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Backyard Blogging.

Everything You Need to Know About the Thanksgiving Turkey

Has the idea of cooking your holiday bird got you worried? We’ve got you covered!

Have you bought your turkey yet? It’s time! Check out this article on Turkey 101 for tips on getting it ready!

Here is everything you need to know about the Thanksgiving turkey from how much turkey to buy, how to thaw it, cook it, and much more!

How Much Turkey Should You Buy?

Here is a breakdown:

  • For eight people, buy eight – 10 pounds.
  • For 12 people, buy 12-14 pounds.
  • For 16 people, buy 16-18 pounds.
  • For 20 people, buy 20-22 pounds.

How Do I Thaw a Turkey?

Buying frozen? You need a lot of time to thaw it completely before grilling.

The best way to thaw your turkey is in a roasting pan in the fridge. The rule of thumb is thaw for about one day (24 hours) for every five pounds of meat, so you can see that’s a lot of prep time. Clean out your fridge and make room because your bird will be there awhile.

What Is Next?

After you thaw your turkey, you want to season it. You’ll find several methods – choose the one that sounds best to you:

  • Traditional – tried and true method
  • Smoke – When you have lots of time and want the most wood-fired flavor
  • Brine – a really strong flavor and the juiciest bird
  • Injection – a really strong flavor
  • Spatchcock – cuts down on cooking time and ensures juicy meat and a crisp skin
  • Dry Rub – a simple method

What is the Best Temperature?

Generally speaking, cook your turkey at 325 degrees. Time for a one pound bird to a 20 pound bird ranges from three-five hours.

You want to cook your turkey until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.


What Kind of Turkey Should I Buy?

Let’s look at a few of your options:

  • Kosher turkeys are thoroughly salted on the outside but not brined. You can soak them in cold water overnight to draw out some of the salt before brining. Kosher turkeys are also typically antibiotic-free and vegetarian-fed, resulting in a higher quality bird.
  • Natural turkeys are conventional breeds that are minimally processed, making them a good choice for customizing with your own brine and rub.
  • Heritage turkeys are closer to the turkeys they ate on the first Thanksgiving. These are leaner birds with more intense, slightly gamey flavor and darker dark meat. However, that delicious flavor comes at a cost, as heritage turkeys can cost several times what a conventional turkey costs. These birds are also the best choice for anyone concerned with animal welfare or environmental concerns.
  • Basted or Self-Basting turkeys are conventionally raised turkeys that are injected with solutions. They are usually very salty and not suitable for further brining or rubbing. We do not recommend using this type of turkey.

What is the Best Seasoning?

You can keep it simple and mix eight tablespoons of softened butter with two tablespoons of finely chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary and marjoram. Press the butter mixture up under the skin of the turkey. Spread it evenly across all areas of the bird. Drizzle the outside of the bird with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper or the Traeger Turkey Rub.

How Should I Grill It?

You can either cook it directly on the grill or in a roasting pan. We like to put the whole turkey in a roasting pan to collect the drippings for gravy. When using a roasting pan, we also like to add a few cups of broth to the bottom of the pan to steam the bird with extra flavor and moisture while cooking.

For a really flavorful turkey, cook it on the Smoke setting for one-three hours, then finish cooking on higher heat (325 degrees F or higher) to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This helps crisp the skin.

You don’t want to cook a turkey – especially a large one – entirely on the Smoke setting as it adds hours to the cooking time. The skin also tends to be rubbery as the heat on the Smoke setting isn’t high enough to render the fat.

What’s the Best Pellet Combo?

Our favorite is a 50/50 mix of apple and hickory.  Or, you can pick your own or create a personal blend.

What Happens When the Bird Comes Out?

Let a 12-15 lb turkey rest for at least 20 minutes. Anything over 15 lbs needs at least 30 minutes to rest before carving. DO NOT tent your turkey with foil. The steam from the hot turkey collects on the foil and drips onto your perfect turkey skin. You can say goodbye to crispy skin.

Final Thoughts

Now it’s time to get cooking! Head on over to one of our stores to check out our selection of grills or visit the Traeger section of our website.