Step by Step How to Cook a Turkey All you need to know to make a successful turkey dinner!

Here is a Step by Step How to Cook a Turkey guide; all you need to know to make a successful turkey dinner!

If cooking a turkey dinner seems overwhelming to you, here is a Step by Step How to Cook a Turkey guide just for you! It is not difficult to make a delicious turkey dinner with some basic instructions.

One of my favorite tips is something I learned from my mother-in-law. Cook the turkey the day before and have it ready to go to heat in the oven on the big day. This makes it SO much easier for the cook (ME!) when the company is here. The roasting pan is washed and out of the way, the turkey is carved and it is ready to serve. It makes me much more relaxed and saves time and work when it really counts. And the best part is; no one can tell. The meat is moist and perfect. Yay! 

I will also be posting the recipe for stuffing soon so stay tuned! Just a note on that; I call it stuffing because I am STUFFING it into the bird, not dressing the bird with it. I dress a salad so call that dressing. Just so no one is confused! 🙂 

To print the Step by Step How to Cook a Turkey guide click HERE.

Estimate 1 lb per person for no leftovers, 1 ½ lbs for leftovers

Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator per 5 lbs of turkey.


Remove turkey from wrapper. Remove neck and giblet bag from cavity of turkey. They can be boiled and added to gravy as giblets or discarded.

Rinse cavity, especially if there is ice, with cool water. Pat dry with paper towels (don’t let any get left in there).

Put turkey breast side up in sprayed roasting pan on rack. If you don’t have a rack, you can crumple up foil to put the bird on top of that.

Stuff with stuffing. Extras, if you have them, can be put in a greased dish to bake later.

Add pats of butter, about 1 stick, on top of turkey and sprinkle on Adobo. If you don’t have Adobo, salt and pepper is fine. Maybe add a little bit of garic powder too.

Add a couple of inches of filtered water to bottom of roasting pan to increase drippings and make broth as it cooks. I added 6 cups to my pan and 15.8 lb turkey.


Cook at 325*. I don’t baste; the melting butter kind of does that. You certainly can baste if you want to but I don’t find it necessary. Check it after about 2 hours, then after 1 hour, then every 30 minutes as it gets closer to being finished.


Cover loosely with foil so it doesn’t get too brown as it continues to cook.

Cook until 180* in thigh, 160* in stuffing. Be sure to be touching center of meat, not bone or through too far.  My 15.8 lb stuffed turkey cooked 4 ½ hours.  Be sure to go by the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin or time cooked. 


Let roasted turkey stand 20-30 minutes before carving (it is the perfect time to bake the casseroles if you are cooking it on serving day).  This makes it firmer and easier to carve.

Remove stuffing to serving dish and carve as desired.

If doing this ahead of serving day, put in 9×13 dish; white on one side and dark meat on the other. Cover with broth/drippings and cover for refrigerator (not too much extra, but cover). Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes to warm through on serving day.


Set aside about 3 cups of drippings for gravy if desired.

Put the bones and skin along with any extra drippings in a pot to make broth or soup or in a container for the freezer to do when you are ready.

I had the turkey and stuffing ready to heat and serve tomorrow, the bones and skin in a container to make soup later, broth set aside to make gravy and the drumsticks in a to-go bag for my oldest son to take home with him for his lunch next week.


It is very important to have a meat thermometer to be sure your turkey is cooked through. It is NO fun to get started carving and realize it isn’t cooked. Not to mention, it is very dangerous to eat undercooked turkey! (OK, I did mention it but it is very important!)

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If you want nutritional information for a recipe, I suggest entering the recipe into my fitness pal or your favorite calorie counter page and that will calculate it for you.  Also, you can put in exactly what you used so it is the most accurate.


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