The BEST Turkey Ever (We Promise!)

Want a perfectly cooked turkey to serve to your family and friends this holiday season? Here are Alton Brown’s pro tips for an amazing bird.

November 16, 2017
By: Katie Morton

Photo by: iStock


When it comes to holiday recipes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Celebrity Chef Alton Brown seems to have mastered the key to that perfect holiday roast turkey. Alton Brown's Good Eats roast turkey recipe has been one of the top recipes for many years!

Want a perfectly cooked turkey to serve to your family and friends this holiday season? Here are Alton Brown's pro tips for an amazing bird.

Step One: Prepping the Turkey

Pro Turkey Prep Tip #1: An Un-Stuffed Bird

Stuffing adds mass to the bird, which leads to dry meat. A stuffed bird is also a haven for bacterial growth. Skip the stuffing inside the bird. This doesn't mean you need a stuffing-less Thanksgiving. Just prepare the stuffing as a separate side dish. Your turkey will cook faster and stay moister.

Pro Turkey Prep Tip #2: Brine Your Bird

The salt in the brine helps make your turkey soft and tender. Fans of the turkey brining process say that a brined bird is extra flavorful and extremely juicy.

Pro Turkey Prep Tip #3: Add Delicious Aromatics

An unstuffed bird doesn't mean an empty turkey cavity. You can add herbs, fruits, and savory flavors to the cavity of the bird for a wonderful Thanksgiving aroma and flavor. Rosemary, sage, onion, red apple, and a cinnamon stick are Alton Brown's turkey aromatics of choice.

Insert the aromatics in the turkey cavity, and then tuck the bird's legs under its body. You can use wire or cooking twine to tie the turkey's legs together since they are oven safe.

Pro Turkey Prep Tip #4: Aluminum "Turkey Triangle" Foil Breastplate

The pro chef dilemma of cooking a giant bird is the presence of both dark meat and light meat. Lean light meat cooks more quickly than fatty dark meat, so what's a chef to do to get a uniformly cooked roast turkey?

According to Alton Brown, the "secret is to form fit [the turkey triangle] before you actually need it." Just rub canola oil on the foil and form fit the foil triangle on the raw turkey breast (thus preventing you from having to wrangle foil a burning hot bird later on).

Pro Turkey Prep Tip #5: Liberally Rub Down the Bird with Oil

Use canola oil on the outside of your raw bird. Coat the entire turkey with the canola oil. The addition of oil allows the outside of the bird to brown beautifully.

Step Two: Cooking the Turkey

Pro Turkey Cooking Tip #1: Roast Your Turkey Legs First
Slide your roasting pan into the oven with the turkey legs facing the back of the oven. Why not breast first? The fatty leg meat and other dark meat will withstand more heat than the lean white meat.

Pro Turkey Cooking Tip #2: Start With a Screaming Hot 500 Degree Oven

This tip may surprise seasoned cooks used to roasting at a low and slow temperature. According to Alton, "you start your bird in a ripping hot oven because you need dry, intense heat to brown the skin." Low and slow cooking melts the fat layer of the bird without browning the skin. Alton Brown recommends 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes for a perfectly browned moist bird.

Pro Turkey Cooking Tip #3: Add Turkey Triangle

After 30 minutes in a 500-degree oven, it's time to cover the beast with the pre-made foil piece. Put your "turkey triangle" on the breast and then pop your turkey back in the oven.

Pro Turkey Cooking Tip #4: Reduce Heat to 350 Degrees

The next step is to reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast your turkey until the meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 161 degrees.

Pro Turkey Prep Tip #5: Use a Meat Probe Thermometer

Skip the pop-up, built-in thermometer and use a meat thermometer instead. Insert the meat thermometer in the deepest part of the white meat. Avoid the ribs and bones when inserting because that will lead to a false temperature reading.

Pro Turkey Cooking Tip #6: Cover and Rest

Once your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 161 degrees, remove the bird from the oven. Let the turkey rest before carving. To keep it warm, cover with tented foil or a stainless steel bowl. Alton Brown uses his lid from his kettle grill to cover the bird.

With our tips, you'll have the best roast turkey ever! Happy Thanksgiving from TLC to your family!