Talking Turkey: Everything You Need to Know About the Thanksgiving Bird

Photo by Con PoulosPhoto by Con PoulosAt first, preparing a turkey seems so simple: You just put it in the oven and cook it for several hours. But as soon as you dig more deeply, the questions begin: Should you pre-order a heritage bird or just pick up something from the supermarket freezer? Will you be basting or brining? And what exactly are you supposed to do with that bag of who-knows-what inside the cavity? Every year, it seems like there's more information out there, threatening to overwhelm both seasoned cooks and first-timers alike.

To make sense of it all, we've created this one-stop primer. We walk you through each step of the process, summing up any conflicting advice and giving our recommendations. Whether you want a low-maintenance, mistake-proof recipe or an elaborate plan for the ultimate bird, our complete guide will answer your questions and help you find the method that works best for you. The search for the perfect turkey ends here.

Choosing the right

What size turkey to buy

All about giblets

Washing the bird

Four ways to add flavor

Putting the turkey in the pan and tying it

To stuff or not to stuff

Should I baste?

When is the turkey

Oven temperature and time chart

Making the perfect

Carving techniques

Storing leftovers

Turkey Ten Ways

Simple Roast Turkey with Rich Turkey Gravy
Roasts in under four hours; no basting

Tom Colicchio's Herb-Butter Turkey
Rubbed with herb butter

Classic Roast Turkey with Herbed Stuffing and Old-Fashioned Gravy
Roasts low and slow

Spice-Rubbed Turkey with Cognac Gravy
Rubbed with coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika

Herb-Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
Brined; roasts low and slow

Butter-Injected Turkey
Blasted with high heat for crisp, golden-brown skin; no basting

Mole-Roasted Turkey with Masa Stuffing and Chile Gravy
Marinated in mole

Porcini Mushroom Turkey with Mushroom Gravy
Rubbed with mushroom butter; no basting

Pancetta-Sage Turkey with Pancetta-Sage Gravy
Rubbed with pancetta-sage butter; no basting

Brined and Barbecued Turkey
Brined and barbecued

Frequent Epicurious contributor and New York Times columnist Melissa Clark has written 18 cookbooks, including Chef Interrupted: Delicious Chefs' Recipes That You Can Actually Make at Home. To learn more about Clark , go to


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