When selecting a turkey, pay attention to the breed, size, and treatment.\n\n1. __Consider the breed__. Most commercially available turkeys are Broad-Breasted Whites, which mature quickly and have a larger proportion of white meat to dark. (They're bred for their extra-large breasts, which are so big that they cannot fly.) The term "heritage breed" can refer to almost any turkey breed other than the Broad-Breasted White. Heritage turkeys contain more dark meat since they haven't been expressly bread for their large breasts. Heritage turkeys generally come from smaller farms, where turkeys are typically slaughtered at 24 weeks of age (compared to the industrial 12 to 18 weeks). If you want to go for a heritage breed, you'll most likely need to reserve your turkey ahead of time from a local butcher or farm.\n2. __Choose the right size__. The ideal turkey size depends on how many people you'll be serving. Estimate at least one pound of turkey per person, plus more if you'd like leftovers. Also take into consideration the size of your oven, freezer, and fridge: A 20-pounder might mean leftover turkey for days, but if it doesn't fit in your kitchen, it's a no-go. \n3. __Select a treatment based on your cooking method__. If you're buying a turkey from the supermarket, pay close attention to the labeling. Self-basting turkeys have been injected with brine and should not be brined or otherwise seasoned before cooking. Kosher turkeys are pre-salted and should also not be seasoned before cooking. Even turkeys labeled "natural" may have had some kind of treatment. These treatments can save time, but make sure you know what you're getting, so you don't accidentally over-salt your turkey.\n\nIf purchasing a frozen turkey, start thawing your turkey in the refrigerator a few days before you plan to cook. Plan on 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey. That means that a small five-pound turkey needs a full day to thaw, and a large 20-pound turkey needs four days. If you're doing anything to prep your turkey before roasting, such as [spatchcocking](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-spatchcock-a-chicken) or brining, add an extra day for that. Thaw your turkey breast-side up on a rimmed baking sheet.\n\nYou don't need to buy special equipment for roasting a turkey, but there are a few tools that will make the turkey-cooking process easier.\n\n1. __Thermometer__: An accurate thermometer is the only way to know when your turkey is done. Ideally, you'll have two thermometers: a digital instant-read thermometer to quickly test the internal temperature of the breast and the thigh, and a leave-in probe thermometer that stays in the turkey breast while it's roasting so that you can monitor the bird's temperature from outside the oven. (This is how you'll know when to take the turkey out of the oven.) If all you have is a meat thermometer, plan on taking the turkey out a few times to check the temperature, which will slow down the cooking process. Before you get started, use your leave-in thermometer to test the accuracy of your oven temperature. \n2. __Rimmed baking sheet__: A rimmed baking sheet is better than a deep roasting pan because it exposes the bottom and sides of the turkey to more heat. Choose the largest size that will fit comfortably in your oven. \n3. __Roasting rack__: If you aren't spatchcocking your turkey, a roasting rack will elevate it so that it cooks a little more evenly.\n4. __Kitchen scale__: Use a scale to weigh the precise amount of salt needed to season your bird.\n5. __Kitchen scissors__: Sharp kitchen scissors or poultry shears are essential for spatchcocking your turkey, should you choose to go that route. Even if you're not spatchcocking your turkey, you may want to remove the wing tips, which burn easily and don't have much meat on them. (They're great for [stock](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/learn-how-to-make-chicken-stock-with-chef-thomas-kellers-chicken-stock-recipe), though.)\n\nIf you purchased a kosher or self-basting turkey, you can skip this step. Everyone else, pay close attention. Turkey meat is notoriously dry, but it doesn't have to be. The solution? Season your turkey ahead of time. There are two main ways to achieve this: wet brining and dry [brining](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-brine-chicken). \n\n- __Wet brining__: Wet brining involves soaking your turkey in brining liquid. At its most basic, the brining liquid contains salt and water (about a tablespoon of salt for every cup of water), but some turkey brines step up the flavor with apple cider and spices. Turkey meat loses about 20 percent of its moisture when cooked, so brining turkey in liquid can effectively cut this moisture loss in half, replacing lost turkey juice with brining liquid.\n- __Dry brining__: Also known as curing, dry brining involves simply salting your turkey ahead of time—no liquid. The most important part of brining isn't the liquid, it's the salt. Salting meat weakens the muscle fibers so they taste more tender, and it also enables the muscle cells to retain more moisture (aka juiciness). You can add spices and herbs to your dry brine, but all you really need for the most flavorful, juicy turkey are salt and time. To know how much salt you need, multiply the weight of your turkey (in grams) by 0.015 (1.5%), and weigh out that much salt. If you don't have a kitchen scale, that translates to about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of turkey. Start brining your turkey at least 48 hours before you plan to cook to give the salt plenty of time to travel through the entire bird.\n\nThere are two primary challenges to cooking a succulent turkey. First, the round shape of a whole turkey means that, when cooked breast-side-up, the breasts will receive more heat than the partially concealed legs, resulting in dry breasts and tough, undercooked legs.\n\nAdditionally, a turkey consists of two different types of muscle: [white meat and dark meat](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/white-meat-vs-dark-meat-chicken-whats-the-real-difference). White meat, which is found in the breast, is best cooked to about 155 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the meat starts to dry out. (Note that the USDA recommends heating chicken to 165 degrees to destroy bacteria.) Dark meat, which is found in the legs, needs to reach at least 175 degrees for the connective tissue to break down and become tender. \n\nLeaving the turkey in the oven long enough to cook the legs and thighs can result in a tough, dry breast. You can avoid this by using methods like spatchcocking, icing, and resting, which help ensure that your turkey cooks evenly. \n\nA turkey's breasts and thighs should be cooked to different temperatures, and the natural shape of the turkey makes an even cook difficult to achieve. But don't worry—there are some simple solutions.\n\n1. __Spatchcock the turkey for even cooking__. Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, involves removing the backbone from the turkey and pressing the entire bird so that it's flat. Changing the shape of the turkey allows for faster and more even cooking. As a bonus, your once-massive turkey will now fit nicely on a rimmed baking sheet, freeing up room in your fridge and oven. \n2. __Ice the breasts to slow the cooking process__. When you take the turkey out of the refrigerator to come up to room temperature, place ice packs or bags of ice on the turkey breast. This can make the breasts up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the rest of the bird, meaning that they can take up to one hour longer to cook than they would had they not been iced, giving the dark meat plenty of time to cook. \n3. __Use aluminum foil to prevent overcooking__. If the breasts or wings start to burn, cover them with aluminum foil to slow down cooking in just that area. \n4. __Check the temperature regularly__. When roasting a turkey, a thermometer is the only non-negotiable piece of equipment. Ideally, you’ll use a leave-in probe thermometer to monitor the turkey’s internal temperature while it’s cooking. If you only have a digital instant-read thermometer, you’ll need to check the temperature of the turkey periodically to ensure that you remove it from the oven at just the right time.\n5. __Let the turkey rest__. When you pull a turkey from the oven, it doesn't stop cooking. The hotter outside of the turkey continues to cook the cooler interior, and the bird's internal temperature can change by five to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why, if you want your breast meat to cook to 160 degrees, you should remove your turkey from the oven around 150 degrees. Larger turkeys (over 10 pounds) will experience more carryover cooking and should rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. During the resting period, muscle fibers can reabsorb lost juices. If you carve the turkey too early, all the flavorful turkey juices will spill out, rather than staying inside the turkey. Letting the turkey rest uncovered will also keep the skin crispy. \nFour factors affect how long it takes to cook a turkey, making cooking time almost impossible to predict. \n\n1. __Turkey temperature__: The colder your turkey is when you put it in the oven, the longer it will take to cook.\n2. __Turkey size__: Of course, a large turkey will take longer to cook than a small one, but the turkey's size relative to your oven is also important. If your turkey is too big for your oven, heat won't circulate properly inside the oven and the turkey will cook more slowly.\n3. __Oven temperature__: Most ovens aren't accurate when it comes to temperature. Use an oven thermometer to calibrate yours before roasting your turkey. Keep in mind that even if your oven is perfectly accurate, opening the oven door can drop the oven temperature by as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.\n4. __Pan type__: Deeper roasting pans will shield the turkey from heat, making it cook more slowly. For fast, even cooking, roast your turkey on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast spatchcocked turkeys flat on a piece of parchment paper, and elevate whole turkeys on a roasting rack.\n\nFor the best turkey and stuffing, bake your stuffing separately from your bird. If you're spatchcocking your turkey, this is a nonissue, but if you're leaving your centerpiece whole, you may be tempted to cook your stuffing inside the turkey cavity to infuse it with all those meaty flavors. There are three reasons why you should leave your bird unstuffed: \n\n1. __A turkey cooks faster without stuffing__. Stuffing acts as an insulator, slowing down the cooking of your bird. \n2. __A stuffed turkey may turn out dry__. Since stuffing inside a turkey is covered in meat juice, the USDA recommends cooking it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill pathogens. Getting your stuffing to this safe temperature inside the bird will almost certainly result in overcooking the rest of the turkey.\n3. __Stuffing is crispier when baked on its own__. Baking your stuffing in a separate casserole dish will yield crispy stuffing, whereas baking it in the bird will actually steam the stuffing, making it soggy.\nIf it’s your first time cooking a turkey, there are a few secrets to learn in order to roast a perfectly juicy bird.