How to Stuff and Prepare a Thanksgiving Turkey

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turkey prep stuffing ready for oven
Photo: Roland Bello

The secret is there is no secret. This simple method yields a flavorful, moist Thanksgiving turkey every time: spread butter under the skin, stuff loosely, season generously, and truss the legs. Here's a step-by-step guide.

01 of 10
stuffing turkey
Roland Bello

Whatever roasting method or stuffing recipe you choose this year, there are nine essential steps to follow if you'd like to produce a flavorful, moist turkey. These easy-to-follow steps take the intimidation out of preparing the classic main dish of Thanksgiving and help you to achieve the best possible flavor and appearance. Get ready to learn some turkey tricks and to serve super juicy meat and delicious stuffing this year.

To ensure a beautiful presentation and even cooking, our guide shows you two essential tricks" tucking the wings and tying the legs. It also includes pro-secrets, such as rubbing butter under the skin for the juiciest breast meat and golden skin. Another tip is to pat the turkey dry with paper towels to remove extra moisture; this is important because it means the skin crisps rather than steams. We also include basic steps on how to properly season the bird, because salt and pepper are so important. Make sure not to skip seasoning inside the cavity, in addition to the outside of the bird. Seasoning inside and out infuses flavor into every bite.

For stuffing, you'll want to maximize the stuffing yield (because we all know everyone will ask for seconds) while also being careful not to overstuff. Our trick is stuffing the neck in addition to the cavity, and we will show you how to do just that. Most importantly, be sure to start with a totally defrosted (or fresh) bird and preheat the oven while you prep the turkey.

Once you've prepared the turkey, follow our classic Salt and Pepper Turkey recipe for roasting or use your favorite turkey recipe. And after the turkey is roasted, don't waste those delicious pan drippings—head over to our gravy guide.

Happy Thanksgiving!

02 of 10

Tuck Wing Tips and Remove Anything in Cavity

turkey prep stuffing tucking wings
Roland Bello

First, tuck wing tips underneath body of turkey by gently lifting up one side at a time and tucking and folding the wing under. Remove anything in the cavity such as the giblet packet and neck. Reserve these if desired for another use, such as making giblet stock.

03 of 10

Pat Turkey Dry

turkey prep stuffing drying bird
Roland Bello

Next pat turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Salt and pepper inside of the turkey and keep salt and pepper on hand to season the exterior after stuffing the bird.

04 of 10

Rub Butter Underneath Skin

turkey prep stuffing adding butter to cavity
Roland Bello

Using fingers, gently separate skin from turkey breast and rub softened butter under skin.

05 of 10

Stuff Cavity of Turkey

turkey prep stuffing back cavity

Loosely stuff the large cavity of the turkey (stuffing expands as it cooks). Save a small amount of stuffing for the next step.

06 of 10

Stuff Neck of Turkey

turkey prep stuffing front cavity
Roland Bello

Stuff the neck cavity with a small amount of stuffing. Fold neck skin over opening.

07 of 10

Tie Legs

turkey prep stuffing tying legs together
Roland Bello

Using kitchen twine, cross the legs together and tie them securely at the "ankle."

08 of 10

Season Exterior with Salt

turkey prep stuffing adding salt
Roland Bello

Season the turkey generously all over with salt.

09 of 10

Season Outside with Pepper

turkey prep stuffing adding pepper
Roland Bello

Season the turkey all over with freshly ground black pepper.

10 of 10

Arrange in Roasting Pan

turkey prep stuffing ready for oven
Roland Bello

Transfer the turkey into a roasting pan. It's ready to roast.

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