The Top 5 Ways to Prepare a Moist, Flavorful Turkey

by | Updated: October 13th, 2020 | Read time: 4 minutes

Looking for something slightly off the beaten path for your holiday dinner? Stepping out of your cooking comfort zone can be a very healthy endeavor. But perhaps you aren’t confident in serving elk or wild boar (yet!). How about sticking with a good old-fashioned turkey? You can stay tried and true to the main course meat while still adding an element of new and refreshing. Here are five ways to prepare a moist, flavorful bird. Choose the one you’ve never done before.

Woman in Red Apron Shows How to Cook a Turkey 5 Ways |


Start by brining the turkey for no more than one hour per pound of meat. A brine is a simple solution of salt and water, but now is also a good time to add flavor. You can use a homemade seasoning if you’re up for it, or take the shortcut with a blended poultry seasoning. According to Martha Stewart (1), soaking a turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is also infused with a subtle character all its own.

Once it’s done brining, simply rinse the bird, dry it, truss the drumsticks and place it in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F to cook for about 90 minutes. Now, drop the temp to 250 degrees F and cook another 11 to 13 minutes per pound, or until the temperature of the breasts reaches 165 degrees F and the thighs hit 185 degrees F. Remove and let rest under a tent of foil for 20 to 30 minutes. You better be ready, because the meat is going to just fall off the bone!


The New York Times recently had a great article (2) on splaying a turkey. This would be a great option for anyone who’s not comfortable using a meat thermometer. In this method, you sear the turkey legs over the stove before roasting in the oven. In less than two hours, you’ll have in tender dark meat (turkey legs) and juicy white meat (turkey breasts).

Your first step is to heat the roasting pan over medium-to-high heat on the stovetop. Add the turkey and spread the bird’s legs so they lie flat on the bottom of the pan. Sear the turkey for about five minutes before moving to a preheated oven at 450 degrees F. From there, you’ll let the turkey roast about 30 minutes before reducing the heat to 350 degrees F. Let the bird roast another hour, or until it’s tender and done.

On a Can

Ever had beer-can chicken? This technique works just as well with turkey. Fortunately, you don’t need an aluminum can, filled with beer, though. Simply use an upright roaster, which serves the same purpose with healthier results. Another plus to this style of cooking is that you’ll get crisp, even skin all around without having to deep-fry the meat. Also, your total cook time will be less than roasting, since the oven will be turned up by about 100 degrees F. The “on-a-can” method only requires you to pat the turkey dry, add seasonings and place it on the upright roaster.


One surefire way to keep your turkey from drying out is to braise it. You can use a slow cooker for smaller birds or a large Dutch oven for more poundage. Place the turkey in your slow cooker and cover with just enough broth to reach the sides of the bird. Add your selection of diced carrot, celery and onion, as well as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Cook at 450 degrees F for about 45 minutes, and then reduce to 350 degrees F, basting every 15 to 20 minutes.


Follow the same roasting guidelines to prep the turkey. You’ll then cook 11 to 13 minutes per pound, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh equals 180 degrees F and the juices run clear. Transfer turkey to a platter and tent with foil, and then let it stand for 15 minutes before carving. Anytime you grill, you keep the mess outside and leave more room in the oven to heat up your veggie side dishes. The only caveat is grills tend to be less precise than ovens, so you’ll want to be even more mindful of the cooking time.

Note: Regardless of which method you choose, make sure to source your bird mindfully. Your local farmer’s market is a great place to start. You can also refer to to see who in your area sources their turkeys from a humane provider.  


(1) “How to Brine a Turkey.” Martha Stewart. N.p., 09 Nov. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2016

(2) Clark, Melissa. “A New (Faster, Juicier) Way to Roast a Turkey.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016