How To Prepare A Turkey


Preparing a turkey

Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in tradition. It’s a day filled with family and with delicious dishes that have been handed down for generations. In most households, turkey is the entrée of choice on this special, festive, and food-centric holiday. In fact, for many, it’s not really Thanksgiving if there isn’t a freshly roasted turkey on the table. That said, turkey is a dish that intimidates many; even those with a considerable amount of culinary experience may not be confident in their ability to cook a turkey to perfection. In this article, we’ve put together plenty of tips for preparing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. The information below is based on the considerable experience of Sunset’s skilled staff, and is sure to make your holiday easier and more delicious than ever.

Since most people only cook an entire turkey once a year, they often forget the basics of preparing it. That said, simply taking the time to review these basics makes a world of difference.

The first step to preparing a turkey is to purchase one which means deciding between frozen or fresh. While frozen turkeys are tasty and are certainly the more popular choice, fresh turkeys cook more quickly, are naturally more flavorful and require far less defrosting.

Before you can cook your turkey, you have to thaw it (even fresh turkeys which are packed on ice usually need some thawing). Thawing a large turkey can take some time, so be sure to plan ahead. Once your turkey is thawed, you have to prepare it for the oven. Make sure to remove the neck and giblets from the turkey’s body cavity. Then, rinse the turkey and blot it dry with a paper towel before seasoning. To increase your turkey’s flavor and to add moisture, consider stuffing it with a few pieces of celery and a quartered onion before cooking. Our Meat Department manager also suggest that you place the turkey breast-side down on a rack in a 2-inch deep roasting pan and truss the legs of the bird by bringing them down and tying them together with kitchen twine. Also, don’t forget to preheat your oven to 325 °F.

Thanksgiving dinner complete with a perfectly cooked turkey

Just before you put your turkey in the oven, baste it well with butter or oil and then tent it with aluminum foil to prevent it from getting too dark. How long your turkey will take to cook will depend on its weight. While using a roasting chart as a guide takes some of the guess work out of the process, a meat thermometer is the best way to check for doneness. When taking your turkey’s temperature, insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and breast without touching the bone. When the breast meat is 170°F and the thigh meat is 180°F, your turkey is done (if you choose to cook your bird with stuffing, make sure that the stuffing reaches 165°F).

Once the turkey is out of the oven, you’ll probably be tempted to carve into it immediately, but it’s important to let the bird rest before cutting into it. Allowing the turkey to rest prevents it from drying out (a resting time of 30 minutes works well for most birds). When you do carve your turkey, a sharp knife and a sturdy meat fork simplify the job.

Above all, Thanksgiving is a day for people to spend time with those they love, to enjoy each other’s company, and to share a meal. While doing the cooking yourself is certainly possible (and can even be a lot of fun), it’s not for everyone. So, if you find yourself short on time for cooking this holiday season, remember that Sunset is here to help. Our Deli, Bakery, and Catering Departments offer an impressive array of freshly made gourmet dishes that are perfect for gatherings of all sizes. Whether you need a dessert, a few sides, of a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, Sunset has you covered.

To see Sunset’s Thanksgiving menu visit


A guide to cooking the perfect turkey dinner

Click here to view a printable version of the How To Prepare A Turkey

Quinoa Salad
Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup