Making the perfect turkey is not that hard. It takes just a little bit love and care. Each year I get a Butterball Turkey. This has been the tradition in my household. I do know a friend who drives 2 hrs to a turkey farm to get one but that’s not for me! If you are traveling make sure you read how you can get travel in style here.
The first step is to purchase a turkey that is right for your family. Figuring out how much turkey to buy can seem confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want leftovers, the rule of thumb is one-and-a-half pounds per person.
If you are buying your turkey frozen, remember to let it thaw out. I am a fan of seasoning my turkey the day before so I defrost on Wednesday during the day and season it that evening.
Oven Temperature – Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F. Pre-heating is not necessary.
2. Be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Times are based on fresh or completely thawed frozen birds at a refrigerator temperature of about 40 degrees F. or below.
3. Placing Turkey in Roasting Pan – Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pans 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. Optional steps:
Truss or Not to Truss – You do not need to bother with complicated trussing. Instead, secure the legs by tucking the ankle joints into the pocket of skin at the tail end. Tuck wing tips back under the shoulders of bird (called “akimbo”).
Adding Liquid – Add 1 cup chicken broth/stock to the bottom of the turkey pan before beginning the cooking. This will create a steam room-type environment in the oven, which help keep the breast moist but will not prevent browning of the skin.
Tenting the Turkey – In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil may be place loosely over the breast of the turkey for the first 1 to 1-1/2 hours, then removed for browning. Or, a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey has reached the desired golden brown. As part of the study, some birds were tented with foil for the entire cooking time; this increased the cooking time required.
4. Basting the Turkey - Brush the turkey with butter or vegetable oil at the beginning before roasting it in the oven. This will contribute to browning. NOTE: Basting during the roasting process is an unnecessary extra stop. Basing in the last hour of roasting can actually turn a beautiful crisp turkey skin soft.
Four easy ways to baste a turkey:
Use a Turkey Baster (bulb turkey baster).
Use a basting brush.
Use a large spoon to scoop up the juices and drizzle over the turkey.
5. Turkey Cooking Times – The new roasting times are based on the recommendations above and on a 325 degree F. oven temperature. These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed meat thermometer.
Approximate Turkey Cooking Times:
4 to 8 pounds………….1-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds…………….2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds……………3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds……………3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds……………4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds……………4-1/2 to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds…………….3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds……………3-1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds……………4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds……………4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds……………4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours
6. Taking The Turkey’s Internal Temperature – This year, the USDA has come up with a one-temperature-suits-all for poultry safety: 165 degrees F. For safety and “doneness”, the internal temperature should be checked with a meat thermometer.
This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world. To learn more about this excellent thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined: Thermapen Thermometer.
To Take Temperature of Thigh – Place the thermometer in the thickest part of thigh away from the bone of the turkey to check the internal temperature at intervals during the cooking time.
To Take Temperature of Breast - Insert thermometer at neck end, holding it parallel to the turkey. Confirm temperature by inserting thermometer in both sides of the turkey.
Cleaning Meat Thermometer - After each use, wash the stem section of the thermometer thoroughly in hot, soapy water.
Pop-Up Thermometer - If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is also recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wine, and the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer.
Temperature of Cooked Turkey - The temperature must reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. in the thigh before removing from the oven. The center of the stuffing should reach 165 degrees F. after stand time.
In Absence of a Meat Thermometer - Juices should be clear. Pierce the turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear with no trace of pink. NOTE: The old-fashioned way of wiggling the leg to see if it’s loose will give you an indication that the turkey is ready, but unfortunately, by the time the leg is truly loose, the turkey is sadly overcooked. The only reliable test for “doneness” is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone.
7. Removing the Turkey From the Oven - Once you remove the turkey from the oven, tent it with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes, so the meat can firm up and hold the juices, making it easier to carve.
8. Letting the Turkey Rest – Resting allows for the redistribution and re-absorption of the juices in the meat. This makes for ultra-moist, flavorful meat while also giving the turkey a chance to cool for easier carving. If you skip this important step, you will both burn yourself and end up with a flood of juices on your carving board, not to mention a dry turkey.
Make sure to tell me how it turned out on our facebook page.