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!
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 in a Bowl Ingredients
To make the best turkey recipe possible, here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- Olive oil
- Whole turkey
- Lemon zest
- Fresh sage
- Fresh thyme
- 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.
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:
- Roast an entire bulb of garlic until softened, then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the bulb.
- Mix the garlic gloves with softened butter, herbs, spices, and lemon zest.
- Rub the turkey all over with the butter mixture.
- Place turkey into the bowl.
- Cover the bowl tightly with foil, then roast low and slow until cooked through.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the oven (it’s going to be so heavy with all of those juices in there).
- Peel back the tin foil, making sure you aren’t standing directly over the bowl since the steam will burst out of it.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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:
- Deep Fried Turkey
- Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
- Turkey Pot Pie Soup
- The Ultimate Leftover Turkey Club
- Award Winning Instant Pot Turkey
- Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Tetrazzini
- Apple Pecan Smoked Turkey Breast
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Turkey in a Bowl
- 1 Bulb Garlic
- Olive Oil
- 18 Pound Whole Turkey
- 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
- 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.