Instant Pot Whole Turkey

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instant-pot-whole-turkey

I have to admit that when I ordered my Instant Pot almost 2 years ago, cooking a whole turkey never crossed my mind–a roast of course, a chicken maybe, but a turkey? Nope, never even thought about it. Then this little appliance started selling like hotcakes, and when a trend catches on you know what happens? For better or worse people get creative. With the Instant Pot trend all the creativity has been mostly good, it helps that even things that don’t do well in the Instant Pot still turn out fair (I’m thinking popcorn and boiled potatoes).

Turkey, though, well that’s in a class all by itself. After all, most of us think of a roasted crispy on the outside “Thanksgiving” turkey when we think about cooking a whole turkey. There are a fair amount of people who don’t really eat turkey other than on holidays. So cooking a whole turkey in the Instant Pot seems more like an experiment than anything else, and I’ll admit it really would not even be worth trying even as an experiment if they had not come out with the newer 8 quart version.

When I first got this wonderful bigger pressure cooker, the difference in size from the 6 quart to the 8 quart was really noticeable, and that’s when the idea popped into my head. What if you could cook an entire turkey in this machine? Scrolling through social media in November it seems that everyone was cooking their entire holiday dinners in the Instant Pot, except for the turkey.

They really should have included the turkey! Because not only is it easy, but it’s probably some of the most moist turkey you’ll ever eat. I was able to cook an 11 pound bird in my 8 quart Instant Pot. If you have a 6 quart, I would NOT try to cook anything over 5 or 6 pounds, so that would be a very small turkey. Cooking a whole turkey is better suited for the 8 quart version, but you can cook a turkey breast in a 6 quart. Cooking a smaller bird or just the breast would help supplement a roasted turkey or even replace it if you wanted something easy with only a few minutes hands on time.

How To Cook A Whole Turkey In The Instant Pot

You will need:

  • 11lb turkey
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 to 3 fresh sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 to 3 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 2 to 3 fresh sprigs of sage
  • 1 cup of white cooking wine or white wine vinegar (your choice)
  • ½ cup flour (for the gravy)

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The first thing I did was brown the turkey on all sides. This is completely optional and admittedly I did it mostly for presentation. 

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Most chefs will tell you to brown meat to lock in flavors, but pressure cooking is a different kind of cooking since the moisture can’t escape the pot. It’s not a dry cooking method like the oven.

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It will however give your gravy more flavor, so if you’re a gravy person this is something you might want to do.

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Gather and wash your herbs, and if you’d like to truss your bird grab some string.

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You can see that browning covers most of the bird but not every inch. An 11 pound turkey is pretty big to maneuver inside the Instant Pot. If you really need to brown it “properly” you can brown the turkey in a bigger pot on the stove, but I am fine with just browning as much as I could. Use the saute function on your Instant Pot to brown. 

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Go ahead and stuff your turkey with aromatics. I like using rosemary, thyme and sage.

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When you pressure cook poultry it tends to be fall off the bone tender and moist. So again for presentation only, I like to truss my turkey. This step is completely optional and it’s not really even a real trussing.

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It’s more of a mock trussing or tying. The bird is tied up just enough so that you can remove it from the inner pot intact for presentation.

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You would not want to truss any type of meat very tightly when pressure cooking because you want the bird to cook as evenly as possible.

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Place the turkey in the Instant Pot.

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Add 1 cup white wine or white wine vinegar. The turkey will give off liquid of it’s own, but this added liquid will give the bird and the gravy flavor along with provide enough liquid for the turkey to come up to pressure and begin cooking. Remember never pressure cook anything without some liquid in the pot.

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Place the lid on and make sure that the steam release valve is closed or turned to not venting.

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Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Then manually release the pressure.

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Always make sure your turkey is cooked thoroughly. The internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  

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To make the gravy remove the turkey from the Instant Pot but leave the juices and drippings. Turn on the saute function and add ½ cup flour to thicken your gravy. I use fresh ground whole white wheat.

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Of course since the turkey was pressure cooked it doesn’t have the crispy skin and the color is not as golden brown as if you had roasted it, but I promise what your turkey lacks in appearance it will make up for in taste and moistness. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts!

What is your favorite thing to make in the Instant Pot? What type of food have you tried that you thought you’d never make in a pressure cooker?

  • Simone says:

    I’m debating getting an instant pot and was wondering if you can use it to preserve fruits and vegies in jars?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Simone,

      No, the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker not a pressure canner. It would not be a safe tool to preserve with.

  • Skip Adams says:

    I cooked a turkey per your recipe and after it was done, I rubbed butter all over the breast and put it in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes. I got a beautiful brown and crispy skin. Watch it closely as it just takes a few minutes, don’t over do it.

  • Anna says:

    Hi Jennifer, did you fit this size turkey in the 8 quart pot or is your pot bigger?

  • Jessy says:

    Does manually release pressure mean quick release? Thanks!

  • Jessica Spencer says:

    What is white cooking wine? What kind do you use?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Jessica,

      White cooking wine is just wine that you cook with. You can use regular white wine if you have it. I usually buy this kind: http://amzn.to/2zDkTKG

      • Marlene says:

        Cooking wines are loaded with salt! Better to use whatever wine you like to drink.

        Also, after experimenting, I have discovered that meat of any kind is better if you pressure about 5 minutes less and then use natural release. This way the meat can shrink back and reabsorb some of the liquid that cooked out into the pot. My meats are much more tender and juicy doing that!

  • Anna says:

    For a 9.9 lb turkey, how many minutes would I set it for?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Anna,

      I would go with 45 minutes. Cooking a turkey in the Instant Pot is not like the dry heat of the oven. You won’t dry it out. If you would like to try 35 or 40 minutes you can, just be sure you take the internal temperature of the bird to make sure it’s done.

  • Kelly says:

    Do you think a 15lb turkey would fit in the 8 quart instant pot?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Kelly,

      15lbs would be pushing it–10 to 12 lbs is all I’d try to fit. You could try to cut up the turkey and cook it that way.

      • Patrick McIntyre says:

        A 15 pound turkey fits nicely in a 12-quart stovetop pressure canner.

      • Gaye Fisher says:

        I had a 12.5 and it didn’t fit. So I cut it up and browned the pieces. Then layered it together..I really wish I would have seen yours before…I’m saving it for next time.

  • Kathy says:

    I have a 16 lb. turkey. I have a large oval pressure cooker. How long would that take? Can I use canned turkey broth instead of white wine vinegar? If so how much do you think?

  • Tenley says:

    I am excited to try this! I have seen where a whole frozen chicken can be cooked in the Instant Pot. Do you think this would work the same for a turkey? 🦃🤔

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Tenley,
      Yes, you could. I’m not really a fan of cooking an entire frozen bird in the Instant Pot. I think they are too rubbery, at least on the pressure cooking setting. If I were you, I’d slow cook a frozen bird.

  • Maggie says:

    I just bought a 6 quart instant pot. Do you think I could cut a 12 lb. turkey in half length wise and pressure cook 1/2 at a time?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Maggie, I don’t think that would work the way you want it to. I would cut the beast, legs and wings and then put the pieces in the Instant Pot.

  • Holly says:

    Hi! I’m so glad you tried this! I had a recipe for a 6.5 lb bone in turkey breast, but they sold out of those before I could get one, and the smallest turkey they had was an 11 pound whole turkey. 🙁 So now that is what I have. But I can’t cook it in the oven, because I have to have a regular turkey and a gluten free one, and the regular one is going in the oven.

    One question though- it looks like in your picture that the turkey doesn’t fit below the 2/3 fill mark that the instant pot instructions say is the highest you can fill your instant pot to safely- and this was my fear with having such a big turkey. I have only had my instant pot for a few months, so I’m still learning, and just want to be sure that this is not an issue. Were there any issues with the turkey sitting above that line?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Holly,

      It might be hard to see from the pictures, but it fit below the fill line.

      • Tom S says:

        I cooked a 13 pound bird in an 8qt Instant Pot Duo. It was all I could do to get it in and it was right to the top. Did a recommended 6 minutes per pound followed with a 10 minute natural pressure release and then a full manual release. It was fall of the bone juicy and tender. I did nothing more than salt and pepper it inside and out and browned all sides in a big frying pan before pressure cooking. Only change In the future I might make is to cut the time to 5 minutes per pound and possibly brown it under the broiler after pressure cooking, rather than before.

  • CJ says:

    Hello,
    Do you know about how long it took for the IP to come to pressure?

    Thanks!

  • Melissa says:

    How long did it take for it to come to pressure? This sounds delicious soup trying to make sure I have my timing down to be done at correct time.

  • AJ says:

    I just made this recipe in an 8 at Instant Pot for an 8.4 lb turkey. It turned out wonderful!

  • Carol L says:

    Hi! I recently purchased the 8 qt Instant Pot and am loving it! I bought a 13 # turkey, the smallest I could find, and found this post on cooking a whole turkey in it. I cut off both legs, and figured it was around 11 # after that. cooked per your instructions. It only took 20 minutes to come to pressure, and cooked for the full 45 minutes.It took 6 minutes to quick release, then checked the temperature: it was only at 150*, so I put it in for 10 more minutes. Cooking now! Thank you so much for the great information!

  • Carol L says:

    I just finished the extra 10 minutes and it is perfect! I should also note I did not pre-sear the turkey, but just seasoned it and put it in after removing the legs to ‘fit’ the 11 # limit. So, from start to finish, the entire time was less than 2 hours to: clean, remove legs (NOT easy!) Pre-heat the Instant Pot, cook and release steam. For an 11-13# bird!
    Thank you again for this article which allowed me to do a turkey in my I.P!

  • Sherry Barnett says:

    This is my first attempt at cooking meat in my Instantpot. I must admit it is the best turkey I have ever eaten. My husband agreed. The turkey was so flavorful and moist that we kept picking off pieces of the turkey while we finished cooking the side dishes. Thanksgiving dinner was fairly effortless thanks to your recipe.

  • You don’t think the Instant Pot does boiled potatoes very well??

  • Shannon says:

    Have you ever done a stuffed turkey? How long would you cook it? Thx!

  • Patrick McIntyre says:

    I have two methods for browning a pressure-cooked turkey. The first time I did it, instead of browning it on the stovetop or in the cooker, I broiled it in the oven for about five minutes and I was very pleased with the result. But now my go-to method is to cook the bird in the pressure cooker first, and then after removing it from the pot I brown it using a creme brulee torch. This gives the bird that cripsy brown skin just like if you had cooked it in the oven for 2-3 hours. I actually use a 12-quart pressure canner, which can accommodated up to a 15-pound turkey, and before putting the turkey in the cooker I place a silicone turkey lifter on the trivet so it can be lifted and plated whole.

  • Kelly says:

    Hi , I have been a canner for over 40 years and have always used my canner to cook in , that being said, I love my instapots I have 3 , all 3 sizes and I gifted intapots to my kids last year . Were a large family and always have more then one turkey ( we like to fry and smoke them) the smallest turkey is 22lb and we want to pressure cook it !! So we can split it in half and do have and have into a quart instapots or I can get out my big canner and cook it in that ?? It will be our first time pressure cooking a turkey. We don’t know which way we will do it, but I don’t foresee any problems with using my pressure canner do you ??

  • Hector l. Villarreal says:

    After 45 minutes is the bird done or are we just checking temp. Hard to believe my 10 lbs turkey can be thoroughly cooked in 45 minutes….but I am going to try

  • Vickie Samples says:

    Did you use a rack to set the turkey on?

  • Niki says:

    Hi Jennifer! I have a half of a small turkey, 2.6lbs that I can fit in my 6 court… I wasn’t sure how to adjust the cooking time. Do you have any suggestions? This is a live as nature intended bird so it didn’t get as big and can tend to be a bit tougher since they are allowed to raom/run freely… thought the IP might help keep it tender, so I really want to try it this way! Thanks!

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Niki,
      I would cook it on HP for at least 20 minutes. You can always use a thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reads hight enough.

  • Jessica says:

    Thank you for this recipe! My youngest daughter is allergic to dairy and corn, so I have to make our own Thanksgiving dinner. I got an 8-quart not-Instant-Pot at a good price last December specifically to cook the turkey this year; now I’ll be able to make everything but the pie in my pressure cookers! (I also have a 3-qt and a 6-qt Instant Pot!)

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