Cooking Perfect Turkey
This is where many people are needlessly intimidated. Roasting a turkey is as simple as 1-2-3, and takes only a few minutes. Studies show all of the following can be done using less than 10 minutes of your time:
- After thawing, remove the turkey bag. (Tip: save the bag to refer to the cooking times and roasting instructions.)
- Remove the neck and giblets from the neck and body cavities. (Tip: If necessary, just push down gently on the legs and they’ll slip right out of the leg clamp so you can get into the body cavity. This clamp is oven-safe and won’t melt.)
- Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water.
- If stuffing is desired, LOOSELY stuff the body and neck cavities with stuffing, then reset the legs in the clamp. See “Stuffing a Turkey”
- Place the turkey in a roasting pan with the Tender-Timer® gauge (if applicable) unobstructed. Cover with a lid, or fashion your own cover with a loose foil “tent”. (Tip: remove the cover for the last hour for final browning.) Roast in a pre-heated 325° F oven.Roasting will take about 15 minutes per pound if the turkey is not stuffed. Stuffed turkeys require an additional 1/2 to 1 hour cooking time.
Approximate Roasting Time for Unstuffed Turkey Weight in Pounds Approx. Roasting Time (hours) 8-12 2.75 – 3 12-14 3 – 3.75 14-18 3.75 – 4.25 18-20 4.25 – 4.5 20-24 4.5 – 5
There is no need to baste the turkey. Studies show basting liquid poured over the surface of the turkey does not penetrate the skin. Most turkeys are pre-basted, with broth already deep inside the meat, making it more moist and tender. And repeatedly opening the oven door to baste the turkey only heats the kitchen and prolongs the cooking time. Don’t bother basting — it’s not necessary!
- How to tell when the turkey is done:
- A meat thermometer inserted into the deepest portion of the breast should read 170° F, or 180° F in the thigh. Stuffing should be at least 165° F.
- If the leg moves freely and the hip joint gives readily or breaks, the turkey is done.
- If juices run clear after piercing the thickest part of the inner thigh, the turkey is done.
- Tender-Timer® (if applicable)
- When the turkey is done, the Tender-Timer gauge will pop up. Watch out — the turkey and its juices are scalding hot! Let the turkey stand for about 20 minutes before carving. This will not only make it easier to carve, but will make it more uniformly moist. Unclamp the legs, and remove the timer by lifting it by its white outer edge. Remove all the stuffing from the turkey as early as possible. Always use a meat thermometer in addition to the tender-timer to ensure the turkey has reached the proper food-safe temperature for eating.
OTHER ROASTING METHODS:
OVEN ROASTING BAG METHOD
A great roasting method is to use a turkey size oven roasting bag. The bag reduces cooking time, leaves the turkey more moist, and makes clean-up a snap! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Shake one tablespoon of flour inside the bag. Place the turkey inside and close with the nylon tie provided. Place breast-side up in a shallow roasting pan. Cut a few 1/2 inch slits in the top of the bag to allow some steam to vent. Approximate roasting times for thawed, unstuffed turkey are as follows. Stuffed turkeys require an additional half hour or more.
- 8 – 12 lbs: 1.5 to 2 hours
- 12 – 16 lbs: 2 to 2.5 hours
- 16 – 20 lbs: 2.5 to 3 hours
- 20 – 24 lbs: 3 to 3.5 hours
ON THE GRILL
A whole unstuffed turkey may be cooked in a large covered kettle grill. (Don’t try to grill a stuffed turkey.) Arrange charcoal on both sides of the fire bowl with a drip pan in the center of the coals. Place the turkey on a rack 6-8 inches over the coals, and cover the grill. Add a few coals to each side of the drip pan every hour. To give it a hickory-smoked flavor, sprinkle a cup of water-soaked hickory chips over the coals during the last half hour of cooking. If you prefer a heavier smoked flavor add more chips. Allow about 15-18 minutes per pound cooking time (4-5 hours for an average-size turkey). Rotate the turkey a couple of times during cooking.
ON THE ROTISSERIE
Most rotisseries will only handle a turkey up to 12 pounds. (Don’t try to cook a stuffed turkey on the rotisserie.) Tie or skewer the wings close to the body, and attach the neck skin with a skewer to the back of the body. Insert the spit through the length of the body and tighten the holding prongs. Tie the tail and drumsticks firmly to the rod. Be sure to balance the turkey before turning on the spit. See that the turkey does not slip as the spit turns. Allow 25-30 minutes per pound cooking time.
IN THE CONVECTION OVEN
A whole turkey or turkey breast will cook in less time with more even results when a convection oven is used. The preferred method is to roast the turkey in the center of the lowest rack or oven shelf so the top of the turkey will be centered in the oven. Basting isn’t necessary when using the convection method of roasting. Allow 1 1/2 to 2 inches of space around the turkey, including the pans as well as the oven walls. If the turkey is to be cooked in a closed oven bag or completely encased in foil, convection roasting is not necessary. Stuffed turkeys require an additional half hour or more of roast time.
- 14-18 lbs: 2.25 to 2.5 hours at 300°F
- 18-22 lbs: 2.5 to 3 hours at 300°F
IN A DEEP FRYER
Smaller turkeys (8-10 pounds) and turkey parts (breast, wings, drumsticks and thighs) are best for frying. Any larger turkey than 12-14 pounds is not recommended for frying. In order to fry larger birds, you will need to detach the parts and cook separately. The National Turkey Federation has great tips and detailed instructions for frying a turkey on their website. Click Here for more information on frying a turkey.
IN A CROCK POT
Place turkey into crock pot. Cover and cook and low for 7-9 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the breast to test doneness – it should register at 170°F.