Tips for a perfect Thanksgiving Turkey from Dixie Tech Chef Jared and Chef Chad

By following these easy step by step directions straight from the world class chefs at Dixie Tech, you can rest assured that dinner at your house will be the hit of the holiday.


oasting a turkey is a simple task, but the pressure of preparing the centerpiece of your family’s holiday dinner can be a little overwhelming. Whether you’ve never cooked a turkey before, or you are just looking for a couple of tips to become a pro, we’ve got you covered with an easy recipe that will help you make a moist, delicious turkey that your whole family will enjoy! By following these easy step by step directions straight from the world class chefs at Dixie Tech, you can rest assured that dinner at your house will be the hit of the holiday.

How to safely thaw a whole turkey

The last thing you want to do is try to roast a semi-frozen turkey. One of the biggest reasons turkeys dry out is because the outer layer gets overcooked while trying to bring the center to a safe temperature. 

To ensure your turkey is thawed completely, place it in a drip proof pan on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator for about 24 hours per 5 pounds. For a 16-18 pound turkey it should stay in the fridge for at least four or five days before you plan on cooking it. 

How to create a brine for a turkey         

If you want an extra tender and juicy turkey, you might consider using a brine. This will load your bird with flavor and prevent it from drying out while it’s being cooked. 

For a 16 to 18 pound turkey, add 3 gallons of cool water into a clean 5 gallon bucket. Mix together 3 cups kosher salt and 1.5 cups sugar and add to the water in the 5 gallon bucket. Once mixed add 1/4 cup juniper berries, 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 bay leaves, 3 Tablespoons of black peppercorns and 1 orange cut in half. Submerge the turkey into mixed brine and let rest for 18 hours. When ready to roast, remove the bird from the brine and pat dry. 

How to prepare a turkey

Rough chop about a pound of carrots, one head of celery and a large onion, or enough to cover the bottom of your turkey roasting pan. 

Chef Jared

Chef Chad

Remove the neck and giblet package from the turkey then place the turkey in the pan on top of the vegetables and liquid, breast side up. Add the turkey neck into the pan next to the bird. Inside of the cavity of the turkey, place about 4 ounces fresh thyme sprigs, a tablespoon of whole black peppercorns, and a couple cloves of peeled garlic. Use a piece of butcher’s twine to tie the legs together. This will help keep the bird from drying out as it roasts.

Here’s where things get a little weird: coat the turkey liberally with mayonnaise, making sure to coat the whole thing well. The mayonnaise serves a couple of purposes- it provides a surface for the seasonings to stick to, and as the turkey roasts, the eggs and oil in the mayo will help the turkey to self-baste, keeping it nice and moist. You can use a silicone brush or put on a pair of disposable gloves and apply by hand.

Pro Tip: Scoop a couple of cups of mayo into a separate container so that the rest of the jar doesn’t get contaminated with raw turkey juices. 

Next, sprinkle the turkey with kosher or sea salt, ground black pepper, poultry seasoning (or rubbed sage), and then dust lightly with paprika, enough that the turkey has a light coating of red dust. 

Roasting the Turkey

Preheat your oven to 350 F

Cover the turkey and the entire top of the roasting pan with plastic wrap to form a tight seal, and cover that with aluminum foil. The plastic wrap will seal the steam from the liquids in, and the foil will keep the plastic from melting. Roast about 4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh at the bone registers at 160 F- about 15 minutes per pound on average. Remove the turkey from the oven and turn the heat up to 375 F. 

Once the oven is preheated, take the plastic and foil off of the roasting pan and place the uncovered turkey back in the oven and roast for another 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the meat has an internal temperature of 165F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 15 minutes, covered loosely with aluminum foil.

Reserve the drippings in the roasting pan for turkey gravy


  • 16-18 lb turkey
  • 3 gallons of cool water
  • 3 cups kosher salt 
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup juniper berries 
  • 9 sprigs of fresh thyme (split between brine and seasoning)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 Tablespoons black peppercorns (split between brine and seasoning)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lb of carrots
  • 1 head of celery 
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 cloves of peeled garlic
  • mayonnaise
  • kosher or sea salt 
  • ground black pepper 
  • poultry seasoning (or rubbed sage)
  • Paprika

If you have ever considered becoming a Chef, then there is no better time than now to begin your culinary journey. Become a professionally trained Chef in one year or less at Dixie Technical College. Apply today!

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