The thought of having to prepare a turkey for the Thanksgiving meal or some other special gathering has struck fear into the hearts of many new and even some veteran cooks. The fear of it is a lot worse than having to do it.
There are first some safety issues to keep in mind. One of the most important things is that if you are going to be stuffing the turkey, make the stuffing and put it into the cavity of the turkey immediately before you are going to roast it. Do not stuff the turkey the night before.
Another thing about stuffing is that it should not be packed too tightly inside of the turkey. It is perfectly fine, and many people prefer it, to bake the stuffing in a casserole dish or dishes.
Preparing And Thawing
Thawing your turkey if it is frozen takes a lot longer than many folks may realize. There are two ways to thaw the turkey, a refrigerator method and a cold water method. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature because that is a sure invitation for bacteria to grow.
The best thawing method is to do it in the refrigerator. Place the unopened turkey with the breast side up in the refrigerator. According to the experts at Butterball, thawing time should be one day for every four pounds of turkey weight. An 8-pound turkey would then take two days while a 20-pound turkey should thaw for 4 or 5 days. After the turkey is thawed, it can be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to four days before you cook it, so don’t forget to start this process far enough in advance of the roasting day.
If there is simply no time for refrigerator thawing, Butterball suggests the cold water method of thawing. The turkey (still in its wrapper) will be put into cold water to cover it, with the breast side down. Change the water every half hour to make sure it stays cold.
The time for this method is at least 30 minutes of thawing time per pound. A 10-pound turkey would then take at least 300 minutes, or 5 hours. Although this is fine for a time shortage, the refrigerator method is recommended.
When it is time to roast your turkey, you will be putting it breast side up in your roaster or shallow pan (at least 2 inches deep, though). Brush some oil over the bird to make a nice coloring and help to prevent the meat from drying. Be sure to have removed the neck and giblets.
Put the turkey into an oven that has been preheated to 325 degrees. When about 2/3 of the roasting time is past, cover the top of the breast and the drumsticks with foil so that it doesn’t overcook and get too dark.
How long should the turkey stay in the oven?
This varies according to the weight of the bird and whether it is stuffed or not. For a turkey that is 10 to 18 pounds, it will roast for 3 to 3 1/2 hours if it is unstuffed and 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours if it is stuffed. For a larger turkey of 18 to 22 pounds, roasting time will be 3 1/2 to 4 hours unstuffed and 4 1/2 to 5 hours if stuffed. If your turkey is larger than 23 pounds, check with the instructions that should be on the wrapper.
If you are using a meat thermometer (recommended) the turkey is finished roasting when the temperature in the thigh reaches 180 degrees F. Put the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, next to the body, and not against the bone. Then check the stuffing temperature. Put it into the center of the stuffing and that should register a temperature of 160 to 165 degrees.
Also read: Best Cooking Gadgets For a Better Turkey
After the turkey is finished roasting, let it rest for 15 to 25 minutes so that the juices can re-distribute. Remove the stuffing if you stuffed the turkey and carve.