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How to Cook a Turkey

Deep-frying, grilling, brining, or roasting a turkey? You’ll find great ideas here!

Roast Turkey

Kitchen Tools for Cooking Turkey 

With these kitchen tools, you’ll be off to a smooth start: 

Essentials

  • Meat thermometer 
  • Aluminum Foil 
  • Sharpened carving knife and fork 
  • Cutting board 

Nice to Haves 

  • Oven thermometer 
  • Baster 
  • Roasting bag 
  • Roasting pan with handles 

How to Buy a Turkey 

Figure out how much turkey you need by multiplying the number of guests times one pound of uncooked, whole turkey per person. You’ll have enough for the table, as well as leftovers. 

Turkeys are available: 

  • Eight to 24 pounds in weight 
  • Packaged as a whole or by the half, or as breasts and drumsticks 
  • Fresh, frozen, and free-range (available by special order from your butcher) 

How To Store Turkey 

A whole frozen turkey will keep in the freezer at 0°F for up to 12months. A fresh, whole turkey that is refrigerated should be cooked within 1 to 2 days of purchase. 

How To Thaw and Prepare Turkey 

Thaw wrapped turkey safely in three ways: 

  • Refrigerator 
  • Microwave 
  • Cold Water that completely covers the bird 

Thawing time depends on the thawing method and turkey weight - See our thawing chart for guidelines. 

Once thawed, do the following: 

  • Remove the wrapper and paper giblet packets containing the gizzard, heart, and neck. These are tucked inside the neck and end cavities; be sure to check both. 
  • Rinse the turkey well after removing the giblets and pat dry. Giblets can be rinsed and cooked in a saucepan of boiling water and simmered during turkey roasting time. Use the rich broth for delicious gravy (discard giblets). 

How To Stuff a Turkey 

Planning to pair stuffing with your turkey? Stuffing the turkey does increase cooking time; if you need to save time, bake dressing in a separate pan. 

How Long To Cook a Turkey 

How much cooking time will your turkey take? 

  • Cooking time for turkey brining, roasting, grilling, or deep-frying depends on the size of the bird and your recipe. 
  • For roasting guidelines, check our roasting chart
  • Convection ovens decrease roasting time (check the guidelines for your convection oven). 

Oven Roasting and Turkey Cooking Temperatures 

Heat is huge with turkey roasting. Manage it correctly with these tips: 

  • Use an oven thermometer to ensure correct oven temperature for turkey roasting. 
  • Whether roasting or grilling, use a meat thermometer so you’ll know when the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature. Insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the inside thigh muscle so the thermometer does not touch bone. 
  • Turkeys often come with plastic pop-up indicator. When your meat thermometer or pop-up indicates the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, grill, or fryer. 

How To Baste a Turkey 

Basting promotes moist, flavorful turkey. Baste or brush the turkey with pan juices every 30 to 60 minutes of cooking time. 

How To Carve a Turkey 

Ready to serve? Carve the turkey on a stable cutting board with a sharp carving knife and a meat fork with two tines. Carving is easier if you allow the turkey to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting. 

Follow these easy steps for a beautiful presentation: 

  • Place turkey breast-side up. Remove any ties or skewers. 
  • While gently pulling leg and thigh, cut through the joint separating them from the body. Drumstick and thighs can be served whole or cut apart. 
  • Make a deep horizontal cut into the breast just above the wing. Insert meat fork in the top of the breast and, starting halfway up the breast,carve thin slices down to the horizontal cut, working from the outer edge to the center. 
  • Repeat on the opposite side of the turkey. 

How To Store a Turkey 

Be sure to refrigerate or freeze your turkey within two hours of cooking to keep meat safe from bacteria and ready for another meal.

REVIEWS & COMMENTS

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