This Country Turkey Dinner recipe page is for those that have never cooked a Turkey before. It includes detailed and simple steps to cook your first Turkey! I am sure I have gone overboard on the descriptions on how to cook a turkey, but sometimes more is better.
If you saw my previous page, It’s a Country Thanksgiving! you would see some of my Fall Harvest/Thanksgiving decor ideas.
I also have a separate recipe page for my Country Turkey Stuffing. For those that are scared to make a turkey, here are a few simple instructions, which will mean you cannot fail! It will be fine!
I have been making Turkey Dinner at least twice a year (Christmas and Thanksgiving) for almost 40 years now, and I have NEVER had an uncooked Turkey, an overcooked Turkey or a dry Turkey.
If you already know how to cook a turkey, please skip this page 🙂
I find these instructions are never written down, just passed down from one generation to another. This is what I do every time I make Turkey Dinner. So if you don’t have anyone to show you, I am happy to show you! You don’t need to tell anyone LOL!
Caution: Please check ingredients for any allergies or food sensitivities before trying this recipe.
Usual Cooking Equipment/Ingredients Needed:
Turkey Roasting Pan
Turkey Lifting Tray (optional)
A Meat Thermometer
Turkey (Fresh or Frozen)
Stuffing – see recipe Country Turkey Stuffing or make/buy your own.
If you don’t have a Roasting Pan, Lifting Tray, Turkey Baster or Meat Thermometer, you can order these on Amazon here:
Some of these links may be affiliate links and I may earn a small commission off of the sale of these products, but the price you are charged is not affected.
I recommend a Large size 15-16 inch pan to make sure you have room for up to a 10 pound bird.
Selecting a Bird
Buy your turkey about 3 to 4 days before the event. If it’s a frozen turkey, then buy it a week beforehand. This way you get the best selection of size and price.
For a table of 6 to 8 people, I usually buy a 4-5 Kg turkey frozen turkey. That way there will be plenty of leftovers. Remember that each kg is 2.2 pounds. So this ends up being about a 10-11 pound bird. I like this size, because if you go much bigger it likely won’t fit in your roasting pan. A 11 pound bird will easily feed 10-12 people. It just depends how much leftovers you want.
If it’s a fresh turkey, I make sure I leave it in the fridge until the morning of the event.
If it’s frozen, I put it in the turkey roaster, bottom portion. Then I let it thaw out slightly in the fridge over the 2-3 days prior to the event. (Try to leave in the freezer before this if you have room.)
Morning of the Event
Don’t worry, if its not thawed by the morning of, then all you need to do is take off all the plastic wrapping, put it the bottom of the sink on a plate, and then run cold water (very slow drip/stream) over the bird for about an hour. (I don’t like to put the bird directly in the sink just because the sink might have germs).
As it is thawing, ALWAYS remove the neck, the heart and other organs that might be wrapped up inside the birds cavity. These are sometimes wrapped in paper. Removing these early will speed up the thawing process.
If you want to cook these with the bird, then take them out of the paper and put them in a bowl temporarily. They could also be frozen to make soup with at another time.
Your hands will get turkey juice on them. Be prepared to rinse them at the side of the bird, or if you have a double sink, in the other side, and use soap if possible, without getting that on the bird. (This all sounds obvious, but when you are in the moment, you might get flustered. Also another reason to have the bird sitting on a plate to keep water flowing past it.)
The turkey will always thaw out within the 1-2 hours. I check it regularly, rotate, and sometimes make the water slightly warmer, e.g. room temperature so it thaws quicker. So if you start by 9AM, you will have plenty of time to get the bird in the oven by noon.
Prepare the Bird
Once you feel it is completely thawed and all the spare parts are removed from inside the bird, you can give it a final rinse. Transfer it to your roasting pan (cleaned). The roasting pan might have a metal lifting tray that goes inside. If so, put the bird on its back on the tray. If no lifting tray is available, then just put the bird in the roaster on its back, legs in the air. Return the neck and other organs previously removed, if you want to cook them with the bird. Just place them in the bottom of the pan, anywhere. Personally, I always cook the organs with the bird and throw out the neck or sometimes I freeze that and make soup with it.
Now you just need to stuff the bird. But before you do that, I ALWAYS rub some regular butter on the bird, inside and out. I like to use a plastic baggie, and put my hand in the bag, then grab a hunk of butter (at least 2 T) and then rub the butter over the top of the bird and inside the bird. You don’t need to butter the bottom of the bird. Throw away the leftovers.
The regular butter has salt. If you use unsalted butter, I wouldn’t worry about it. It will taste fine. (Don’t sprinkle salt on the bird unless you want to take a chance. It might end up too salty. ) I never sprinkle salt or pepper on my bird.
You can follow my instructions for preparing stuffing, Country Turkey Stuffing, or use your own recipe. Once the stuffing is ready, you really just take handfuls of stuffing and cram it into the bird as far back as possible, pushing with your fist. Keep stuffing the bird until all your stuffing fits, if possible.
You could cook some of the extra stuffing outside the bird in a casserole dish with a little butter (1 T) on the bottom and covered with tin foil. (Put it in the oven at the same time with the bird for 2 hours and check if cooked (steamy and soft). Remove and reheat just before serving. See my stuffing page for more details on this.
Cooking the bird
This seems to be the part that people get confused about. I don’t know how, but people seem to say their bird didn’t cook on time, or was raw, or was burned. I don’t know how this can happen if you just follow the basic instructions.
Cover the roasting pan with the lid (ALWAYS). If you don’t have a lid that fits, then use tinfoil, but make sure it is completely covered and sealed. It should stay covered until it is fully cooked and then remove the cover for the last 10-20 minutes to brown the bird, if it needs browning.
I ALWAYS follow the general rule of 20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. This is plenty hot and won’t burn the bird or dry it out.
So for my 5 kg bird, which is 11 pounds, divide by 3 (20 minutes X 3 = 1 hour), which means you cook the bird covered for 3 hours 40 minutes. So if you put the bird in the oven at noon, it will be done by 4pm for sure.
Sometimes I wait until 1pm to put the bird in. So it is ready at 5pm. Depends what time you are eating. Give yourself a half hour to take the bird out of the oven, remove it from the roaster, and then slice the meat, etc.
Waiting and Basting
While it is cooking, I usually check once an hour and baste the bird. There will almost always be juice in the bottom of the pan, which you can use for basting. Using the baster, you squeeze up some juice and carefully release it so the juice drips over the breasts and front of the bird. ALWAYS, make sure you put the lid back on. If you don’t have a baster, you can use a large spoon or a soup ladle.
About a half hour before it should be cooked, I ALWAYS check that the bird is cooked using a Meat Thermometer. You need to take the Turkey Roaster out of the oven, close the oven door so the heat stays in, and put the meat thermometer in the top meatiest part of the breast, about an inch in. Let it stay there until the dial stops moving and then read the temperature. It should be in the poultry range to be indicated as cooked. If it’s cooked, you can decide if you want to brown it a bit, or start carving the bird.
If you aren’t quite ready to serve, you could put the roaster on the top of the oven or somewhere that handles heat, and keep it covered until ready to carve.
Ready to Serve!
Here is what it should look like once cooked! (I can’t remember why its on the lifter and on the serving plate in this picture. Usually we lift it on a cutting board then serve the cut meat on the turkey platter. Oh well!
Before you carve the bird, you need to remove all the stuffing, if possible. I usually get a large serving bowl (with lid) and using 2 Large spoons, scoop the stuffing into the bowl. Cover once you have it all out, so it will stay warm. If you use a heat safe casserole dish you can even put it in the oven to stay warm. By this time you could turn the temperature off in the oven.
It is fairly easy to carve the bird. You can remove the legs and put these on the serving plate. Also remove some skin on the breast (put aside) and then slice the breast meat. Decide if you want to serve both dark and light meat. Then slice it up as needed, depending on how many people you have to serve.
I usually serve the meal as a buffet dinner, so that folks can move around the buffet table, take their own and then go sit down. Typically we have mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels, cranberry sauce, a salad, pickles and pickled beets, and of course creamed corn and carrots. Fresh dinner rolls are great.
As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving page, I often precook and mash the potatoes and sweet potatoes so it is less rushed at the end. I make sure my table is set in advance so everyone can fill their plate and sit down.
If you really want to make gravy, it’s quite easy. You will need to strain the fat off of the juice in the turkey roaster. I pour the juice into a large measuring cup. Then you can skim the fat off with a large spoon, as it tends to float to the top. When you think you have most of it skimmed off, then put the juice back in the big roaster. (The fat should have been put in a separate container to throw out and not down the sink or it might plug your sink when it cools.)
Gravy: Just take 2 T of white flour in a mug, and fill the mug halfway with water. Mix with a fork until it forms a smooth paste. Then with the roaster on the stovetop, turn on the heat to medium and pour in the flour paste. With a whisker, whisk it in until it is all combined with the juice in the roaster. There should be plenty of flavor already. But if you want you could taste it and add a pinch of salt or pepper if you like. Let this thicken and stir, stir, stir with the whisker. When it thickens to a gravy consistency, remove from heat and transfer to a gravy boat.
We ALWAYS say a Thanksgiving Grace before the meal.
Dear Lord, we are gathered together and thank you for our health, our friends and family that are with us today and all our blessings. In your name, Amen.
A typical Thanksgiving plate at our house looks like this:
Enjoy the meal!!
After the dinner is over you can slice the remaining meat up in chunks, let cool and store in the fridge or freeze some portions for reheating at a later time.
Yay! You did it! If you liked this, don’t forget to check out my Fall/Harvest and Thanksgiving Decor ideas on: It’s a Country Thanksgiving!
Hope my instructions for a traditional Turkey Dinner aka Country Turkey Dinner were helpful!