How To Cook A Turkey and Gravy, Without Taking All Day!

How to Cook a Turkey! Chef Jean-Pierre Welcome friends, today we’re diving into how to cook a turkey, complete with a delectable gravy, all within a swift two hours! And this turkey is amazing, I promise.

I know, it sounds too good to be true, but stick with me, and you’ll discover the joys of creating a Thanksgiving masterpiece that’s both mouthwateringly moist and incredibly delicious. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a first-time turkey roaster, this guide on How to Cook a Turkey is designed to simplify your holiday cooking without compromising on taste.

Pro-Tip: How to Cook a Turkey Quickly

How to Cook a Turkey! Chef Jean-PierreWe begin with a 20-pound turkey, the star of our show. The secret? We’re going to debone and cook it flat, a technique that not only cuts down the cooking time but also ensures even cooking and perfect seasoning.

Imagine your turkey, golden and crispy on the outside, yet tender and juicy on the inside, taking center stage on your dinner table. This method is all about making your Thanksgiving less about stress and more about enjoyment – a feast that comes together in just 120 minutes.

Don’t Worry If Your Turkey Is Not A 20-Pounder!

The 2-hour cooking method is adaptable for various turkey sizes, but it’s important to adjust the cooking time accordingly. A smaller turkey (around 10-12 pounds) might cook faster, while a larger one (20-22 pounds) could require the full 2 hours or slightly more. The key is to monitor the turkey’s internal temperature rather than strictly adhering to time.

Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast and thigh. The Internal temperature should reach 165°F. If the turkey is cooking faster than expected, tent it with foil to prevent over-browning. Conversely, if it’s cooking slower, you may need to increase the oven temperature slightly or extend the cooking time.

So, if you’ve ever found yourself intimidated by the daunting task of cooking a whole turkey or worried about dry and bland results, this is the game-changer you’ve been waiting for.

It’s time to roll up your sleeves friends, because we’re about to embark on a turkey-cooking adventure that’s sure to impress! So, let’s get cooking!


How To Cook Turkey

How To Cook Turkey and Gravy in Just 2 Hours!

chef jean pierre 200x200 3Chef Jean-Pierre
Get ready to prepare the ultimate roast turkey that will impress your guests and elevate your holiday feast to the next level. This recipe combines simple yet effective techniques to ensure your turkey is perfectly tender and packed with flavor. Follow these step-by-step instructions for the best results.
4.91 from 11 votes
Course Thanksgiving Recipes, Turkey Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 10 - 12 servings

Recipe Video

Recipe Ingredients

For the Turkey:

  • 1 Turkey(approximately 20 lbs)
  • 8 ounces Butter, softened
  • Salt for dry brining

For the Stock:

  • 1 Turkey Carcass
  • 2 Large onions, chopped
  • 8 to 12 whole Garlic Cloves, peeled
  • 1 bottle of White Wine optional, (Chef used Chardonnay)
  • 4 to 5 sprigs Sage Leaves, whole
  • 4 to 5 sprigs Thyme Leaves, whole
  • 4 lbs Carrots, chopped
  • 1 whole stalk of Celery, chopped
  • 3 quarts Chicken Stock (or as needed to cover bones and vegetables)

For the Gravy:

  • 3 ounces Butter, at room temperature (plus 2 to 3 ounces more at the end)
  • 2 large Shallots
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Fresh Sage chopped
  • ¼ cup All Purpose Flour
  • 4 cups Turkey Stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Recipe Instructions

Prepare the Turkey:

  • Using a boning knife, carefully separate the legs, breasts, and wings from the carcass, as demonstrated in the video.  
  • Place the separated turkey parts on a cookie sheet and generously salt both sides for a dry brine. 
  • Refrigerate them, uncovered, for a minimum of 2 hours if possible.

Preheat Oven to 325°F (162°C)

  • Remove the turkey parts from the fridge and allow them to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before coating the skin side generously with softened butter.
  • Place the dark meat in the Preheated Oven approximately 20 minutes ahead of the breasts.
  • Roast the dark meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 180°F (82°C), while the breast should reach 155°F (68°C).

Make the Stock:

  • In a large stockpot, add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Add the peeled garlic cloves and sauté for a couple more minutes. 
  • Pour in the white wine and let it reduce until about ¼ of the volume remains.
  • Add the fresh herbs, turkey carcass, turkey neck, and giblets to the pot. Add enough chicken stock to cover all the ingredients.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. 
  • Allow it to simmer for at least 2 hours, up to 5 hours if time permits. This will extract maximum flavor from the ingredients.

Prepare the Gravy:

  • In a reduction pan, melt 3 ounces of butter over medium heat.
  • Add the chopped shallots and cook for a minutes until softened. Stir in the chopped fresh sage.
  • Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture to create a soft roux. 
  • Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture to create a soft roux. Slowly pour in the turkey stock, adding one cup at a time and allowing each addition to fully incorporate before adding more.
  • Adjust the amount of stock until you achieve your desired gravy consistency.
  • Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until you are ready to serve.
  • Just before serving, you can add more butter to taste for a rich and velvety finish.

Carve the Perfectly Roasted Turkey and serve it with the delicious homemade Gravy.


    For More Information On How To Cook A Turkey and Some Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas Be Sure Not To Miss These Posts


    10 Frequently Asked Questions About How To Cook A Turkey


    1. How big of a turkey should I buy?

    When planning for Thanksgiving, the size of the turkey is crucial. A general guideline is to allocate about 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. This estimation ensures that there will be enough turkey for everyone on Thanksgiving Day, along with some leftovers, which are always a delight.

    If you know your guests have hearty appetites or you want ample leftovers, consider increasing the amount to about 2 pounds per person. Remember, larger turkeys often have a higher meat-to-bone ratio, so buying a bit extra can be beneficial.

    Additionally, the size of your turkey should also depend on your oven capacity and the size of your roasting pan. A larger bird may require more cooking time, so plan your day accordingly. If you’re hosting a smaller gathering, you might want to consider a turkey breast instead of a whole bird, which can be more manageable and will cook faster.


    2. Best way to thaw a frozen turkey?

    Thawing a frozen turkey requires patience and proper planning. The safest and most recommended method is to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. This slow thawing process ensures that the turkey remains at a safe temperature, reducing the risk of bacterial growth.

    The rule of thumb is to allow about 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey. For example, a 12-pound turkey would need approximately 3 days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.

    During the thawing process, it’s important to keep the turkey in its original packaging and place it in a tray or pan to catch any drips and prevent cross-contamination with other foods in the refrigerator. It’s also advisable to thaw the turkey on the lowest shelf to avoid any drips onto other food items.

    If you’re short on time, you can speed up the thawing process by submerging the turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, but the refrigerator method remains the safest and most reliable.


    3. What if my turkey is still frozen on Thanksgiving morning?

    In case you find your turkey still frozen on Thanksgiving morning, don’t panic. You can speed up the thawing process using the cold water method.

    Remove the turkey from its packaging and place it in a deep sink or large container filled with cold water. The turkey should be completely submerged, and the water should be changed every 30 minutes to ensure it stays cold. This method requires about 30 minutes per pound of turkey, so plan accordingly based on your turkey’s weight. It’s crucial to use cold water for safety reasons, as warm or hot water can cause the outer layers of the turkey to enter the danger zone of temperatures where bacteria can rapidly multiply.

    If you find yourself out of time, it’s possible to cook the turkey from frozen, though it will take approximately 50% longer than a thawed turkey. While not ideal, this can be a lifesaver in a pinch. Remember to remove the giblets and neck as soon as they’re loose enough to do so.


    4. Can I stuff the turkey the night before roasting?

    It’s not safe to stuff a turkey the night before roasting as it can lead to bacterial growth. Instead, prepare your stuffing the night before and store it separately in the refrigerator.

    When you’re ready to cook the turkey, let both the bird and the stuffing sit at room temperature for about an hour before stuffing. This step ensures that they are at a similar temperature, which helps in even cooking.

    When stuffing the turkey, do it just before roasting.


    5. Proper way to stuff a turkey?

    Stuffing a turkey properly is essential for both cooking results and food safety. Begin by preparing your stuffing ahead of time and keeping it refrigerated until ready to use.

    To stuff the turkey, line the cavity with a double layer of cheesecloth, which will help to easily remove the stuffing after cooking. Gently spoon the cold stuffing into the turkey cavity, being careful not to pack it too tightly. This allows room for the stuffing to expand and cook evenly.

    The amount of stuffing should be just enough to fill the cavity without overcrowding it. Overstuffing can lead to uneven cooking of both the turkey and the stuffing, potentially resulting in undercooked portions.

    The stuffing should be loosely inserted, allowing heat to circulate and cook it thoroughly. After stuffing, truss the turkey to keep the shape and ensure even cooking. Remember, the internal temperature of the stuffing must reach 165°F for safe consumption, which can be checked with a food thermometer.


    6. Roasting time and temperature for a turkey?

    The roasting time for a turkey can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the size of the bird, the starting internal temperature, and the accuracy of your oven’s temperature. A general guideline for a turkey roasted at 325°F is about 15 minutes per pound, but this can vary.

    To ensure proper cooking, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the breast and 175°F in the thigh. Avoid relying solely on the color or time to determine doneness, as these can be misleading.

    Factors like brining, the type of roasting pan used, and whether the turkey is stuffed can also affect cooking times. Remember to let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute, resulting in a moister turkey.


    7. How to know when the turkey is done?

    The most reliable method to determine if a turkey is fully cooked is by using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast and the innermost part of the thigh and wing.

    The safe internal temperature for a cooked turkey is 165°F in the breast and 175°F in the thigh. If the turkey is stuffed, the center of the stuffing should also reach 165°F.

    Visual signs like golden-brown skin and clear juices can be indicators, but they are not foolproof. It’s important to use a thermometer to avoid undercooking, which can lead to foodborne illnesses, or overcooking, which can result in a dry turkey.

    Remember that even after you remove the turkey from the oven, its internal temperature can continue to rise a few degrees, so taking it out just as it reaches temperature is often best.


    8. How often should I baste the turkey?

    Basting a turkey is a matter of personal preference and not a necessity. The primary goal in cooking a turkey is to avoid overcooking, which can lead to dryness. If you choose to baste, do so every 30 minutes.

    However, each time the oven door is opened, the oven temperature drops, which can lead to longer cooking times and potentially a drier bird. Instead of basting, consider using a remote digital thermometer to closely monitor the turkey’s internal temperature without opening the oven. This tool can alert you when the turkey reaches the desired temperature.

    Another method to ensure a moist turkey is to brine it before cooking, which helps to lock in moisture. If you decide to baste, use the turkey’s natural juices or a mix of butter and herbs for added flavor.


    9. Can I roast my turkey the day before Thanksgiving?

    While turkey is best served fresh, it’s possible to roast it a day ahead. This can be a practical solution if time or oven space is limited on Thanksgiving Day.

    If you choose to cook the turkey in advance, carve it into thick slices after roasting. Arrange these slices in a shallow baking dish, cover with about 1 cup of chicken stock to keep the meat moist, and refrigerate.

    When ready to serve, reheat the turkey in a 325°F oven, covered with foil, until it’s warmed through. This method helps to retain the moisture and flavor of the turkey. Be sure not to overheat, as this can dry out the meat.

    Preparing turkey ahead of time can also reduce stress on Thanksgiving Day, allowing you more time to focus on other dishes and enjoy the company of your guests.


    10. How long does cooked turkey keep in the refrigerator?

    Proper storage of leftover turkey is essential for maintaining its quality and safety. Cooked turkey can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

    Before refrigerating, remove the meat from the bones to save space and allow for quicker cooling. Place the turkey meat in an airtight container, and drizzle a little stock over it to keep it moist.

    When storing, make sure your refrigerator is set at or below 40°F. If you have a large quantity of leftovers, consider dividing them into smaller portions in separate containers to ensure rapid cooling.

    Leftover turkey can be used in a variety of dishes, such as sandwiches, salads, and soups. For longer storage, cooked turkey can be frozen for up to 3 months. When reheating, ensure it’s heated to 165°F for safe consumption.

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