Turkey Basics

November 22, 2006 5 Comments

Turkey Basics

Turkey Tips For Thanksgiving

Cooking a turkey is not that difficult. In my opinion, it’s all the side dishes and desserts that become intimidating. But for those of you who are just a little intimidated or “reluctant” about cooking the Thanksgiving bird, here are some basic cooking tips that might help.

I’ll also supply you with some phone numbers to hot lines if you get into trouble.

Defrosting a Turkey

First of all, if your bird is still in the supermarket freeze or you own freezer, it’s time to get it out to start defrosting. The classic way to defrost a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator but depending on the size, this can take three to four days or six hours per pound.

This is the safest way to defrost a frozen turkey, but really, who has that much time or room in their refrigerator. Instead, you can thaw a turkey in a sink of cold water.

Leave the plastic wrapper on the turkey and place it in a sink filled with cold water. Some sources will say the water should be icy cold so you can add ice if you like, but it is important to change the water every once in a while to make sure it stays cold.

How Long Does It Take To Defrost?

Figure on about 30 minutes per pound. This means a small 10-pound frozen turkey should take about 5 hours to defrost.

A big honker 18-pound turkey will take as long as 9 hours. Once the turkey is fully defrosted, be sure to get it back into the refrigerator until you are ready to start cooking it.

Roasting a Turkey

There are lots of ways to cook a turkey including grilling, deep-frying, and the traditional roasting method of which there are dozens of techniques.  Breast up, breast down, high temperature, low temperature, breast covered in bacon, duck fat or tin foil.

You name it and somebody has figured a way to do it to a turkey.

Me, I like to roast a turkey at 325°F to 350°F for 15 minutes per pound then crank up the heat and cook it for 10 minutes per pound at 375°F. I’ve also seen recipes that start you at 450°F for an hour and then turn the temperature down to 350°F for the rest of the time.

These times are all assuming the bird is unstuffed.  If you do stuff your turkey, be sure to add an additional 5 minutes per pound but be sure the stuffing reaches a temperature of at least 165°F or you can get yourself sick.

To Stuff or Not Stuff

Whether to stuff the bird with stuffing or cook the stuffing in a separate pan is a big debate in the culinary world.  I’m sure the stuffing tastes better if cooked in the turkey because the juices combine with it but stuffing it means longer cooking time.

Longer cooking time means more chance the turkey meat will dry out. So you have to ask yourself, do you prefer fabulous stuffing or moist tender turkey meat? Remember, you’re going to pour gravy on the stuffing that also has all the wonderful juices from the turkey in it so does it really matter.

For more Turkey Tips visit my web page and article Talking Turkey.

Turkey Hot-Lines:

Perdue Consumer Information Line – 800 473 7383

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line – 800 288 8372

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline – 800 535 4555




Last modified on Sat 12 November 2016 4:13 pm

Comments (5)

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  1. Smile says:

    Very interesting to read this for me.. thanks.

  2. Merlyn says:

    Just want to express gratitude for information.

  3. JohnH says:

    What about soaking a turkey or turkey breast in brine -– any comments about that?

  4. Captain46 says:

    I buy the largest turkey I can find and stuff it completely. I have done as large as 42 pounds but 30 is usually about as large as I find available. We are a foster family and we invite as many parents and family to join us as will come. I usually cook for 14 to 20 people.
    I put 2+ cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan with the turkey on the rack. Breast up or down does not matter, so I use breast up. I paint the skin with some fresh oil (I use olive) and cover it completely with foil to seal in the steam and cook at 325 to 350 F. The bird steams under the foil and stays very moist throughout. It is usually done within 6 hours and I give it about 30 minutes uncovered at 400 F to brown the skin.
    For good stuffing, try adding some chopped leek, kale, and fresh herbs in addition to onion and celery.

  5. Tom Taylor says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

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