Foods | Cooking
Hints & Tips
How To Roast A Turkey - Roasting Your Thanksgiving Turkey
It is hard to beat the classic roast turkey with the wonderful aromas that
waft from the oven kicking off the anticipation for the holiday meal. Roasting a
large turkey is one of easiest easy to accommodate a large crowd of family and friends.
The USDA has issued new guidelines for cooking and roasting whole turkeys. These changes were based on a study conducted by the University of Georgia, which showed that
the existing USDA cooking times were longer than needed to assure safety and doneness. The data supported reductions of 15 minutes to one hour,
depending on the size of the bird. The USDA has come up with a one-temperature-suits-all for poultry safety: 165 degrees F. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should
be checked with a
It appears that "timing is NOT everything." Recommended cooking techniques must also be followed.
A meat thermometer should be used to check the internal temperature of the bird in several places for safety's sake and to prevent overcooking.
Many variables can affect the roasting time of the whole turkey:
A partially frozen bird requires longer cooking.
turkey roasting pans cook faster than shiny metals.
The depth and size of the pan can reduce heat circulation to all areas of the bird.
The use of a foil tent for the entire time can slow cooking.
Use of the roasting pan's lid speeds cooking.
An oven cooking bag can accelerate cooking time.
A stuffed bird takes longer to cook.
The oven may heat food unevenly.
Calibration of the oven's thermostat may be inaccurate.
The rack position can have an affect on even cooking and heat circulation.
A turkey or its pan may be too large for the oven, thus blocking heat circulation.
meat thermometer must be placed properly in the thigh joint. See
Taking The Turkey's Internal Temperature below.
All these factors must be considered when roasting a turkey or any meat product. They can lengthen or shorten the total cooking time.
Safe cooking relies on a combination of factors and the use of a meat thermometer.
The roasting methods or techniques used in the University of Georgia study to determine the new approximate cooking times
did show that turkeys were cooking faster. The new times are based on cooking turkeys according to the following recommendations.
How To Cook Turkey - Turkey Roasting Instructions For Safety And Doneness:
1. Oven Temperature - Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F. Pre-heating is not necessary.
2. Be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Times are based on fresh or completely thawed frozen birds at a refrigerator temperature of about 40 degrees F. or below.
3. Placing Turkey in Roasting Pan - Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow
roasting pans, 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. Optional steps:
Truss or Not to Truss - You do not need to
bother with complicated trussing. Instead, secure the legs by tucking the ankle joints into the pocket of skin at the tail end.
Tuck wing tips back under the shoulders of bird (called "akimbo").
Adding Liquid - Add 1 cup chicken broth/stock to the bottom of the turkey pan before beginning
the cooking. This will create a steam room-type environment in the oven, which help keep the breast moist but will not prevent browning of the skin.
Tenting the Turkey - In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil may be place loosely over the breast of the turkey for
the first 1 to 1-1/2 hours, then removed for browning. Or, a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey has reached the desired golden brown.
As part of the study, some birds were tented with foil for the entire cooking time; this increased the cooking time required.
4. Basting the Turkey - Brush the turkey with butter or vegetable oil at the
beginning before roasting it in the oven. This will contribute to browning. NOTE: Basting during the roasting process is an
unnecessary extra stop. Basing in the last hour of roasting can actually turn a beautiful crisp turkey skin soft.
Four easy ways to baste a turkey:
Turkey Baster (bulb turkey baster).
Use a basting brush.
Use a large spoon to scoop up the juices and drizzle over the turkey.
5. Turkey Cooking Times - The new roasting times are based on the recommendations above
and on a 325 degree F. oven temperature. These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed
Approximate Turkey Cooking Times:
4 to 8 pounds.............1-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds................2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds...............3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds...............3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds...............4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds...............4-1/2 to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds................3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds...............3-1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds...............4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds...............4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds...............4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours
6. Taking The Turkey's Internal Temperature - This year, the USDA has come up with a one-temperature-suits-all for poultry
safety: 165 degrees F. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked with a
is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers
asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the
Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the
Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world. To learn more about this excellent
thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined:
To Take Temperature of Thigh - Place the thermometer in the thickest
part of thigh away from the bone of the turkey to check the internal temperature at intervals during the cooking time.
To Take Temperature of Breast- Insert thermometer at neck end,
holding it parallel to the turkey. Confirm temperature by inserting thermometer in both sides of the turkey.
Cleaning Meat Thermometer - After each use, wash the stem section of the thermometer thoroughly in hot,
Pop-Up Thermometer- If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is also recommended
that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wine, and the thickest part of the breast with a
Temperature of Cooked Turkey - The temperature must reach a
minimum of 165 degrees F. in the thigh before removing from the oven. The center of the stuffing should reach 165 degrees F. after stand time.
In Absence of a Meat Thermometer
- Juices should be clear. Pierce the turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear with no trace of pink.
NOTE: The old-fashioned way of wiggling the leg to see if it's loose will give you an indication that the turkey is ready, but unfortunately,
by the time the leg is truly loose, the turkey is sadly overcooked. The only reliable test for doneness is to check the internal temperature with
meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone.
7. Removing the Turkey From the Oven - Once you remove the turkey from the oven, tent it with aluminum foil and allow
it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes, so the meat can firm up and hold the juices, making it easier to carve.
8. Letting the Turkey Rest - Resting allows for the redistribution and re-absorption of the juices in the meat. This
makes for ultra-moist, flavorful meat while also giving the turkey a chance to cool for easier carving. If you skip this important step, you will both burn
yourself and end up with a flood of juices on your carving board, not to mention a dry turkey.
Check out Linda hints and tips on preparing your holiday turkey dinner:
Guidelines for Brining Poultry
Linda's Favorite Turkey Stuffing
Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely
Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer
Perfect Turkey Gravy
Gravy Making Tips
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Advice on Handling Leftovers Safely
Let's Make Turkey Stock
Cajun Fried Turkey
Oven Roasted Turkey