Turkey 101


It’s best to thaw your turkey in a refrigerator that’s 40 degrees or cooler. A good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.

If you’ve run out of time, you can defrost the turkey in a sink filled with cold water. Thaw the turkey breast side down, in its unopened wrapper, in enough cold water to cover it completely. Change the water frequently to keep the turkey chilled. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound for a whole turkey.
The benefit of brining? You will end up with a moist flavorful turkey.
The downside of brining? You will need a large space in the fridge to put the turkey in the bag of liquid and the process is somewhat messy. The drippings will be too salty to use for gravy.

Don’t brine a kosher turkey; it has already been salted.

Serves 10 to 12
1 turkey (12 to 15 pounds), giblets and neck reserved for gravy, outer wing joint cut off and reserved for gravy
3 tablespoons kosher salt

Gently separate the turkey skin from the meat on the breast, legs and thighs without breaking the skin. Rub 1 tablespoon salt evenly inside the cavity of the turkey, 1 ½ teaspoons under the skin of each breast and 1 ½ teaspoons under the skin of each leg/thigh. Wrap the turkey in plastic wrap or tightly in a plastic bag and chill for 24 to 36 hours. Pat very dry and proceed with the roasting recipe.
If the turkey is frozen, thaw in the refrigerator or a sink of cold water (see procedure above).
Should the Turkey Be Rinsed?
Raw poultry shouldn’t be rinsed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The reason is that when you rinse, you risk contaminating the sink and everything around it with salmonella bacteria.

But, if you’d rather rinse off the juices, you can. You just must clean the sink, countertop — everything else that has come into contact with the raw turkey — with soap and hot water, and then follow that with a little bleach.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?
It’s safer not to stuff the turkey. The internal temperature of turkey and stuffing should both reach at least 165 degrees. So, if you let the stuffing get to that temperature inside the turkey, the bird temperature will probably already be up to 175 degrees, which means the meat will be overcooked and dry.


Some people really prefer the taste of stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey. If you’re one of them and the stuffing has not reached 165F inside the turkey when you take the turkey out, just scoop out the stuffing and put it in a shallow baking dish. Cover it and bake it until it has reached an internal temperature of 165F.

Do not purchase prestuffed turkeys. You should stuff the bird right before it’s cooked, and stuffing ingredients should be precooked.

What is the Turkey Roasting Procedure?
Preheat oven to 325 F. Arrange an oven shelf in the lower third of the oven. Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity of the turkey, reserving them for turkey broth (see turkey broth recipe below). Drain the juices and pat the bird dry inside and out.

If stuffing, stuff right before roasting (see basic stuffing recipe below) and return legs to tucked position.

Arrange the turkey breast side up in a rack (preferably a v-rack), set in a heavy large roasting pan. Melt a stick of butter and brush the turkey all over with one third of the butter. Season with salt and pepper and cover the whole turkey loosely with foil. Pour two cups of chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan and roast the turkey in the lower third of the oven for 1 hour. Uncover and baste with another third of the butter, pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of the roasting pan. Recover the turkey and roast until approximately half way through the total cooking time. Uncover the turkey, baste with the remaining butter and roast, uncovered, until a thermometer when inserted in the thickest part of the leg thigh joint reaches 165 F. Add more water to the pan if all the juices in the bottom dry up.

Transfer the turkey to a platter, leaving the drippings in the pan for the gravy (see gravy recipe below) and cover the turkey loosely with foil. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30 minutes before carving.

How Can You Tell When the Turkey Is Done?
The turkey must be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees. Read the temperature of the turkey by inserting a thermometer into the leg/ thigh joint. The temperature will rise to 175 degrees with resting time.

Here’s a guide, by weight, of turkey cooking times (at 325 degrees). This guide comes from the USDA. I recommend that you check your turkey for doneness a full 30 minutes before the earlier times on this chart.

  • Eight to 12 lbs: 2 ¾ to 3 hours (unstuffed); 3 to 3 ½ hours (stuffed).
  • Twelve to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 ¾ hours (unstuffed); 3 ½ to 4 hours (stuffed).
  • Fourteen to 18 lbs: 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours (unstuffed); 4 to 4 ¼ hours (stuffed).
  • Eighteen to 20 lbs: 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours (unstuffed); 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours (stuffed).
  • Twenty to 24 lbs: 4 ½ to 5 hours (stuffed); 4 ¾ hours to 5 ¼ hours (stuffed).

The turkey should rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
If you loosely cover the turkey with foil, it will remain hot for up to one hour.

Resting allows the turkey to finish cooking. If you carve the turkey right after it’s cooked, without allowing it to rest, the juices will run out and the bird will be dry.

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