Cooking A Turkey
Each year, turkey hotlines receive thousands of calls from cooks looking for answers on everything from cooking to carving. We’ve put together the following tips and recipes to help guide your preparations. Dive in and have fun!
- Choose your bird
- Thaw, if necessary
- Flavor your bird
- Roast and rest
- Carve your bird
How To Thaw
Many of the birds we sell at our stores are fresh, meaning that they don’t need to be thawed. They may have a thin layer of ice from being kept extremely cold, but they aren’t frozen through and through. If you do choose one of our frozen birds, be sure to leave plenty of time for thawing. Here are our tips:
3 days in fridge,
7 hours in cold water.
4 days in fridge,
10 hours in cold water.
- Safest - Put a tray or pan underneath the bird in its packaging to catch drips and place it in the refrigerator for 1 full day for every 5 pounds of turkey.
- Fastest - Make sure the turkey is sealed in a leak-proof wrapper and place it in a container large enough to completely contain it. Add cold tap water to cover. Change the water every 30 minutes and allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound.
- Other methods - We don’t recommend ‘em. Thawing a turkey on the counter is unsafe, and using the defrost setting on a microwave produces uneven results (and that’s even if your microwave is large enough to hold a turkey!).
How To Add Flavor
A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and a brush of butter are delicious and may be all you desire. Many of us like to take it a step further to ensure a memorable flavor. Here are four easy ways you can do it.
Brining basically consists of soaking your turkey in a saltwater solution for 4 to 24 hours. It’s a great way to ensure moist, tasty meat. A big turkey in a big pot of water can get pretty heavy and take up a lot of refrigerator space, though, so you might want to think twice about the logistics before brining a bird over about 20 pounds.
- Choose a brine recipe or purchase a brining mix.
- Find a container large enough to submerge your turkey in; check to make sure it fits in your refrigerator.
- Unwrap your fresh or thawed turkey and remove the giblets.
- Place turkey in container and pour in enough cooled brining solution to completely cover it.
- If turkey floats to the surface, place a heavy plate or lid on top.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours; the liquid must stay at or below 40°F for safety.
- Remove turkey from brine and pat thoroughly dry. Discard brine.
Keep In Mind
- Containers must be cleaned and sanitized both before and after brining.
- If you prefer to brine overnight, reduce the salt by about half or your finished bird may be too salty.
- Do not stuff a brined bird; the stuffing will be too salty.
- Brining will produce salty pan juices; if making gravy with them, be sure to use low-sodium broth.
Blast flavorful liquids (broth, butter, olive oil, etc.) directly into the meat with a poultry injector — it looks like a really big syringe and they’re sold at most kitchenware stores. This technique has many of the advantages of brining, plus it works almost instantly and is less cumbersome for really big birds.
Use Fresh Herbs
Put herbs to work three ways:
- Loosen the skin over the breast meat and thigh of the turkey with your fingers and stuff chopped herbs under the skin
- Place whole herb sprigs in the cavity
- Sprinkle chopped herbs over the exterior of the turkey
Try A Spice Rub
Combine dried herbs and seasonings of choice and sprinkle them in the cavity and over the skin of the bird. Loosen the skin over the breast and thighs of the bird and work a little under there as well.
How To Roast
- Remove thawed turkey from refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting. Unwrap and remove giblets from cavity.
- Flavor and season bird. Tuck the wing tips under the back of the bird and tie the legs together.
- Place breast side up on rack in a roasting pan. Pour white wine or chicken broth into the bottom of the pan.
- Preheat oven. Most recipes call for temperatures between 325° and 375°F.
- Estimate the required roasting time. Set a timer or write down the beginning time and approximate ending time.
- Brush the bird generously with melted butter. It’s not mandatory, but it assists in browning and adds flavor.
- Baste only at the beginning of the roasting process. Basting later may make the skin soft instead of crispy.
- Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Test first at the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone; when that registers 165°F, test the thickest part of the breast and continue to cook until that registers 165°F too.
- Let bird rest, tented loosely with foil, for about 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat and makes for smooth carving.
To Stuff or Not To Stuff?
Stuffing is a matter of preference. Most of us prepare our stuffing separately. If you choose to stuff, here are some tips to make sure you do it safely:
- Always stuff loosely; estimate 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake extra stuffing in a casserole dish.
- Stuffing your bird increases the cooking time by about 5 to 7 minutes per pound.
- Check the temperature of the stuffing and not just the bird before serving. The stuffing must register at least 165°F before it is safe to eat.
- Never stuff the bird ahead of time. Stuff it with warm, freshly prepared stuffing just before roasting.
Turkey Roasting Chart
Cooking times can vary depending on a number of factors, including oven temperature and accuracy, the type of roasting pan used and how frequently you open the oven door. The type of bird you choose can also make a difference in the cooking time.
Begin to check for doneness about 30 minutes before the first suggested roasting time. Use a meat thermometer — there really is no substitute for determining when your turkey is done. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, remember to add an additional 5 to 7 minutes per pound.
|Total Weight||Roasting Time|
|8-12 pounds||2 to 3.5 hours|
|12-16 pounds||3 to 4 hours|
|16-20 pounds||4 to 5 hours|
|20-25 pounds||5 to 6 hours|
|25-30 pounds||6+ hours|
Keep In Mind
- Raw turkey or its juices should never come in contact with other foods.
- Hands, knives, cutting board and counter should be washed with soap and hot water after prepping raw turkey.
- Always use a meat thermometer to check the proper internal temperature of the turkey.
- If you choose to stuff your bird, be aware that doing so could increase the risk of food-borne illness, so take all suggested precautions above.
- Leftovers should never be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Have food storage containers handy to refrigerate the delicious remnants of your feast quickly.
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