How to Roast a Turkey
How to Prepare a Turkey
If you are purchasing and cooking a turkey for the first time, don't panic. Here you'll find all of the instructions you'll need including what size turkey to buy, how to thaw the turkey, how to prepare and how to stuff and the best way to cook it.
If the turkey is for a Thanksgiving or another family meal, prepare all of your other dishes that can be cooked the day ahead to make the day go stress free.That way you won't be frazzled for the party.
Purchasing a Turkey
You need to decide if you want a fresh turkey or a frozen turkey. Fresh is wonderful, but you will usually be charged a higher price. It might be worth it to you. I've only cooked a fresh turkey once and I will it admit that it was good. You may want to purchase just a turkey breast
if your family prefers white meat only. You can purchase the breast with the bone-in or boneless.This requires a lot less work. You won't have to clean leftovers off the bone.
The following amounts are suggested by the Michigan State University Extension.
If you decided on a whole turkey, you will need to purchase 1# per person.
Boneless breast of turkey requires 1/2# per person.
Breast with the bone-in requires 3/4# per person.
Pre-stuffed frozen turkey requires 1 1/4# per person
Pre-stuffed turkeys need to be kept frozen until you are ready to cook them.
How to Thaw a Turkey
There are several ways to thaw a turkey. For refrigerator thawing you need to make sure that the temperature inside is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Allow 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds. Leave the wrapper on until you remove it from the fridge.
Another option is to thaw the bird in cold water. Thawing in the fridge is easier, but if you don't have room for the turkey, you can choose this method. Submerge the turkey in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. It will take approximately 30 minutes for each pound of turkey.
If you have a smaller turkey, you can thaw it in the microwave. Be sure to check your manufacturers instructions for proper times to thaw. Immediately cook the turkey after thawing.
After thawing, remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. These are sometimes stuffed in the neck cavity or on the inside of the bird. If you thawed in the fridge, wash the bird under cold clear running water, both inside and out.
Preparing the Turkeys
You will need a large roasting pan big enough for the turkey. You'll also need a meat thermometer unless the bird comes with a pop-up one. A throw away foil roasting pan is nice to use if you don't want to scrub the roasting pan later. Be sure to use a cookie sheet underneath, because the foil will give and you will end up with a hot turkey on the floor. This can also cause you to be burned badly.
Different cooks do different things to the turkey before roasting. I like to spray the turkey with cooking spray to help seal in the juices if I am going to bake it without a cooking bag. Other cooks like to butter the top of the turkey and still others don't do anything at all. Syringes work well to inject juices in the bird. It is up to you how you'd like to cook the turkey.
Stuffing the Turkey
If you decide that you'd like to stuff the turkey, stuff loosely and be sure the stuffing is moist. You want to be sure the stuffing rises to a safe temperature. Heat will kill bacteria much faster if the stuffing is moist rather than dry.
If you prefer you can bake the stuffing in a baking or casserole dish.
Set the oven for 325 degrees F. The times are approximate and are the recommended by the Michigan State University Extension. I always allow extra time if guest are arriving. Somehow my turkey is never ready in time if I don't.
A faster way to cook a turkey is in a cooking bag. This will cut the time baking by almost half and it makes a very moist turkey. If you decide to do this instead, the instructions for times are included in the package.
8-12#----------- 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12-14#---------- 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14-18#-----------3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18-20#-----------4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-24#-----------4 1/2 to 5 hours
8-12#-------------3 to 3 1/2 hours
12-14#------------3 1/2 to 4 hours
14-18#-------------4 to 4 1/4 hours
18-20#-------------4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20-24#--------------4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
When the time is completed, use a meat thermometer and check the whole turkey has an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Check both the inner most part of the wing and thigh and the thickest part of the breast. You don't want to overcook the turkey or it will be dry, but you need it at a safe temperature.
Let the turkey cool for about 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving. If your guest haven't arrived yet, you may want to cover it with aluminum foil. This will keep the meat warm for a while.
If you have overcooked the bird, pour a can of turkey or chicken broth over the took. Cover it and the turkey will absorb the juice.
Turkey is easy to make, if you just follow these easy instructions.
- 14 Ways to Use Leftover Turkey
Recipes for 14 ways to use up leftover turkey. Includes turkey lasagna and turkey casserole recipes. Make a dip, soup, salad, pizza and more.