10 Biggest Turkey Cooking Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

  • by Omaha Steaks
whole golden brown turkey in roasting dish
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You want to serve the perfect turkey for the holidays – that juicy, golden brown, and delicious turkey that is sure to impress. An awe-inspiring turkey doesn’t have to be difficult, but there are a few guidelines to follow to ensure perfection. Here are the top 10 mistakes to avoid when cooking your holiday turkey. 

Mistake 1: Forgot to Thaw

Not thawing your turkey in time is the number one biggest turkey mistake. Our 10 lb whole basted turkey needs to thaw completely in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Take out your phone right now and set an alert to take your turkey out of the freezer in time for the big day.

You can also thaw our turkey in cold water. Leave it in the original vacuum sealed packaging and place in a sink full of cold water for 5-7 hours, changing the water approximately every 30 minutes. Either method you choose, just make sure to thaw your turkey completely, so it cooks thoroughly.

Mistake 2: Rinsing the Turkey

Rinsing your turkey is a bad idea and unnecessary. The risk of contaminating your sink and cooking area is high and there is no reason to rinse a turkey. Save the time and save yourself the trouble – don’t rinse the bird.

Mistake 3: Skipped the Seasoning

Turkeys will taste best when seasoned liberally. Our chefs recommend drying your turkey to allow the seasonings to stick. Then, rub your turkey down liberally with olive oil or butter and add your seasoning. You can even add fresh herbs under the skin for additional flavoring.

Mistake 4: Stuffing the Bird

It’s best practice to cook your stuffing in a separate dish. It’s very difficult to ensure the internal temperature of your stuffing is the correct temperature if you place it in the turkey cavity. This means the stuffing may be unsafe to eat. Try our sage dressing for traditional and tasty stuffing.

Mistake 5: Forgot the Flavor

Instead of stuffing, add aromatics inside the turkey cavity for added flavor. Our chefs recommend garlic, onion (keep peels on to add color and richness to the drippings), citrus, celery, and carrots. These extras add delicious flavors to your turkey and enrich the drippings for gravy. 

Mistake 6: Drying out Your Bird

To ensure a moist and delicious turkey, use a roasting bag (included with our 10 lb whole basted turkey) or a roasting rack. For a golden-brown skin, you can slice open the roasting bag and expose the turkey for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking time.

If you don’t use a roasting bag, make sure you place your turkey on a roasting rack with 1-2 cups of water on the bottom layer. Both methods create a steam environment that will keep your meat from drying out.

whole basted golden brown turkey in roasting pan

Mistake 7: Guessing the Temperature

The most accurate way to determine doneness of your turkey is with a meat thermometer. Don’t guess if your turkey is completely done. Your bird is done when the meat thermometer reads 165 ° measured at the thickest part of the thigh.

Mistake 8: Cutting too Soon

Once your turkey has come to temperature. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 20 minutes.  This allows the juices to reabsorb and keep your meat moist. If you cut too soon, the turkey juices will leak out, leaving your meat drier than you want.

Mistake 9: Butchering the Bird

If you’ve made it this far, you should have a delicious, moist, perfectly cooked turkey. Don’t screw it up with bad carving. Check out our tips for how to carve a turkey.

Mistake 10: Wasting the Good Stuff (Drippings)

The drippings from your turkey are flavorful and the perfect start for a delicious turkey gravy. The fat and aromatics in the drippings add flavor to this simple gravy recipe.

Turkey Gravy

Make simple gravy with the turkey drippings from the oven bag
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Omaha Steaks

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups Turkey Drippings defatted
  • 1 cup Water

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat.

  2. Add flour and stir using a whip to form a roux. Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes over low heat.

  3. Add turkey drippings and water to roux. Bring to a boil.

  4. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve. Makes approximately 1 quart.

Now, that you know what NOT do when cooking a turkey, check out our 10 tips for cooking the perfect turkey.  This holiday season serve a beautiful, impressive turkey that will have everyone coming back for more.