Your Butterball turkey has been purchased and you’re ready to host Thanksgiving dinner. Now what? This guide will help you learn how to cook a Butterball Turkey… Don’t worry, it’s easy!
(this post was last updated October 2019)
We’ve been working with Butterball Turkey for several years now and I think it’s safe to say we’ve cooked a few Butterball turkeys in our time (at Butterball University, we learned 11 different ways to cook a turkey!). And since it seems like lots of people have lots of questions about cooking Butterball turkeys, we decided to write this post teaching you how to cook a Butterball turkey.
One thing you should know is that cooking a turkey is easy. But it can be scary. Mostly because you’re often cooking it for a crowd and because turkey has a reputation for often being dry and not so great. We know the feeling of being intimidated by cooking a turkey but after three fantastic years working with the people at Butterball, we feel so confident sharing this with you!
For this post, I decided to show you how to cook a very basic turkey. You can obviously go above and beyond with how you prepare your turkey, but I want to keep it simple here just for the sake of showing you just how easy it really is!
How to Cook a Butterball Turkey
I hope you’re reading this post at least a few days ahead of when you want to cook your turkey. But if not, hopefully a few of these turkey cooking tips will be helpful to you.
Step 1: If your turkey is frozen, you need to have a defrosting plan! Use this guide to learn how to thaw your Butterball turkey properly. Also note that thawing is the #1 question the Butterball ladies get on Thanksgiving from people who didn’t plan in advance. Remember you need days to fully thaw a frozen turkey!
For instance, a 16-pound turkey takes 4 days to thaw in the fridge. If you didn’t plan enough thawing time for this, you can always do a cold water thaw. A 16-pound turkey takes 8 hours to thaw in cold water.
Step 2: To brine or not to brine? One of the awesome things about Butterball turkeys is that you don’t have to brine them. They’re already pre-brined with a salt solution! BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t brine them.
We often brine our Butterball turkeys and my family swears by Alton Brown’s recipe. The brine or not brine debate is already so hot, so it’s really just up to personal preference and what you feel like doing.
Step 3: Decide how you want to cook your turkey. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to go with a simple oven roasting method. But at Butterball University, we learned to cook turkey 11 different ways. Yes, 11! That includes cooking a turkey in the microwave (yes, it can be done… But I don’t really recommend it).
Step 4: Decide if you want to stuff your turkey. We never stuff ours and simply serve the stuffing (dressing) on the side. But if you want to stuff it, do so now. Just be sure you read the note below on taking the temperature of the stuffing!
Step 5: For the traditional roasting method, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Remove the giblets and turkey neck and pat your turkey dry with paper towels. You may or may not be surprised to know another big problem the Butterball ladies hear about is people who forget to take the giblets and neck out of the turkey before putting it in the oven (very important since they’re in plastic packages!).
Step 6: Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep.
Step 7: Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place, so your turkey will be stabilized in the pan and for carving. Brush the skin with a little bit of olive oil or cooking oil. Rub turkey with salt and pepper, too, if you didn’t brine it.
If you want, you can also rub turkey with fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic, and lemon juice.
Step 8: Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone. The thigh is the thickest part of the turkey, so that’s where you need to make sure the turkey is up to temperature and safe to eat.
BUT! If you stuffed your turkey, you’ll also need to make sure the stuffing is up to temperature (165 degrees). Lots of people forget to do this and it’s so, so important as the stuffing is actually what can make people sick. If you don’t have an oven safe instant read thermometer, you can simply take the temperature yourself when the turkey is close to being done. I couldn’t live without my Thermapen for cooking meat!
Step 9: Cook turkey! See turkey cooking time calculator below to determine how long your turkey should roast depending on how much it weighs. When it’s about 2/3 of the way done, loosely cover the breast with foil so it doesn’t overcook (the breast will be done first, but the rest of the turkey needs more time!).
You’ll know your turkey is done when the thigh is 180 degrees, breast is 170 degrees and stuffing (if applicable) is 165 degrees.
Step 10: Remove your turkey to a platter and let stand for about 20 minutes before carving and serving! For help carving, check out this guide.
Yes, it’s that easy to cook a Butterball Turkey!
Useful Tools for Cooking a Turkey
Cooking a Butterball turkey is easy, but it can be made even easier (and more delicious!) when you have the right tools at your disposal. Here are a few of the tools we like best (note some of the below are affiliate links):
- Turkey Roasting Pan: A turkey roasting pan is key for cooking the perfect turkey. Yes, you can purchase the disposable ones at the grocery store, but I often find them difficult to maneuver and lift. Purchasing a stainless turkey roasting pan is a great investment as it should last forever and can be used to cooking chickens and roasts throughout the year.
- I linked to my favorite Le Creuset one above because I love it, but if you want to spend less money, this Cuisinart one is also a very good option. Whatever you purchase, make sure the pan comes with a rack and has handles.
- Meat Thermometer: I highly recommend you have a meat thermometer on hand as temperature is the best way to determine when your turkey is done. I absolutely love my ThermaPen (linked above), but if you’re looking for a less expensive option, this meat thermometer has great reviews.
- Turkey Lifters: There’s nothing worse than taking your turkey out of the oven and not knowing how you’re going to get it from the roasting pan to the cutting board so you can carve it. Turkey lifters are a great tool to have on hand so you can seamlessly move your turkey without burning your hands or making a huge mess.
- Fat Separator: When it comes time to make the gravy, you’ll be happy to have a fat separator, so you can easily get to the fat without waiting for the liquid to cool. Even if you don’t make a lot of gravies, a fat separator can come in handy for healthier soups and stews, too.
- Large Carving Board: Having a good cutting/carving board is key for turkey time. Make sure you have a cutting board that’s large enough to fit your turkey. I also highly recommend a cutting board that has a “juice groove” in in. Once you start carving, the turkey will release juices and the groove will really help keep your counters clean.
- Carving Knife: You don’t need a carving knife to carve your turkey, but it will make your life a little easier and make for the prettiest turkey slices. You can also use it for carving pretty much any meat year-round. A carving fork will also help you keep the turkey steady while you carve.
- Brining Bags: If you are planning to brine your Butterball turkey (remember, you don’t have to!), a brining bag will come in handy. Also make sure you have a container large enough to let your turkey brine in.
Butterball Turkey Cooking Times
For your reference, here are turkey cooking times determined by the weight of your Butterball turkey when your oven is set to 325 degrees.
4.5 – 7 lbs
Unstuffed: 2-2.5 hours
Stuffed: 2.25-2.75 hours
Unstuffed: 2.5-3 hours
Stuffed: 2.75-4.5 hours
Unstuffed: 3-3.5 hours
Stuffed: 3.75-4.5 hours
Unstuffed: 3.5-4 hours
Stuffed: 4.5-5 hours
Unstuffed: 4-4.5 hours
Stuffed: 5-5.5 hours
Unstuffed: 4.5-5 hours
Stuffed: 5.5-6.25 hours.
For more information on how to cook a Butterball turkey, check out Butterball’s handy guides on:
And many other useful tutorials!
If you have any questions at all about preparing your turkey this Thanksgiving (or any time of year!) please feel free to ask me in the comments below! And more importantly, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is officially taking calls for the season so call 1-800-BUTTERBALL for any and all turkey-related questions you have.
These women are turkey geniuses, not to mention some of the sweetest people we’ve ever met, so don’t ever feel nervous to give them a ring! They’re here to help 🙂
Have you ever cooked a Butterball Turkey before?
If you’re looking for some great Thanksgiving side dishes to serve along with your Butterball turkey, check out the following WANM recipes:
And to make your Turkey cooking experience a bit more fun, enjoy my Pumpkin Pie Martinis!
Roasted Butterball Turkey
- Shallow roasting pan, 2 to 2½ inches deep
- Oven-safe meat thermometer
- Turkey Lifters (optional)
- Large Carving board
- Carving Knife
- 1 Butterball Turkey, 4 1/2-30 lbs, fresh or fully thawed and unstuffed (see cooking times chart in the body of this post to determine how long you'll need to cook turkey for dependent on weight)
- Olive oil or other cooking oil
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: fresh or dried thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley; minced garlic, lemon juice
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Remove the giblets and turkey neck and pat turkey dry with paper towels.
- Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep.
- Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place, so your turkey will be stabilized in the pan and for carving. Brush the skin with a little bit of olive oil or cooking oil and rub turkey with salt and pepper. If you want, you can also rub turkey with fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic, and lemon juice.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone. The thigh is the thickest part of the turkey, so that’s where you need to make sure the turkey is up to temperature and safe to eat.
- Place turkey in oven and roast until the thigh is 180 degrees and the breast is at 170 degrees (see notes section for stuffed turkey temperature). When turkey is about 2/3 of the way done, loosely cover the breast with foil so it doesn’t overcook (the breast will be done first, but the rest of the turkey needs more time). Please see the Butterball Turkey cooking times chart in the body of this post to determine how long it should take your turkey to cook.
- Remove turkey to a platter and let stand for about 20 minutes before carving and serving.
- If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, please be sure to make sure stuffing registers at 165 degrees before removing from oven.