Thanksgiving Turkey How-To: Defrosting, Brining, Roasting, Carving and More!

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But, if you'd rather rinse off the juices, you can. You just must clean the sink, countertop -- everything else that has come into contact with the raw turkey -- with soap and hot water, and then follow that with a little bleach.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

It's safer not to stuff the turkey. The internal temperature of turkey and stuffing both should reach at least 165 degrees. If you let the stuffing get to that temperature inside the turkey, the bird temperature probably already will be up to 175 degrees, which means the meat will be overcooked and dry.

Some people really prefer the taste of stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey. If you're one of them, just scoop the stuffing out, cover it and bake it until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Tip: Do not purchase prestuffed turkeys. You should stuff the bird right before it's cooked, and stuffing ingredients mostly should be precooked.

CLICK HERE to send Sara Moulton your Thanksgiving cooking question!

What Is the Turkey Roasting Procedure?

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Arrange an oven shelf in the lower third of the oven. Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity of the turkey, reserving them for turkey broth (see turkey broth recipe). Drain the juices and pat the bird dry inside and out.

If stuffing, stuff right before roasting (see basic stuffing recipe) and return legs to tucked position.

Arrange the turkey breast side up in a rack (preferably a v-rack), set in a heavy large roasting pan. Melt a stick of butter and brush the turkey all over with one third of the butter. Season with salt and pepper and cover the whole turkey loosely with foil. Pour two cups of chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan and roast the turkey in the lower third of the oven for one hour. Uncover and baste with another third of the butter. Recover the turkey and roast until approximately half way through the total cooking time. Uncover the turkey, baste with the remaining butter and roast, uncovered, until a thermometer when inserted in the thickest part of the leg thigh joint reaches 165 degrees F.

Transfer the turkey to a platter, leaving the drippings in the pan for the gravy (see gravy recipe) and cover the turkey loosely with foil. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30 minutes before carving.

How Can You Tell When the Turkey Is Done?

The turkey must be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees. Read the temperature of the turkey by inserting a thermometer into the leg/thigh joint. The temperature will rise to 175 degrees with resting time.

Here's a guide, by weight, of turkey cooking times (at 325 degrees):

Eight to 12 lbs: 2 ¾ to 3 hours (unstuffed); 3 to 3 ½ hours (stuffed).

Twelve to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 ¾ hours (unstuffed); 3 ½ to 4 hours (stuffed).

Fourteen to 18 lbs: 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours (unstuffed); 4 to 4 ¼ hours (stuffed).

Eighteen to 20 lbs: 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours (unstuffed); 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours (stuffed).

Twenty to 24 lbs: 4 ½ to 5 hours (stuffed); 4 ¾ hours to 5 ¼ hours (stuffed).

Here's a guide, by weight, of turkey cooking times in a convection oven (at 325 degrees):

Six to 10 lbs: 1 ½ to 2 hours (unstuffed); 1 ¾ to 2 ½ hours (stuffed).

Ten to 18 lbs: 2 to 2 ½ hours (unstuffed); 2 ½ to 3 ¼ hours (stuffed).

Eighteen to 22 lbs: 2 ½ to 3 hours (unstuffed); 3 ¼ to 3 ¾ (stuffed).

Twenty-two to 24 lbs: 3 to 3 ½ hours (unstuffed); 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours (stuffed).

How Soon Can You Carve the Turkey After Taking It Out of the Oven?

Turkey should rest for 20 to 30 minutes. If you loosely cover the turkey with foil, it will remain hot for up to one hour.

Resting allows the turkey to finish cooking. If you carve the turkey right after it's cooked without allowing it to rest, the juices will run out and the bird will be dry.

CLICK HERE to send Sara Moulton your Thanksgiving cooking question!

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