My Best Turkey Advice

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Photo by Sarah Plfug

I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 20 years, and I have tried literally everything when it comes to cooking turkey. I’ve brined it, deep-fried it, marinated it, injected it, buttered it, dry-rubbed it, butterflied it, smoked it, and stuffed it. I’ve tried Kosher turkeys, organic turkeys, free-range turkeys, and self-basting turkeys.

A few years ago, I even bought an oil-less outdoor propane turkey fryer called “The Big Easy,” which freed up my oven and actually made a wonderfully crisp-skinned and juicy turkey. (If you want to spend $160 on a large piece of equipment that will likely sit in storage collecting cobwebs 364 days a year, I highly recommend it!)

From all this fussing with turkeys, I’ve come to realize that my turkey will never be perfect.

Let’s face it: turkeys, on their own, just aren’t very good. That’s what gravy and cranberry sauce are for.

As Mary Risley from Tante Marie’s Cooking School humorously points out in the video below (which you should definitely watch, especially if you have any turkey-cooking anxiety), “I have never had an outstanding turkey.”

(Heads up: this video contains some foul language)


Short of purchasing a special turkey cooker (this is the one I have), it is near impossible to cook a turkey perfectly: the white meat always cooks before the dark meat is done and the skin on the bottom is never crisp (unless you flip the hot, sputtering bird mid-way through cooking – ummm, no thank you).

So is it really worth it to go to great lengths – brining in big coolers for days in the garage, risking life and limb deep-frying in the driveway, pre-icing the breast of the turkey so it cooks more slowly (I swear, there’s a very respectable cooking magazine that wants you to do this) – to make that “be-all and end-all” turkey?

It’s up to you, but I’m not interested in babysitting my turkey for three days to get only marginally better results at the end.

My advice to you on Thanksgiving is to keep it simple. Make an easy roast turkey recipe, like this dry-brined roast turkey, with an over-the-top delicious gravy and some cranberry sauce to go with it. (Or if you really don’t want to stress, go ahead and buy your turkey already roasted!) Serve lots of wine and focus your time and creativity on the side dishes and desserts because that’s what everyone really looks forward to anyway.

Wishing you a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving! ❤️

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  • Your advice is fantastic! Thank you for making my Thanksgiving a success. I had many compliments on the turkey (which was wonderfully moist and had a lovely crispy brown skin) and the make ahead mashed potatoes and gravy were delicious. Being able to make the sides ahead of time enabled me to relax and enjoy my guests, as well as get dinner on the table on time! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • — Shannon Madonna on November 28, 2021
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  • It was great! Turkey was moist and skin was crispy!

    • — Elaine on November 28, 2021
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  • Here is the funny thing about this Best Turkey Advise: It got me interested in the Big Easy Oil less Turkey Fryer. I did research and same as another reader, I liked the idea of less mess and not having so much to put in the oven. So, it was on sale and I bought it. I also keep wondering how many people bought one as a result of this article. LOL. Bottom line, our turkey was outstanding. moist with a nice crispy skin. We loved it! Yes, there is the problem of where to store it, but in the meantime we are going to try cooking some different things in it. I had never heard of this- thank you for the education and the point of your article is turkey is hard to make flavorful but when all is said and done, your turkey recipes and advise are terrific! Thank you!
    Happy Thanksgiving!!!! (You ought to get paid by Charbroil for bringing their product into the limelight. lol)

    • — Cheryl S on November 27, 2021
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  • Made the herb and brown sugar dry-brined turkey. Everyone loved it. It was so moist! I had a 20 pound bird so I doubled your recipe for the brine. I baked my turkey at 325 degrees and it was done in two hours. I was shocked. I used my meat thermometer on the breast and the drumsticks and they were done. Don’t know why it cooked so fast because my oven temp is correct. Not complaining though. And the butter rub right before baking really made a beautiful crisp skin. Thanks Jenn, I rely on your recipes so much because you give great directions and you recipes are always so good. Giving three of your cookbooks as Christmas presents this year! All of your recipes are 5 STARS!!!!!!!!!!!

    • — Diane on November 27, 2021
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    • So glad the turkey came out well (and thanks for your very kind words and support of the cookbook)! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 28, 2021
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  • I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the video. Just what I needed to relax and remember that Thanksgiving should be fun. Thank you!!!!!

    • — Marcela Barajas on November 24, 2021
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  • Jenn! I went ahead and ordered the Charbroil oilers fryer. Got a good deal on Amazon. How do you prepare your turkey when you use yours? Thank you!

    • — Kelly on November 24, 2021
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    • Hi Kelly, Super simple — just olive oil, kosher salt and pepper! You can use this recipe as a guide for quantities (and gravy too).

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2021
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  • A language warning would have been really nice on that video!! My children we with me when I hit play and now their innocent ears have heard the F bomb!! 😱🤬😩

    I appreciate your recipes and enjoy following your blog, but PLEASE give warning in future if anything has adult content!!!!

    • — Leah on November 23, 2021
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    • Oh no I’m so sorry about that! There is something right above the video that says that it contains foul language but you must not of seen it – sorry!!!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2021
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    • Leah, I hear you, but believe me your kids are going to be okay. Mine turned out okay.
      Take care and Happy Thanksgiving.

      • — Laura on November 24, 2021
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    • Yup there is a warning posted guess your innocent eyes didn’t see it 🙄

      • — Stara on November 24, 2021
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  • 2 Interesting stories. Years ago I had this wall oven that died right before Thanksgiving. The only thing that worked was the broiler. I figured no Turkey. Well my kids whined and cried they wanted Turkey. So I cooked the Turkey under the broiler. Just kept turning it off an on. The Turkey actually came out OK

    Another time I had heard cooking the Turkey upside down would moisten the breasts, which it did. Except when I turned it over the whole bird fell apart.
    No great visual Turkey moment.

    • — Donna on November 22, 2021
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    • 😂

      • — Jenn on November 22, 2021
      • Reply

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