Top 10 Turkey Tips

November 17, 2010

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey

So, who's roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving next week? Whether it's your first time to roast a turkey or if you're an old pro, here are ten tips to help you assure that you roast the best turkey EVER!

  1. First, decide whether you are going to buy fresh or frozen. Plan ahead if you're buying frozen. The safest way to defrost a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator and a 20 lb. turkey will take between 3 -4 days to fully defrost.
  2. When choosing your turkey, be sure to read the nutritional label. A lot of the frozen turkeys are basted and will contain more fat and as much as four times the sodium as a fresh turkey.
  3. Decide on the size of the turkey you need based on how many people you will be feeding. If you want leftovers, Butterball says to allow approximately 1 1/2 pounds per person; so for 15 people, you would want to buy a 22 lb. turkey.
  4. Cooking times do vary depending on whether you purchased a frozen or fresh turkey. Allow 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree oven for a defrosted turkey and 10-15 minutes per pound for a fresh turkey.
  5. I stuff a turkey the same way I do a large roasting chicken. Just loosely fill the turkey cavity with veggies like carrots, celery, garlic, onions and maybe some fresh rosemary. And, I like to add fresh herbs under the breast skin. A turkey will cook more evenly if it's not densely stuffed. (Our family always baked the stuffing separate from the turkey, never stuffed inside the turkey or in the bottom of the roaster.)
  6. For more even roasting, truss the turkey and tuck the wing tips under the shoulder of the bird. If you don't want to take the time to truss, just make sure the legs are tucked into the pocket of skin at the tail end.
  7. Before roasting, brush the outside of the turkey with either vegetable or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and make a tent out of aluminum foil and place over the top of the turkey. (This will prevent the breast from browning too quickly.)
  8. Once you've got your turkey in the oven, just leave it alone! There is no need to baste every hour and opening the oven will drop the temperature which will effect the roasting time. About 45 minutes to an hour before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil so the breast can brown and baste with turkey juices. (Our mom also liked to rub butter on the skin at the stage.)
  9. Don't rely on the little plastic thermometers to pop out. Instead, check the temperature of the turkey with an instant read thermometer. The deepest spot on the turkey, in the thigh, between the leg and the breast should read 165 – 180 degrees. Make sure you do not overcook or you will end up with dry turkey breast.
  10. Remove from oven. Place the foil tent back over the turkey and let it rest for 20 – 30 minutes to allow to juices to redistribute throughout the turkey. To end up with a moist turkey, it's very important to let it rest. For best results, carve with a very sharp or electric knife.

Voila!  I know the first time I roasted a turkey, it was somewhat intimidating, but it really is pretty simple, isn't it?

photo credit: r_gnuce


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