How to Cook a Turkey in a Pressure Cooker – Our Adventure Cooking a Turkey in 1 Hour

As part of our Thanksgiving Challenge, we decided to try and figure out how to cook a turkey in our pressure cooker. It couldn't be that hard... I mean a chicken is easy and a turkey is just an over-sized chicken, right? :)

It turns out this recipe was one of the hardest we've done so far. The result was juicy, flavorful, and very moist, but it was also tricky to execute. We ended up making two turkeys to get the recipe right.

Here's what happened:

How to Cook a Turkey (Pressure cooker try #1)


Step 1: Buy a turkey.
We knew that our 8 quart pressure cooker would need the smallest turkey we could find. We set out to our local grocery store late one night, and happened to get lucky - there was a whole case of "L'il Butterballs" all between 9 - 11 pounds. We picked the smallest one and went home to see if it would fit.

The 9.8 pound bird did fit, barely. We put it in the refrigerator to defrost. So far so good.

We have a lot more story to tell but I am too excited to hold back our final recipe video. The story continues below.

How to cook a turkey in a pressure cooker video recipe (View all pressure cooker recipes)

Step 2: Cook the turkey.
Here is where things got tough. How long should we cook a whole turkey? The few recipes I found said 40 minutes for a 10 - 12 pound bird. Since we cooked our chicken for just over 20 minutes, and this was near triple the size of our usual chickens, it seemed right. To be honest, I was initially afraid it wouldn't be long enough.

I followed the general chicken recipe and browned all four sides of the bird in the pressure cooker. This was not as easy as it sounded. The turkey was such a tight fit that getting a grip with cooking tongs was actually quite tricky. Eventually, with some help from Ryan, we were able to get it all done.

By the time it was browned sufficiently the oil on the bottom of the pan was too hot and had to be cooled before we could fully de-glaze the pan. And speaking of de-glazing the pan - how much water would we need? Again following the sources I found for cooking times, I added 2 cups of water. (You can actually see the 2 cup measure in the video if you look for it.)

how to cook a turkey rotate

Browning all sides was tough to do, a separate pan may have been easier

Now it was time to cook at pressure. Putting the turkey in, making sure it was off the bottom and not blocking the pressure release valve, we brought it to high pressure, set the timer for 40 minutes, and waited.

Step 3: Open and serve.

When I opened the lid I was surprised at how much fluid there was. Well over half the turkey was in water. I read the label on the turkey and found the reason: 6% flavor and moisture injection. I guess when you roast a turkey in a dry oven you need all the additional moisture you can get. However, the released juices (it didn't help that it was overcooked), coupled with the two cups I added, were more than enough. I ended up just using the juices in my stock.

After the initial shock of how much liquid there was, came the really hard part - getting the turkey out. I had a pair of tongs that I was planning on using to get under the backbones and lift the turkey out, but that didn't exactly work. The turkey was overcooked. In fact, every time I tried to grab the bones, they fell out!

We carefully plopped the turkey on a platter and tried to salvage what we could. The meat was extremely flavorful, but a little tough and stringy - it was definitely over cooked! We couldn't post this recipe for you guys without at least another attempt to get it right, so we wen't back to step 1, buy another turkey.

A-little-overcooked-turkey

A little overcooked, back to step 1

How to Cook a Turkey (Pressure cooker try #2)


Step 1 (again): Buy a turkey
This wasn't as easy the second time. It was closer to Thanksgiving and while the store had lots of turkeys not one of them was under 15 pounds! Ryan even found the dedicated turkey employee who said they ran out of the small ones and weren't planning on ordering more. Luckily another grocery store is only a few miles away, so we went there to see if they had any small turkey's. No dice.

We thought for a while about what to do, and remembered yet another grocery store just a few miles away and decided to try one last time. We got there late at night again, and found the turkey section. Success! They had two turkeys under 10 pounds. We picked the smallest one (9.6 lbs) and checked out. This grocery store was having a crazy sale so the turkey was less than a turkey sandwich at their sub shop would have been... insane.

We got home, and decided to let the turkey defrost naturally again.

Step 2 (repeat): Cook the Turkey.
After two days we went to cook the turkey, but it wasn't fully defrosted in the middle and we had to finish defrosting it by submerging in cold water for about an hour. That worked and we were ready for take two of the Turkey Challenge.

This time we decided to brown the turkey in a separate pan, to make turning it easier. It was much easier, and if you do decide to do this recipe I would recommend using that method.

brown-turkey-seperate-pan

The second time around we browned the turkey in a separate pan

We knew we had to cut back the cook time substantially - but how much? We thought about it, and about how overcooked the first one was, and decided to go for 3 minutes a pound, or about 30 minutes. We also cut the water back to 1 cup because I knew the turkey would be adding its own as it cooked.

This turkey was smaller than the last one, so we thought it would be easy to fit inside the pressure cooker when we went to cook it. We thought wrong... it was smaller in weight, but longer in body. This one we really had to jam in there to fully fit. In fact, it was such a tight fit that we almost brought out our much larger pressure canner to use instead. Luckily we got it to fit with just a little bit of effort, and brought the pressure to high (15 psi) for 30 minutes plus natural release.

This time when I opened the lid there was a lot of liquid, but not as much. Also, the meat was pulled back from the edges of the bones, but not as badly. And the biggest improvement - when I grabbed the turkey with the tongs, it held! Unfortunately the joints holding the legs and wings to the body were weakened, and they had to be taken out separately, but the main body wasn't falling apart like the first one. We called it a success :) and plated the meal.

beautiful-thanksgiving-turkey

Attempt two was a success

Again, it tasted fantastic, full of moisture and flavor. And every part was cooked all the way through.

pressure-cooker-turkey

Delicious moist turkey

Moral of this story? We tried something crazy, as part of a challenge, and I'm willing to call it a success. But because of the difficulty in execution, I don't think I'd try it again next year. I definitely would try a turkey breast, though. And because we cooked two turkeys, we got tons of homemade stock. One thing is certain - the homemade stock is awesome and the pressure cooker does a great job blasting the flavors, gelatin, and nutrients from the bones. I think it was some of the best stock I've made so far, even beating our usual chicken stock. That recipe is a keeper.

If you have a pressure canner, or a small turkey/turkey breast, and try pressure cooking it, please let us know how it comes out. There aren't a lot of resources out there for pressure cooking turkeys, and we'd love to add your personal experiences to the mix for others to learn from.

how-to-cook-a-turkey

Here's what worked for us in the end. (a quick summary of our findings)

Pressure Cooker Turkey Recipe


1. Look for a small turkey and make sure it fits on top of the rack all the way inside the pressure cooker without touching the lid. (A 9.5lb bird was about the max our 8-quart pressure cooker could handle)

2. Make sure the turkey is fully defrosted. (You'll need about 24 hours in the fridge for every four pounds)

3. Heat 2 Tbs oil in the pressure cooker or in a bigger pan and brown and season all sides of the turkey. We used kosher salt, pepper, oregano and parsley.

4. Cook for 28 minutes our ~3 minutes per pound at high (15 psi) pressure. When the time is up use the natural release method.

5. Open the lid and carefully plate the turkey. You can also broil in the over for a few minutes for a crispy browned skin.

I hope this recipe was helpful and if you have any tips or questions please let us know.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Rating: 6.8/10 (12 votes cast)
How to Cook a Turkey in a Pressure Cooker - Our Adventure Cooking a Turkey in 1 Hour, 6.8 out of 10 based on 12 ratings


Thanks for reading.

"I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate." ~Julia Child  
Why learn pressure cooking?
It's 7 pm. The end of the work day stomach rumbles...

In one hand, a take out menu. In the other hand, the refrigerator door...its contents staring back almost as blankly as we are towards them. We want a homemade meal, but also want something quick and simple to make.
1. Simple and quick recipes requiring basic skills to become proficient in the kitchen.
2. Quality ingredients, not necessarily 100% organic, but meals without artificials and chemistry class additives.
3. To understand more of the story of our food and take small steps towards self-reliance.

It's true, there are many benefits to pressure cooking: the time savings, the taste, a small step towards self-reliance, sustainability... but the real benefit is in what we learn as we redefine our relationship with food. Good food can be fast. Good food can be easy.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb June 4, 2012 at 10:44 am

Thanks for the recipe, I’m gonna try it tonight!

Elizabeth September 22, 2012 at 8:31 am

I’m thinking of cooking a turkey in my electric pressure cooker this Thanksgiving. Will the cook times be the same?

Thomas Emery November 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm

My dad all ways cooked our turkey in a monkey wards pressure cooker (Montgomery wards like sears) My boy come home with a turkey frozen solid and wanted me to cook it. I said it would take to long to defrost it. Then i got to thinking about Dads turkeys and out to the back room and got the the big boy caner. frozen solid we had a nice eatable turkey but it was cooked just right but in pieces an hour latter. I am going to cook a turkey for only 30 minutes then finish it in a smoker (mesquite) it will be pretty tasty. I figured 30 minutes then it will not fall apart to put it in a smoker.

TC Rubin November 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I have an electric pressure cooker about the same size and I make turkey breast (bone in or rolled) all the time. It’s easier to fit and brown in the cooker and the first time I cooked about 8 min per lb. which made it a little tough. Subsequently I reduced the cook time to 6 min. per lb. and it came out great! If the breast roll is tied up in a net or wrapped in string, it doesn’t fall apart when it is cooked. I DO use and like a LOT of liquid in mine so I’m not sure why you would reduce the liquid – I pre sautee diced veggie like onion, celery & carrot and throw that in so the stock that comes out is full flavored and ready for soup and/or to be strained for making gravy – excellent!

Peggy S. November 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I cooked a 14.88 pound turkey in a 12 quart pressure cooker and it was so juicy and tender, my whole family loved it. I followed your advice and cooked it on high pressure for 3 minutes/pound. However when I turned the heat off, I let it sit for an hour before taking the lid off (I sat down and fell asleep :). So it was falling off the bone and couldn’t be lifted out of the pan. No one complained because it was so good! I can’t wait to try the other dishes too. Thanks for posting these recipes.

Tom Z December 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Tried a 14 pound turkey(I used a big canner) at 3 minutes per pound (42 min.) and was way over cooked. The turkey just collapsed to the bottom, but the meat was very moist, and not dry or tuff as I thought it would be.
Maybe I will split the difference next time and go about 35 minutes.
Is it possible to brown the turkey in the oven before the pressure cooker?

Kasam December 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

Hi,

I got a prestige 6l aluminium pressure cooker, which is a 7lb pressure cooker. Do you know how much time would need to be added to compensate for the pressure difference?

Ken January 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Awesome! Just the recipe I was looking for, thank you so much.

Kat January 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Thanks for doing the experiment! I have a large turkey that I would like to try this with. However, I don’t have a pressure cooker, only a pressure canner. Do you think that would work? Especially since it is a large turkey?

Carol McGrath July 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm

You asked to be informed if anyone tried a turkey in the pressure cooker. Well I did and it turned out wonderfully.
Now, I did not do a whole turkey. I did half a turkey
weighing only 3lbs 10 oz. I put a cup and a half of water in cooker after browning the turkey pieces in olive oil. I added garlic, onions and celery along with thyme, celery,course salt, white pepper and black pepper. I added big pieces of purple potatoes and let it cook for 14 minutes. It was just perfect. The turkey was so tender and the flavor was wonderful. I will give a whole turkey a go around Thanksgiving.I love using my pressure cooker which I purchased at a yard sale a month ago.

Amy Siddall October 6, 2013 at 11:04 am

We purchased an electric pressure cooker about a month ago. I absolutely love using it! I purchased a turkey the other day and decided I want to try using the new cooker. Thanks so much for sharing your “trial and error” and the other recipes, as I want to use the cooker for more than just roasts and chicken! Thanks again!!!

June Gifford October 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I am pressure cooking a 17 lb. turkey as we speak!!! I did brown it in a large pan and then put it into my canner, we’ll see how it turns out. Thanks for the recipe This is th4e first time I have made a turkey in a pressure canner.

Tammie Hedington November 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

Thank you for the break down. I am a critical care specialty RN and have gradually watched our society get larger and larger with an overwhelming popularity of fast food. I have been using my pressure cooker/canner for years and make very delicious healthy meals for less time than it takes to go to the fast food joint. I wish that more people would just experiment like you have. Really, traditional meals are not just meant for grandmas house. Pressure cooking is very simple and fast! Thank you for your encouraging views and tips!

Tommy November 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Well its Thanksgiving afternoon, did a google search found this and read it. My 17yr old daughter has been in and out of the hospital for the last 2 weeks. Never had time to go to the store until this morning. So I got 30lb Turkey. I do own a big pressure cooker. Looks like a part off of a WW2 Russian submarine – hehe. Browned it, covered it inside and out with butter and spices. Will see how it goes, currently waiting on pressure cooker to get to pressure.

Mike November 28, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Browning in the cooker pan looked difficult so I used a larger fry pan with large salad forks for turning. I folded the wings under in hopes that will bring me some luck. SO just turned on the heat.

Never knew you could do this but I have a new 8 qt cooker and decided to do a web search to see if this was possible. Thanks for the help and Happy Thanksgiving Day to you all

Trace November 29, 2013 at 12:48 am

“Browned” my 15 pound bird with a torch and a stick of butter….making it possible to evenly seal the bird…then stuffed it with a very dry stuffing mix but with fresh cranberries, celery, onion, mushrooms, 2tbsp butter and a splash of chicken broth….used 1 and a half cups of broth/water in the cooker which I brought to a simmer before putting the bird in…then cooked for 40 minutes….bird turned out great…moist and all…stuffing great…no broth really for stock…but bird intact and moist looking great…..

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