How to Cook the Perfect Turkey {Stress Free!}

by GettingFreedom on April 17, 2012

April typically isn’t when everyone is thinking of cooking up turkeys.  Cooking whole turkeys {hams, and even chickens} is an easy way for us to save money on our grocery budget–so we do it rather frequently.

A few years ago, Smockity Frocks introduced to me to a stress-free way of cooking turkeys, and I haven’t looked back {in fact, we’ve ventured further}.  I’m frequently questioned in my method. Especially when I cooked 4 turkeys for a HUGE church dinner.  Everyone just knew it wasn’t going to work.  When everyone raved about their juicy-ness and awesome flavor, all I could do was smile. ;)

I’ve made some changes since doing my first turkey.  I never thought we could improve on it, but I was wrong!

Brining and Cooking a Turkey

Brining and Cooking a Turkey

Brining your turkey in a salt solution for 24 hours {up to 3 days!} results in juicy, flavorful turkey you'll never forget!


  • One Turkey {16-20 pounds}
  • 2 Cups Salt
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder {Or minced Garlic Cloves}
  • Ice
  • Water


    To brine
  1. Combine the salt and brown sugar.
  2. Rub mixture all over thawed turkey, inside and out.
  3. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and garlic powder {or minced garlic cloves}.
  4. Place turkey in a cooler.
  5. Add in ice and enough water to cover turkey completely.
  6. Let sit in brine for 24-48 hours making sure that there is always ice in the cooler.
  7. To Cook:
  8. Wash all of the brine off of your turkey, and place breast side down in an electric roaster, set to 500° {or as high as it will go}. If you do not have an electric roaster, an oven will also work.
  9. Cook until internal temperature is 165°.
  10. Length of cooking time will depend on your size of bird. I was able to cook a 20 pound turkey in right around 3 hours {a little less}. The average cooking time is between 2 and 3 hours.


You can add additional seasonings and aromatics to your brine, such as rosemary, apples, cinnamon or even oranges.

Trust me when I say that this turkey will not disappoint!  You may be thinking there is a major typo on the cooking time–but I assure you there is not.  No more stressed out Thanksgiving dinners full of starving people {they might be starving, but not because the turkey isn’t done}!

As you might have guessed–the abundance of turkey recipes on our menu plan this week is the result of having just brined and cooked another turkey.

What is your favorite recipe that calls for turkey?


This recipe is part of the Newlyweds Recipe Linky.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenna @ Newlyweds April 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm

This looks amazing, I am pinning this recipe so I can do this soon. Why wait for thanksgiving.

Thanks for sharing with Newlyweds Recipe Linky. Feel free to follow me on pinterest too.


Stephanie April 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I have a big ol’ turkey in my freezer taking up space. I need to cook it up before it gets too hot out! I love the idea of brining, I have to try this!


GettingFreedom April 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

Thank you, Jenna! I thought I was already following you on pinterest, but I was wrong. I fixed that. :)


GettingFreedom April 20, 2012 at 6:16 am

It won’t disappoint, Stephanie!


Nancy Reid November 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I don’t have an electric cooker. What to do , what to do??


GettingFreedom November 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Nancy–An Electric Roaster isn’t essential. Just cook it in your oven at the 500°–and it’ll be the same!


kathy November 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

do you cover or wrap turkey in foil or anything?


GettingFreedom November 15, 2012 at 11:28 am


No. When I cook it in my oven I just put it on the bottom rack. And when I’m using my roaster {which is my preferred method} I just put the roaster lid on.


Sarah November 18, 2012 at 3:29 am

This will be my first time cooking a turkey. Nervous. But I like the sound of this. Any additional tips? Thank you!


Tina November 20, 2012 at 10:01 am

Would it be ok to put two small turkeys in one roaster oven. And on the cooler I don’t have one. What if I put the turkeys in the refrigerator?


GettingFreedom November 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I think that will work just fine–on both accounts. :)


adrienne November 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm

My turkey is in the cooler with the brining liquid right now! This is my first turkey. I let my husband decide when we should let the turkey out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge. Which resulted in a half frozen turkey wednesday morning. (the day before thanksgiving). So I decided to defrost it a little quicker in water… Not just water though! heres to hoping the brine works just as well with almost defrosted turkeys! :)


GettingFreedom November 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm

It does! I’m forever forgetting to defrost my turkey–so I’ve been in the same boat. It’ll all work just fine! :)


Randy April 1, 2013 at 10:49 am

I have been brining my turkeys for over four years now and will not do it any other way. I am a former army mess sergeant (many years ago) and must have cooked at least 100 turkeys in my life. About four years ago on Thanksgiving eve I was watching the cooking channel and they has a show telling you how to cook almost everything for the holiday dinner. That is where I learned the brining process. It is similar to the one mentioned above with a few changes.

When I brine I take one cup of salt and one cup us sugar, put it into a sauce pan add hot water, stir until it dissolves. I then take a 5 gallon bucket ( you can purchase them from the home improvement stores like Home Depot) I put about a gallon of cold water in the bucket and then add the brine I had just made, stir and add my thawed turkey, I add more water as necessary to cover the turkey. I live in a colder climate and can keep it on my porch for the one to three days of brining. In warmer weather I get a ten pound bag of ice a add ice to the top to keep it cold. As mentioned you can add other ingredients to you brine like garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, etc. I have added liquid smoke when I brined chicken.

When I cook the turkey, I take the turkey out of the brine and put in a roasting pan with a rack to hold the turkey (brest up), put in the oven uncovered at 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes and turn the temperature down to 325 for the balance of the cooking time suggested on the chart on cooking times that comes with the turkey.

When the turkey is done I take it out of the oven and roaster and let the turkey rest at least a half hour before carving, if you don’t let it rest much of the juices of the turkey will run out when you carve.

I pour all the juices and fat in my roasting pan in to large glass measuring cup, let sit for a couple minutes, and then take my turkey bulb baster, squeeze the bulb and insert it into the bottom of the juices and draw out the juices and put the juices into another container. What you have left is the turkey fat. I then take the turkey fat and put it back into the roaster, put on the stovetop on high heat and stir in an equal amount of flour to make a roux. I stir and cook for a few minutes to “cook” for flour to get rid of that raw flour taste. You can cook it a little longer to brown the flour a little to make darker gravy. I then keep stirring and add the juices to the roux to make the gravy. You will probably have to add more water to thin the gravy. You can then add the giblet is you wish at this time. Season to taste if necessary.

I DO NOT stuff the turkey; I cook the dressing in separate dish.

When I carve the turkey I cut the two large breast pieces off the bird on one piece and then with a very sharp knife I carve slices against the grain of the meat and place on a serving platter. I also cut the other meat off the bones and put on the platter and maybe a leg or wing on the platter if there are people who like them. I feel so sorry for the father that is expected to carve the turkey at the table once every year. First of all he probably has no idea how to carve a turkey and also his knife is probably dull and has to resort to one of those electric saws, to carve the bird (I use the word saw, because by no stretch of you imagination is it an electric knife.) .

I have found that the meat, especially the white meat is extremely moist and since you have brined it, the flavor is throughout the meat and not just on the surface.

The first half hour at 500 degrees brown the skin and helps seal the moisture in the bird. The bird is also golden brown and look like a picture out of a magazine.

I have also brined chicken and pork, and it also works great. A boneless pork loin roast comes out very juicy and full of flavor.

I also think I will use brown sugar the next time.


Sarah November 27, 2013 at 3:15 am

I followed this recipe last year and my family loved it. They raved about how juicy it was too. I had never cooked a turkey before and being a vegetarian I didn’t even try it! This year I am cooking it again! And I might even try it!


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