Instant Pot Thanksgiving turkey makes quick work of a smaller holiday dinner. Enough for 6 servings, it comes out incredibly moist and juicy and a couple of minutes under the broiler gives you a crispy, bronze skin too.
Cooking a whole turkey can be a bit intimidating. It’s big, bulky, and heavy, and just plain awkward to handle. Have no fear! I know a lot of you are reading this recipe in prep for a smaller, intimate Thanksgiving meal. And this Instant Pot turkey is absolutely perfect for that. But I’ve got news for you…this one’s not just for Thanksgiving, guys. It’s great year-round.–Heather Schlueter
DO I NEED TO BRINE MY TURKEY?
One of the best reasons to use an Instant Pot, besides just how fast it is, is that the vacuum seal action and wet heat mean that the meat will be ultra juicy. Brining is one way to ensure that your white meat doesn’t dry out in a dry heat situation but that’s not necessary here.
If you’re worried about your bird not having enough flavor without a brine, that shouldn’t be a problem either. Make sure to season it well and add lots of aromatics to your pot before starting.
Instant Pot Thanksgiving Turkey
- 6-Quart or larger Instant Pot or pressure cooker
- One (6- to 7-pound) young turkey or chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt such as Lawry’s
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lime or lemon quartered, preferably organic
- 1 medium (7 oz) onion peeled and quartered
- 1 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) butter at room temperature
- Rinse turkey and remove giblets from the cavity. Pat the bird dry. Rub olive oil underneath the breast skin.
- Sprinkle entire turkey with seasoned salt, paprika, and pepper. Fill the cavity of the turkey with the lime or lemon and half of the onion.
- Pour chicken broth into the inner pot of the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Place turkey into the pot, breast side up. Tuck remaining onion, rosemary, and thyme on top of and around the turkey.
- If you are using an Instant Pot, secure the lid, ensuring the valve is turned to the Sealing position. Press the Pressure Cook button and set the time to 30 minutes.If you are using a regular pressure cooker, secure the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, let the pot sit and naturally release pressure for 20 minutes, then turn the valve to the Venting position or use quick release to release any remaining pressure.
- Preheat oven broiler.
- Remove lid, and, using tongs and a fork, carefully move the turkey from the pot to a broiling pan, breast side up.
- Lightly pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Spread softened butter over the turkey and place it under the broiler, approximately 5 inches (12.5 cm) below the heat source.
- Broil the turkey, watching carefully and rotating frequently, until the skin has turned a deep golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Let the turkey rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
How do I get my turkey out of the Instant Pot?So the only problem with a super moist bird is that you might have a hard time getting it out of that small space. If you’re dead set on a picture-perfect Insta-turkey, get your platter ready and have someone you trust help you with it. We’re not going to lie. Removing the turkey is a little tricky as it will be extremely tender at this point. Have your partner hold the pressure cooker in place while you lift the turkey out. If a wing or leg falls off, don’t worry about it. Just piece it back into place and carry on. It’ll be one less thing you need to carve. The other suggestion is to start carving it right in the Instant Pot. Carve off the drumsticks and wings, slice off the breast in 2 large pieces, then lift the rest out and finish slicing on the platter. There’s no rule saying that you need to carve the bird at the table, anyway, right?
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I was pleasantly surprised by this Instant Pot turkey recipe–it was easy, quick (certainly compared to other traditional turkey recipes), and flavorful. The turkey was moist and fell off the bone. A small amount of time under the broiler crisped up the skin, making it look like it had been roasting for hours.
The cooking juices leftover in the pressure cooker, after straining, also made an excellent gravy–no need to add salt or other spices. My turkey weighed in at 6.35 pounds and would be enough for 6 healthy servings, but probably not for seconds or plentiful leftovers. This would no doubt be a real time and space saver in a holiday kitchen where oven space is at a premium.
I really don’t enjoy having to eat dry turkey leftovers for days after Thanksgiving, so a small bird makes sense when one is not dining with 20 other people. This Instant Pot Thanksgiving turkey was moist and had a good texture–no toughness–and cooking in the pressure cooker was pretty simple.
Unfortunately, I think most of the flavor from the delicious-smelling rub ended up in the cooking liquid and not in the bird, but that seems to be how it is with poultry anyway. Just distract your guests with delicious sides and they’ll be none the wiser.
I love the idea that we can have a turkey or chicken dinner on the table in about 1 hour. I know we can roast a chicken in around the same amount of time but if you want to use your oven for other things this is a great option. Rubbing it with butter and broiling it for 6 minutes it came out of the oven resembling the bird we had hoped for, lightly browned with burnished bits here and there.
The skin was sort of crispy but not as crisp as if it had been roasted. However, the meat was delightful, supremely moist, and lightly flavoured. I was concerned that after broiling the breast meat it might become dry but I shouldn’t have worried. Other than changing up the seasoning for variety this is a recipe I’ll make again. We got 3 generous servings for dinner, 3 lunches, and a bit left for a soup or sandwich.
Okay, I’m in. Mark this as the recipe that finally shook out my Instant Pot skepticism and forever changed the way I’ll think of roasting a whole bird. I tested this using a whole chicken, which is a more frequent player in our dinner repertoire than is turkey, so I was particularly eager to try this substitution. (With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’ll probably also give it a go with the turkey option soon.)
I followed the radically simple recipe exactly as written and kept having to check myself that I wasn’t missing something that would make it more involved or complicated. (Nope.) Not only was the chicken precisely cooked, perfectly moist all over, and remarkably seasoned, but the added bonus was a super-easy clean-up, absent any charred, greasy roasting pan.
This recipe, which I take as more of a technique, will be a seminal keeper for my file, and I plan to use it with some spice and liquid variations soon.
Originally published November 1, 2021