Cooking Turkey Featured Image

What’s the most important part of the table on Thanksgiving? The people around it… and the turkey! Is this your year to prepare the turkey? We’re here to help alleviate some of your stress this holiday season. With our tips below, this process will go off without a hitch and your guests will never know you felt any pressure at all. Preparing, roasting and carving your Thanksgiving turkey isn’t as intimidating as it seems. Even a novice can do a great job carving the holiday turkey with a well-sharpened knife and our tips and tricks listed below. If videos are more your thing, you can check out an instructional video for preparing and roasting your turkey and a video for carving and serving that turkey.


Roasting Times

Before we begin, we should go over the size of your turkey and how long it will take to roast your unstuffed turkey.

Now that we have times for roasting your turkey, it’s time to get started.

Brined whole turkey

Preparing & Roasting

Step 1: Purchase your turkey

Prepare turkey for thawing.

Step 2: Assemble necessary tools and equipment

  • Sturdy roasting pan (at least 2 inches deep with a rack). You can also use your broiler pan with a rack inserted in the bottom.
  • Well-insulated oven mitts
  • Small metal skewers
  • Accurate meat and instant-read thermometers to check for doneness.
  • Other items that may come in handy include:
    • 100% cotton kitchen string
    • Basting brush
    • Aluminum foil

Step 3: Thaw the turkey

One of the longest processes is properly thawing the turkey.

  • For every four to five pounds, allow 24 hours to properly thaw (don’t include the roasting day when calculating the needed time).
  • For proper food safety, do not thaw at room temperature.

The best place to thaw the turkey is in the refrigerator in its original packaging on a shallow tray with edges to contain the juices. Your turkey is ready to be roasted when the neck and giblets can be removed, and no ice crystals remain. Be sure to clean and sanitize any surfaces before and after they come into contact with the turkey or its juices.

Step 4: Remove the giblets and neck

  • Remove the bag of giblets and the neck from inside the turkey.
    • Depending on the turkey, you may need to release a clamp or band of skin around the legs to make prepping the turkey easier.

Step 5: Prepare the turkey

  • Pull the skin onto the back of the turkey; secure with small metal skewers.
  • Turn the turkey over (breast side up on the rack) in your roasting pan. Secure the legs by resetting the leg clamp or by tying the legs with 100% cotton kitchen string.
  • Twist the wing tips under the back of the turkey.

Step 6: Season and roast

  • Brush the turkey with cooking oil. If desired, rub the surface with turkey seasonings of your choice.

Step 7: Place thermometer and set oven

We’re almost finished! Insert a meat thermometer into the center of an inside thigh muscle without touching bone. (Do not use an instant-read thermometer for this; instant-read thermometers are not designed to stay in food during cooking.)

  • Place the roasting pan on the lowest rack in a preheated 325 F oven and roast for the times suggested.
  • Baste occasionally with pan drippings while roasting, if desired.
  • Ovens and turkeys vary, so adjust time as needed; this may be as much as 30 minutes. Use a thermometer to determine final doneness.
  • Clean and sanitize any surfaces or utensils that come into contact with the uncooked bird or its juices. Wash hands thoroughly.
  • When turkey is golden brown, cover the breast loosely with foil to prevent over browning.

Step 8: Test for doneness.

Always use a thermometer to check doneness.

  • For food safety, the turkey thigh meat should register at least 165 F. Using an instant-read thermometer, check the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast. The temperature will register in about 15 seconds and should be at least 165 F. The drumsticks should move easily in their sockets, and their thickest parts should feel soft when pressed.

Step 9: Remove turkey from oven

  • Remove turkey from the oven and cover with foil. Allow it to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving; this will make the meat easier to carve.

Carving and Serving a Turkey

Now that your turkey is prepared and roasted, it’s time to get carving! All you’ll need is a few key items including:

  • Carving knife
  • Serving fork
  • Cutting board
  • Serving platter

Step 1: Prepare turkey for carving

Place the turkey onto the cutting board. Have a serving platter standing by to receive the carved meat.

*Avoid cross contamination. Never allow your cooked turkey to meet surfaces or utensils that were in contact with the uncooked turkey or its juices.

Step 2: Remove drumsticks and thighs

  • Pull the tip of one drumstick away from the body (use a paper towel if it’s too hot to handle).
  • Cut through the skin and meat between the thigh and body. Then use the tip of the knife to separate the thigh from the backbone by cutting through the joint.
  • Repeat with the other side.
  • Separate the drumsticks from the thighs by holding the tip of each drumstick and cutting through the joint where it meets the thighbone.

Step 3: Carve the meat from the drumsticks and thighs

  • Hold each drumstick by the tip, resting the large end on the cutting board.
  • Slice parallel to the bone and under some tendons until all meat is sliced.
  • Slice the thigh meat the same way.

Step 4: Carve the breast

  • Make a deep horizontal cut into the breast meat just above each wing. This cut marks the end of each breast meat slice.

Step 5: Slice the breast meat

  • Beginning at the outer top edge of each breast, cut slices from the top down to the horizontal cut and place on the serving platter.
  • Cut the final inner slices following the curve of the breastbone.

Step 6: Remove wings

  • Cut through the joints where the wing bones and the backbone meet.
  • Place the whole wings on the serving platter, if desired.


There you have it—the ultimate guide to preparing, roasting and carving the most delicious turkey your guests will enjoy! For a list of some of our favorite holiday recipes, visit our Thanksgiving page. From our family at The Publix Checkout to yours, have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!


Matthew L.

Written by

Matthew started with Publix in 2009. After working his way up to a Publix Manager, Matthew decided to make a change from retail and pursue his passion for writing. Matthew enjoys hearing stories from the people he's writing about and loves the Publix culture. Outside of work, Matthew enjoys spending time with his wife, son and their dog. They love to explore all that Central Florida has to offer.

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