1. Size Matters
What size turkey should I buy?
You should plan on about 1.5 pounds of turkey per guest.
Buy a small turkey!
Smaller turkeys cook faster and tend to be more moist and tender. The ultimate goal is to reach and internal temperature of 165°. This will take longer with a larger bird which will cause the outside meat to cook at higher temperatures thus losing that delicious moisture.
Stay with 14 to 16 pound turkeys for the best results.
If that’s not enough meat buy 2 turkeys.
How does that saying go? “2 birds in your hand are better than a giant bird in a bush.” Hmmm, could be mixing that up though. 😉
2. Frozen Fowl, Fresh Fowl
The most common call to the butterball hotline is “How do I thaw a turkey?” Source: https://www.butterball.com/about-us/turkey-talk-line
Allow 24 hours of thawing time in the refrigerator for every five pounds of turkey.
Don’t wait! Get your frozen turkey in the refrigerator in plenty of time for thawing. A 15 pound bird can take 3 days to thaw in the refrigerator.
After it thaws: According to the USDA a thawed turkey can be refrigerated for 1 or 2 days.
So what happens if it’s still partially frozen?
In a turkey emergency, put it in a cold water bath for half an hour per pound. Change water every 30 minutes until it’s thawed. DO NOT use warm water to thaw a turkey.
Undecided on which type of turkey yields the best results? Check out our article:
3. Tried and True Temperature
I’ve seen recipes that have you raising and lowering the temperature at different parts of the process. However, the simplest method is often the best.
Using a smaller turkey allows you to keep it at the same temperature as you aren’t as worried about overcooking the skin or the outside pieces of meat like the legs and wings.
Preheat your oven to 350° and then cook at that temperature.
4. Time for Turkeys
13 minutes of cooking time per pound. 15 minutes per pound if stuffed.
OR until it reaches 165°!
The temperature of the meat supersedes any timer. Remember 165°. Check the thickest part of the breast and the thickest part of the thigh. (Source: USDA) When you reach that temperature take the turkey out of the oven.
Tip: Don’t trust the pop up thermometers that many frozen turkeys include.
One of the best tools you can have in your kitchen is a digital thermometer. We have both an instant read digital thermometer and a wireless digital thermometer that gives constant temperature evaluation of the meat and the oven. An oven thermometer can also give you piece of mind when it comes to the true temperature.
We recommend these highly rated thermometers:
5. Take a Rest
Cooking will push the moisture to the outside of the bird. Carve too soon and you will see moisture coming out and pooling.
15 minutes of resting time before carving will allow the juices to be drawn back into the meat.
Cover or don’t cover? Since you were smart and bought a smaller turkey you can leave this bird uncovered while it’s resting; this will allow the skin to stay crispy.
Tip: As the dinner progresses and Uncle Earl has had thirds you want to remember food safety. Use the 2 hour rule: food left in the danger zone between 40° and 140° for 2 hours should be discarded. Source: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Danger_Zone.pdf
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