The holiday gathering is at your house this year! You’ve been busy getting your house prepared for company. The bathrooms are clean. The guest room is perfect. Decorations are up, and the house is sparkling. Now you need to think about feeding this crowd.
Suddenly you realize cooking a turkey isn’t something you know a lot about. There are so many details to think about:
- What size turkey should I buy?
- How do I thaw my turkey, and how long will it take?
- How do I prepare the turkey for baking?
- How long do I bake my turkey?
I’ve asked all these same questions, and every year I have to look up the same information. Not anymore! I’ve done the research for you and gathered everything you need to know about cooking a turkey right here. You’re welcome!
Everything You Need To Know About Cooking A Turkey
Here’s what you’ll need.
What size turkey should I buy?
A good general rule is 1 pound per person. However this rule only works if you are buying a boneless turkey breast. If you plan to buy a whole turkey, that weight includes the bones so you’ll need a different calculation.
Boneless turkey breast: 1 pound per person
Whole turkey: 6 people or less = 2 pounds per person
Whole turkey: 7 or more = 1.5 pounds per person
How do I thaw my turkey, and how long will it take?
The preferred way of thawing a turkey is in the refrigerator. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. Place the turkey on a shallow dish in the refrigerator. How long will it take?
Thaw in refrigerator 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey.
A quicker way to thaw your turkey is the cold water method.
Cold water method:
Leave turkey in the packaging and place it breast down in a sink or cooler.
Fill with cold water until the turkey starts to float.
Rotate the turkey every 30 minutes and change the water.
Thaw time will depend on the size of the turkey.
How do I prepare the turkey for baking?
There are numerous recipes that call for stuffing, brining, rubs and seasonings; but my favorite way to serve turkey is simple. The only seasonings I use are broth, butter, salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Remove turkey from the refrigerator and allow to sit in the packaging for half an hour.
- Next, remove all packaging from body cavity and neck.
- Rinse inside and out with cold water. Pat outside dry with paper towel.
- Rub outside with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some on the inside, too.
- Place turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Allow to sit for another 30 minutes.
- Pour 2 cups of chicken broth or water into the roasting pan.
- Place roasting pan in oven with turkey breast side up. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
How long do I bake my turkey?
Bake turkey for 13 minutes per pound.
Baste with pan drippings every 45 minutes while cooking.
During the last hour of cooking, baste with melted butter.
Turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Check temperature at the breast and thickest part of the thigh.
The legs, thighs, and wings tend to cook faster than the breast. If the internal temperature has not reached 165 degrees but the skin looks browned, place aluminum foil over the turkey. You can tent it over the entire pan or lightly wrap the legs and wings.
When the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees when taken at both the thigh and breast areas, your turkey is done! Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Tip it slightly to allow the juices to run out of the body cavity. Remove the roasting rack from the pan, and place onto the counter or a cutting board. Cover turkey lightly with aluminum foil and allow to sit for 30 minutes before carving.
Follow these step by step instructions for cooking a turkey, and you’ll get delicious results every time.
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Need something to serve with that turkey?
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