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How to Cook a Turkey in a Bowl

8 Reviews

Stressed at the thought of cooking a turkey? Don’t be! We’ve made dozens of turkeys over the years and we’ve figured out how to cook a turkey perfectly every time. Spoiler: the best way to cook a turkey is in a bowl

a grey platter with juicy, shredded turkey that was cooked in a bowl

The BEST Turkey Recipe

My friend Brittany was chatting with me over Thanksgiving dinner last year all about turkeys. You see, Brittany doesn’t cook a turkey in the traditional way. In fact, she totally blew my mind when she told me, the best way to cook a turkey this turkey in a bowl recipe — is life changing.

Yes, it’s a turkey that is literally cooked in a big bowl in the oven.

You’re going to want to buy a big bowl and try this one out for yourself. It’s the simplest and quickest way to prepare turkey recipe that I’ve ever seen, but the results are fall apart moist and tender.

Turkey Basics

Before we get too far into this, I want to cover a few of the basics so you know if is the right fit for your eating schedule:

  • A frozen turkey will need thaw 24 hours per every 5 pounds.
  • Turkey will need to cook for 1 hour per pound.
  • Safe internal temperature for a turkey is 175 degrees F the thigh and 165 degrees F in the breast.

So let’s assume you are going to roast a 18 pound turkey that is frozen when you purchase it and you want to have your meal on Thursday afternoon. Here is your brief timeline:

  • Remove turkey from freezer to thaw in the fridge: 4 days ahead of time (Sunday afternoon – Wednesday afternoon)
  • Turkey roasts in the oven: 15 hours
  • Turkey rests: 30 minutes

The turkey will be falling off the bones and probably won’t even really need to be carved! Now here are those same steps in a little more detail…

Turkey in a Bowl Ingredients

To make the best turkey recipe possible, here are the ingredients you’ll need: 

  • Garlic 
  • Olive oil
  • Whole turkey
  • Butter
  • Lemon zest 
  • Fresh sage
  • Fresh thyme
  • Paprika 
  • Kosher salt

Really, that’s it! Cooking a turkey requires far less ingredients than you’d think. If you’d like to make turkey gravy from the drippings (which you should definitely do!), you’ll also need some water and cornstarch when making this whole turkey recipe. 

 Supplies Needed for This Easy Turkey Recipe

In addition to the ingredients listed above, you’ll also need to buy a big oven-safe bowl. Because I’ve got lazy bones, I generally order this 20 QT bowl from Amazon, but you could totally check out kitchen stores in your area as well.

It’s actually totally worth the investment too as we use this bowl to mix up big snack mixes like our 5-Minute Reese’s Snack Mix and 5-Minute Halloween Snack mix, plus we make bread in it, and so on.

how to cook a turkey in a bowl

How to Cook a Turkey in a Bowl

For this easy turkey recipe, you’ll basically be creating your own slow cooker in the oven. The turkey is placed in the bowl, covered tightly with tin foil, and baked low and slow for hours. The good news is, you don’t have to ever peek, test the temperature, or anything. You literally pop it in the oven and don’t think about it for hours. You can be busy making other things without ever basting, turning, or even touching the turkey! 

I know, this isn’t your typical roasted turkey recipe, but look how brown it got and can you see how it’s falling apart?!

Here’s a basic rundown of how to make a turkey in a bowl:

  1. Roast an entire bulb of garlic until softened, then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the bulb. 
  2. Mix the garlic gloves with softened butter, herbs, spices, and lemon zest. 
  3. Rub the turkey all over with the butter mixture. 
  4. Place turkey into the bowl. 
  5. Cover the bowl tightly with foil, then roast low and slow until cooked through. 
  6. Carefully remove the bowl from the oven (it’s going to be so heavy with all of those juices in there).
  7. Peel back the tin foil, making sure you aren’t standing directly over the bowl since the steam will burst out of it.
  8. Use tongs to lift out whole pieces of turkey, being sure to arrange the meat on a platter while watching for any bones that might sneak in.
  9. Make turkey gravy from the drippings, if desired. 

How Long to Cook a Turkey

The general rule for cooking a whole turkey using this cooking method is about an hour a pound at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

We use an 18-pound turkey, but by 15 hours it’s totally done and falling apart. If you have a turkey bigger than 15 pounds, you will most likely find the exact same thing, but if you open the bowl and it’s not done, just give it another hour or two. Note that I’ve never had to add extra time.

a grey platter with juicy, shredded turkey that was cooked in a bowl

How Much Turkey Do I Need Per Person?

Figuring out what size turkey you need to buy can be challenging. As a general rule of thumb, you should count on each person eating roughly 1 pound of turkey. You’ll likely wind up with leftovers this way, which is fine in my book! 

For reference, an 18-pound turkey will feed about 25 people with leftovers. And to serve over 50 guests, try using two 20 to 22-pound turkeys.

The Best Herbs for Turkey

You can make this turkey in a bowl into whatever you want. There are endless options for flavoring your turkey.

Herb Turkey We love fresh herbs, so try mincing up poultry herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley. And don’t forget salt as that’s where the majority of flavor will come from. Rub these chopped herbs all over and under the skin alone or with softened butter for an ultra flavorful, moist turkey. 

Smoky Turkey — Just like our Smoked Turkey Breast Recipe, you can really bring home those warm flavors by mixing together cumin, smoked paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and ground mustard. This combination of spices makes for a unique homemade turkey your friends and family won’t soon forget! 

Citrus Turkey — Try adding orange or lemon zest to butter along with fresh herbs for a bright whole turkey.

How to Reheat Turkey

If you have leftover turkey after Thanksgiving, I recommend reheating it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to reheat the turkey in a baking dish and add a splash of turkey broth or leftover pan drippings to keep the turkey moist. Then, wrap the baking dish tightly with tin foil to seal in the moisture and cook the turkey until heated through (about 20 to 30 minutes). 

Can You Freeze Turkey? 

Absolutely! Turkey can be frozen for up to 4 months. I love using frozen turkey in casseroles, soups, stews, and on sandwiches. You all know I love using my food saver to freeze turkey, but sealing it in a freezer bag will work too! 


a grey platter with juicy, shredded turkey that was cooked in a bowl

Tips on How to Cook a Turkey 

Always place the turkey breast side down when cooking a turkey in a bowl. Even traditional roasting should start out breast side down and then be flipped in the cooking process.

As you remove (or attempt to remove) the turkey, everything will be falling apart back into the bowl. You literally cannot lift the turkey out. Because of this, we prefer to drain out the juice and make the gravy and then remove the turkey.

And if you want to make this turkey recipe a little healthier, feel free to ditch the butter and only use seasonings and herbs to flavor the turkey in a bowl. Just make sure to spray the bowl with nonstick cooking spray before adding the turkey so nothing sticks.

More Turkey Recipes: 

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a large stainless steel bowl with a whole turkey that was roasted in the bowl in the oven with lots of juices and drippings

Turkey in a Bowl

3.88 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 hours
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 25 servings
Stressed at the thought of cooking a turkey? Don’t be! We’ve made dozens of turkeys over the years and we’ve figured out how to cook a turkey perfectly every time. Spoiler: the best way to cook a turkey is in a bowl


  • 1 Bulb Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • 18 Pound Turkey Whole
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter softened
  • 2 Lemons Zested
  • 1 Tablespoon Thyme minced (or 2 1/2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sage minced (or 2 1/2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 Teaspoons Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

For the Gravy

  • 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons Water


Turkey Basics

  • A frozen turkey will need thaw 24 hours per every 5 pounds.
  • Turkey will need to cook for 1 hour per pound.
  • Safe internal temperature for a turkey is 175 degrees F the thigh and 165 degrees F in the breast.

Turkey Timeline

  • Remove turkey from freezer to thaw in the fridge: 4 days ahead of time
  • Turkey roasts in the oven: 15 hours
  • Turkey rests: 30 minutes

Turkey in a Bowl

  • Heat an oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Place the garlic bulb on a cutting board and slice off the very top to expose the garlic.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Wrap the bulb in foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the garlic from the oven and squeeze out the soft garlic cloves into a bowl.
  • Add the softened butter, herbs and spices.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Rub the turkey with the butter mixture under the skin and over it.
  • If your turkey is extra large you may need to double the butter.
  • Place the turkey breast side down in a 20 QT stainless steel bowl.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour a pound at 250 degrees, up to 15 hours.
  • Carefully remove from the oven and remove the liquid to a gravy fat separator.
  • Pour the drippings into a pan over medium high heat.
  • Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.
  • Once the drippings are simmering, whisk in the cornstarch mixture until smooth and thick. If you don't need all of the slurry don't use it, or make more if you ended up with a lot of drippings.
  • Remove the turkey from the bowl to a platter, no need to cut as it's all shredded.


Left overs can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Remove the meat from the bones before freezing.
Nutrition Facts
Turkey in a Bowl
Amount Per Serving (2 slices)
Calories 640 Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Fat 26g40%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Polyunsaturated Fat 16g
Cholesterol 360mg120%
Sodium 855mg37%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Protein 93g186%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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a grey platter with juicy, shredded turkey that was cooked in a bowl

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About the authors

carrian feik cheney oh sweet basil

Cade and Carrian have three children and love to spend time together whether it’s vacationing or snuggled up on the couch for a good movie.

And this family especially loves to eat.

They love everything from the keep you fit and healthy to the get out your sweat pants indulgent and everything in between.

But most of all, they love the memories made, shared and treasured and it’s all thanks to a meal shared together with loved ones.

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Recipe Rating


  • Did this last year because it’s such a fun idea. But I had the same experience that 15 hours for a big bird is WAY too long. At 250 my bird was done in about 8 hours. I’m going to try it again this year though and just start it later. I’m going to shoot for 30 minutes per pound. Love all your recipes and your sweet family!

    • Reply
    • Thank you so much for your support Hillary! As long as your turkey reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees, you should be good to go! Happy Thanksgiving!

      • Reply
  • If I use a smaller turkey do I need to use a smaller bowl or can I still use the 20 qt bowl?

    Will it also work in a smaller bowl?

    • Reply
    • Yes and yes! Enjoy, Jane!

      • Reply
  • Can this be done in a stainless steel roasting pan – the 20 quart bowl is too big for my oven

    • Reply
    • Answered below!

      • Reply
  • I am going to make this turkey in a bowl next week – I ordered the 20 quart bowl – only one problem – it does not fit in my oven. Could I use a roasting pan and the same technique to make this turkey?

    • Reply
    • Hi Beverley! Oh no! Those bowls are huge! It won’t work the same in a roasting pan. The whole thing needs to be stainless steel to get the same effect. There is just something magical that happens.

      • Reply
      • Will the pot from an instant pot work in place of the bowl as long as the turkey fits?

      • That is a great question and I honestly have no idea! I want to say yes that it would work, but I wouldn’t want you to ruin your Instant Pot pot. I wouldn’t recommend it since we haven’t tested it.

  • Tried this recipe for Thanksgiving, and so did my neighbor. I had a 14 lb. turkey and it was done in 7 hours . So thankful I checked on it or it would have been burnt if I left in the oven for the whole time the recipe calls for. When I checked on it I called my neighbor and told her to check on hers whichwas also done. Turkey was very delicious and moist but someone needs to adjust cooking time

    • Reply
    • That’s interesting! It wouldn’t have burned with all of that liquid, but ours takes more time so I guess it depends on the oven.

      • Reply
  • Could you use this method with a turkey breast? Smaller bowl perhaps? Thanks!

    • Reply
    • Yes, go with bone in for best results and keep the same rule for time we mention in the post. Happy turkey-ing!!

      • Reply
  • Is a roaster pan different than the bowl? I’m just wondering if I could cover my roaster pan with tin foil and if it would end up the same.

    • Reply
    • It wouldn’t work the same. The whole thing needs to be stainless steel. There’s just something magical that happens!

      • Reply
  • My mother in law wants to know if this would work with 2- 5lb turkey breasts only, not any other part of the turkey- just the breasts?

    • Reply
    • Yes, but bake time will follow the baking rule versus the time for a whole bird. Enjoy!!

      • Reply
  • Every time I come up with what I think is a crazy idea I always check the internet to see if anyone else has tried it. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this post. I no longer want to use unhealthy aluminium pans for cooking, but I live in a small space right now and did not want to buy a huge roasting pan. I just happened to have a large stainless steel bowl.

    This I believe would have worked had I just used “common sense” and checked to see how it was progressing. I took your word and left it alone (1 hour per pound. ) I awoke 10 hours later to a 15 lb blackened bird. My estimation is that the timing should be closer to 30 minutes per pound -if that long.

    True it could depend on the stove but you figure 250 is 250. At any rate I am a long time cook I should have checked as usual, I thought the burnt smell was something spilled in the oven.

    I’m planning to try again for Christmas. I was Able at least to salvage a little of the white meat it was rather stringy so I added barbeque sauce and called it ” pulled turkey” -not bad !

    • Reply
    • Oh no!!!! Was it a whole turkey? We have made this several times now and have never had a problem with it burning.

      • Reply
  • Hi, so I requested a no more than 20lb bird from the farmer and got a 25lb bird.
    It fits in the bowl you recommended on amazon tightly on the sides and a little bit higher than the bowl.
    Will this still work?
    if so, do I still cook it 15 hours?

    • Reply
    • Yes, it will still work. Just keep an eye on the juice as they might overflow. 15 hours should still do it, but maybe keep 16-17 hrs in mind just in case!

      • Reply
  • Question, could you do this with a bone in turkey breast instead of a whole turkey? I’m so excited to try this recipe!

    • Reply
    • Yes definitely! It will just need less time to cook.

      • Reply
  • How big of a turkey will the bowl that is linked on Amazon hold?

    • Reply
    • Up to a 20lb bird!

      • Reply
  • Do you think a 16 quart bowl would be large enough? My double oven will not fit the dimensions listed on the 20 quart bowl.

    • Reply
    • I think it will be just fine as long as you don’t get a huge turkey! Enjoy!

      • Reply
  • If you buy an 18 pound turkey and it takes 1 hr per pound to cook…. wouldn’t that mean it would take 18 hrs to cook? Do you start cooking it the night before? How do you know it’s done by that time?

    • Reply
    • We’ve found that once you hit 15 hours, it is ready to go regardless if its bigger than 15lbs. Check it at 15 hrs and if it’s not quite done, give it another hour or two. We’ve never had to cook ours longer than 15 hours. Yes, depending on when we want to eat the next day, we either start it the night before or pop it in the oven in the middle of the night. I know, setting an alarm for food?! That is a labor of love! Use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature, but you’ll be able to tell when all the meat is falling right off the bones.

      • Reply
  • Hi! This recipe looks amazing! I checked out the link for this 20qt stainless steel bowl from Amazon but it doesn’t mention it being oven safe, is it?

    • Reply
    • Yes! We’ve used this exact one several times now. Thank you!

      • Reply
  • Do you have a link for a recipe and instructions?

    • Reply
  • Hi, when I roast a turkey I typically dry brine with salt 3ish days ahead, to make the meat tender.
    Do you think I’d still need to do that cooking it in the bowl?
    Thanks. This recipe looks great! I look forward to all the drippings, so that there is some for the gravy and some to use in the stuffing.

    • Reply
    • We did not dry brine at all and it was so juicy and delicious! If you try dry brining ahead of time, let us know how it turns out!

      • Reply
  • Ummm…. this is frickin brilliant

    • Reply
    • My thoughts exactly! One of those…”why didn’t I think of that?” moments!

      • Reply
  • hi. love your site! quick question, can you cook a chicken in a bowl with this same method?


    • Reply
    • Great question and yes! And it will be the same cooking time…1hr/lb.

      • Reply
  • I already have the bowl of which I prepare my homemade bread dough in so I will be making my turkey in the bowl come this Thanksgiving.

    • Reply
    • Yessssss! We would love to hear how you like it! It has become our new favorite!

      • Reply

    RE TURKEY I HAVE A FEW ???????

    • Reply
    • Hi Roseanne! Thank you for your kind words! These are all great questions! 1 – The bowl covered in foil makes it basically a slow cooker and keeps it so moist and delicious unlike a casserole dish. 2 – I honestly don’t know the answer to this, but something magical happens in that bowl. You’ll have to trust me on this one! 🙂 3 – You would think so, but the meat is so moist, tender, and perfect! Like I said…magical!

      • Reply
    • I think I can answer question #2!

      There is no slow cooker or pressure cooker large enough to contain a normal size turkey. I do chicken all the time in the slow cooker with delicious results, but the largest one I can easily accommodate is about 6-8 pounds.

      I am surprised you use no braising liquid at all. I use a similar method with just the thigh and drumsticks in my dutch oven, but I use a braising liquid in addition. Very interesting!

      • Reply
  • This is definitely an interesting way to cook a turkey. One I am anxious to try because of the drippings. When do you turn the turkey from breast-side down to breast-side up? Thanks for your help and all your yummy recipes.

    • Reply
    • Hi Frankie! For turkey in a bowl, it stays breast side down the whole time. Enjoy! We would love to hear what you think when you try it!

      • Reply

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