There’s more than one way to make a turkey. Which way is the quickest? How do I know when it’s done? Top turkey questions meet expert answers. Now you’re cookin’!
Side Dish FAQs
Q: Can I brine a turkey if I plan on cooking it in a roasting bag?
Q: How can I roast my turkey at high heat (400°F +)?
Q: How do you get nice golden brown skin on the turkey?
Q: I have a vegetarian coming to dinner, what can I serve that will wow them?
Q: My turkey is still frozen! What do I do?
Q: I have only one oven. Is there an easy way to get everything done?
Q: How can I ensure they my turkey is cooked evenly?
Q: Which wines pair well with turkey?
Q: Can you run me through the basics of roasting a turkey?
Q: I'd like to try something different with my turkey this year. Any suggestions?
Q: What's the difference between, fresh, frozen and organic turkeys?
Q: How do I prepare a tofurky?
Q: I don't have a meat thermometer; how can I judge if my turkey is done?
Q: My family is small. What alternatives are there to whole turkeys?
1) Can I brine a turkey if I plan on cooking it in a roasting bag?
A. Yes, no problem! Brining and cooking in a bag will make your bird super moist and tender. Just remember to rinse off the salt and pat dry after brining. Our Brined Whole Turkey Recipe is succulent, delicious, and filled with great tips.
Note: Gravy from brined turkey may be salty. In this case, reduce the amount of turkey drippings or make with reduced-sodium broth. Use our Savory Turkey Gravy as a guide.
2) How can I roast my turkey at high heat (400°F +)?
A. Here are some tips:
- Be sure your turkey is completely thawed. If not, the high temperature may cook the outside meat before the internal temperature is safe. Turkey is done when thermometer reads 165°F and juice of turkey is no longer pink when you cut into center of thigh.
- Avoid burning pan drippings by adding water to the drip pan and monitoring to prevent evaporation.
- Another option: Roast the turkey at 325°F covered with a foil tent until almost done. Then remove the foil tent and increase to 400° for a few minutes to make the skin golden brown.
3) How do you get nice golden brown skin on the turkey?
A. There are a few methods. Use the one that works best for you.
- Brushing the skin with butter or juices every 30 minutes during baking will help to provide a beautiful golden brown turkey. You can also use an oil-based mixture to brush on the turkey: ½ cup oil (vegetable or olive oil), 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper
- Roasting the turkey uncovered also increases browning. To prevent burning once turkey has browned, cover loosely with tented foil
- Place under the broiler or turn up the heat to 450° for a minute or two when the turkey is done cooking. But watch it carefully; it can quickly go from perfect to overdone.
4) I have a vegetarian coming to dinner, what can I serve that will wow them?
A. Great question! There are a variety of meat-free options depending on what you’re looking for. Here are a few of our favorites:
For an easy-to-prepare entrée full of warm, fall flavor, try Stuffed Acorn Squash.
For a less-traditional Thanksgiving celebration try Spaghetti With Squash. Tip: Serve inside the squash rind for extra pizzazz.
With a switch from chicken broth to vegetable broth, Apple Cinnamon Butternut Squash Soup is another festive option.
5) My turkey is still frozen! What do I do?
A. The quickest and easiest way to thaw a turkey is the water-bath method.
• Clean out your sink or use a deep pan of cold water
• Keep poultry in its original wrapper or place in a resealable, heavy-duty plastic bag
• Thaw the turkey by completely covering with cold water
• Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold
• Allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw (that’s 10 hours for a 20-pound bird)
Not enough time?
If the water-bath method isn’t fast enough, refer to the USDA directions for safe microwave thawing.
6) Is there an easy way to cook more than one dish at a time?
A. Absolutely—turn to your microwave and slow cooker for support. Our advice is to make the side dishes followed by the turkey. Then while the turkey is resting you can use the oven and microwave to re-heat/finish cooking your sides. And all the while you can use a slower cooker to make Ultimate Potatoes and/or Pumpkin-Apple Dessert.
7) What do I do if part of my turkey is done while the rest is uncooked?
A. If the breast meat has reached a safe temperature but the thighs are still not at 165°F, remove the breast meat and wings and place in a glass baking dish. Cover with foil and set aside. Next, put drumsticks and thigh portions back into the oven and continue cooking until done.
8) Which wines pair well with turkey?
A. It’s good to look at the whole menu when selecting a wine. Whites pair well with poultry, but reds can compliment the flavors of the side dishes. We recommend the follow:
Red wine: Pinot Noir is a nice red that isn’t too heavy or strong. Beaujolais Nouveaux, also pairs well with a traditional Thanksgiving menu and is released in the middle of November, just in time for the holiday.
White wine: Chardonnay is a good choice. For a sweeter white, consider Riesling, but take care not to choose something so sweet that it will clash with your meal.
9) Can you give me all the basic information needed to roast a turkey?
A. Sure! Whether this is your first or sixty-first Thanksgiving, our Poultry Thawing Chart and Cooking Turkey Tips are a wealth of information.
Additional tips for roasting turkey:
- Use an oven thermometer to ensure the oven temperature is correct.
- Always use a meat thermometer to test internal temperature for doneness. Insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the inside thigh muscle so the thermometer does not touch bone. Turkey is done when it reaches 165 °F
- Turkeys often come with plastic a pop-up indicator. When your meat thermometer or pop-up indicates the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, grill, or fryer.
- Basting promotes moist, flavorful turkey. Baste or brush the turkey with pan juices every 30 to 60 minutes of cooking time.
- Keep in mind that convection ovens decrease roasting time. Check the guidelines for your convection oven for the proper amount of time.
10) I'd like to try something different with my turkey this year. What would you suggest?
A. There are lots of great alternatives to roasting turkey. Here are a few of our favorites:
Grilled Turkey Breast with Lemon Basil
Grilled Lemon-Garlic Turkey
11) What's the difference between, fresh, frozen and organic turkeys?
A. An organic turkey must meet the USDA Approved Label Claims:
- Certified Organic by C.C.O.F. (California Certified Organic Farmers)
- Free Range
- No Antibiotics
- No Animal By-Products
Both organic turkeys and those that aren’t can be purchased either frozen or fresh. There’s no difference in quality between fresh and frozen turkey, but if you purchase a frozen turkey, make certain to leave enough time to thaw completely (30 minutes per pound).
12) How do I prepare a tofurky?
A. Tofurky is a great meat alternative. For recipes and instructions visit www.tofurky.com
13) I don't have a meat thermometer; how can I judge if my turkey is done?
A. One indicator may be a nice golden brown color. However, a better way to tell is to cut into the center of the thigh. The turkey is done with the juice is no longer pink and the drumstick moves easily when lifted or twisted.
14) My family is small. What alternatives are there to whole turkeys?
A. Turkey breasts are perfect for up to eight people, depending on the overall size. We recommend Oven Roasted Turkey Breasts. Another alternative that can serve up to eight is Cornish hens. We suggest Cornish Hens with Apple-Raisin Stuffing.