defrosting the turkey completely is important to ensure even cooking. (Image: Scott Miller/Demand Media)

2. Removing the Turkey Neck and Giblets

After you’ve safely thawed the turkey, it’s time to set aside the turkey neck and giblets. This task should be fairly easy to do since the bird is no longer frozen, and the innards are usually neatly packed in a pouch inside the bird’s main cavity. You can either toss the giblets or save them to cook a traditional Thanksgiving gravy.

The giblets include the turkey liver, gizzard and heart, and are traditionally used to make turkey gravy.
The giblets include the turkey liver, gizzard and heart, and are traditionally used to make turkey gravy. (Image: Scott Miller/Demand Media)

3. Brining the Turkey in the Refrigerator

Brining the turkey before roasting ensures a juicy and flavorful finished product. All it takes is some kosher salt, sugar, water and your choice of herbs. It’s a very simple process, but be sure to reserve eight hours of brining time in the refrigerator before popping the bird into the oven.

Brining the turkey for hours seals in a savory flavor that's enhanced during baking.
Brining the turkey for hours seals in a savory flavor that's enhanced during baking. (Image: Scott Miller/Demand Media)

4. Brining the Turkey in an Ice Chest

For an exceptionally moist roasted turkey and to save on refrigerator space, brine your bird inside an ice chest. The brine-filled cooler will fully submerge the turkey at a constantly chilled temperature, ensuring that the meat is absorbing all of the necessary flavors.

Keeping the turkey in an ice chest keeps the environment insulated for even brining.
Keeping the turkey in an ice chest keeps the environment insulated for even brining. (Image: Leigh Green/Demand Media)

5. Preparing the Turkey

With these turkey prep directions, you will find that cooking the poultry from start to finish is much simpler than it looks. All you need are basic cooking skills and time to baste the turkey every 15 to 20 minutes to achieve a savory Thanksgiving bird.

Stuffing the turkey with vegetables while cooking sets off a fragrant and delicious aroma.
Stuffing the turkey with vegetables while cooking sets off a fragrant and delicious aroma. (Image: Kyria Abrahams/Demand Media)

6. Inject Turkey Marinade

Injecting raw turkey with marinade takes the turkey’s flavor profile to the next level. Penetrating the meat with this fragrant and tangy mixture will result in masterfully flavored and succulent turkey meat that will be far from dry.

Keep the turkey meat moist and flavorful by injecting a marinade into the meat.
Keep the turkey meat moist and flavorful by injecting a marinade into the meat. (Image: Amy Morris/Demand Media)

7. Trussing the Turkey

While it’s not necessary, trussing a turkey right before cooking will help the turkey cook evenly and make for an presentable Thanksgiving centerpiece. The steps vary slightly between trussing a stuffed and unstuffed bird, so make sure to follow the appropriate steps depending on what type of turkey you prepare.

Remove the twine before carving for an attractive and presentable Thanksgiving turkey.
Remove the twine before carving for an attractive and presentable Thanksgiving turkey. (Image: Scott Miller/Demand Media)

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