Best Way to Cook a Turkey

My husband found a recipe on where the write swears he has the best way to cook a turkey ever. The turkey recipe is by Harold McGee, the author of  On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of The Kitchen.

I am used to cooking turkey in a turkey oven bag, but am always up for trying a new recipe. My family came over for an early Thanksgiving feast last Saturday. After cooking turkey this way, I have to say it is the best way to cook a turkey. The turkey was moist, tender, juicy, and just so delicious. Everyone raved about it and had seconds!

Ingredients for Best Way to Cook a Turkey

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, trimmed, neck, giblets, and tailpiece removed and reserved for gravy
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 onions, chopped coarse
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup water, plus extra as needed

Directions for the Best Way to Cook a Turkey


  1. Dissolve 1 cup salt in 2 gallons cold water in large container. Submerge turkey in brine, cover, and refrigerate or store in 40 degrees or less area for 6 to 12 hours.
    • I had a 20lb turkey, so I used almost 1-1/2 cups of salt. I used a new, cleaned plastic tub to submerge my turkey. Since it was cold outside, I covered it with foil and put it outside for 8 hours.
    1. picture of Using salt water to brine Turkey
      Using salt water to brine Turkey
  2. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Put turkey on rack, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  4.  Line V-rack with heavy-duty aluminum foil and poke several holes in foil. Set V-rack in roasting pan and spray foil with vegetable oil spray.
    1. I didn’t have a “V-rack”, so I used another small metal rack, it allowed the turkey to be lifted off the bottom of pan at one end of the turkey – it seemed to work just fine.
  5. Chop vegetables.  Mix  thyme and half of vegetables with 1 tablespoon melted butter in bowl. Stuff turkey.
    1. picture of Stuff turkey with vegetables and thyme
      Stuff turkey with vegetables and thyme
  6. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Tuck wings behind back.
  7. Put leftover vegetables in bottom of pan. Pour water over vegetables in pan.
  8. Brush turkey breast with 2 tablespoon melted butter. Place turkey breast side down on V-rack.
  9. Roast turkey for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and baste turkey with juices from pan.
    1. picture of Basting Turkey
      Basting Turkey
  10. Turn turkey wing side up. Easier said than done with a 20lb turkey. They recommended using a bunch of paper towels but I found better luck with dish cloths.  As you see in picture below, I tore part of the meat away from the wing trying to use the paper towels, the dish cloths worked much better!
    1. picture of Roasting Turkey Wing Side Up
      Roasting Turkey Wing Side Up
  11. Add another 1/2 cup water, if needed. Return turkey to oven and roast for another 15 minutes.
  12. Remove turkey from oven, baste, and rotate so that other wing side is up; roast for another 15 minutes.
  13. Remove turkey from oven, baste, and turn it breast side up. I ended up putting foil sprayed with cooking spray lightly on top of the turkey breast at this point because it was getting too brown for my liking.
  14. Roast until breast registers 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 30 to 45 minutes for 14 lb turkey. It took another 45 minutes extra for my 20 lb turkey. Just keep an eye on it. I use the TempFork.
  15. Remove turkey from oven. Gently tip turkey to drain any juices inside.
    • picture of Best Way to Cook a Turkey
      Best Way to Cook a Turkey
  16. Let rest, uncovered for 30 minutes on cutting board.
  17. Carve
picture of Carving Roasted Turkey
Carving Roasted Turkey
picture of Best Roasted Turkey Recipe
Best Roasted Turkey Recipe

This was the best roasted turkey recipe I have ever tried. We will do it again soon, probably for Christmas! It did take a little more time since we had to turn the turkey 3 times, but it was worth it!

I plan to check out more recipes from Harold McGee.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Founder and Lead Blogger at Akron Ohio Moms
Cindy is the top Akron Blogger with her own take on awesome brands for families, where to vacation for families, a beat on local activities and family fun, a knack for getting moms to share , and a house that is always 2 weeks away from a complete remodel!
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