Turkey tips

Roast turkey is usually the center at important celebration dinners.

Roast turkey

Here is some advice on how to choose, prepare and cook a turkey.

Fresh turkey probably has better flavor and texture than a frozen bird. If this is your choice, remember to order with plenty of time from your favorite store or butcher. This way you are sure to have the right size bird ready to pick at a time of your choice. Otherwise you will be subject to availability, and the birds left might be too small or too large.

Grocery stores usually keep a larger selection of whole turkeys in the run up to the Holidays. Now, if you don’t have a fridge, or other cold place, large enough to hold the bird for a few days, you will have to restore to buy it the day before. In which case, the best is, as said before, to order in advance.

Frozen turkeys are usually easy to find, no availability problems here. However, thawing is another matter. Turkeys are large birds and usually take longer than 24 hours to defrost. Count on two days for a large bird to thaw properly; the larger ones might need up to three. Check thawing instructions on the package.

If the turkey has not defrosted completely it might not cook properly at the middle, and if the temperature does not reach the right level for a minimum period, you might be serving a health hazard instead of a roasted turkey.

Remove the giblets from inside of a frozen bird as soon as it is feasible. This will allow better air circulation promoting a faster thawing. Keep the giblets in the fridge; they are the base for wonderful turkey gravy.

Cooking turkey

Cooking times depend on the size of the bird. The rule of thumb is 25 minutes per pound / ½ kg plus 25 minutes more. Check the table below for best practices.

7-10 lb
3.5-5 kg
30 minutes at 425° F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7 / hot
3-3½ hours at 350°F / 180° C / Gas Mark 4 / moderate
10-14 lb
5-7 kg
30 minutes at 425° F / 220° C / Gas Mark 7 / hot
3½-4 hours at 350° F / 180° C / Gas Mark 4 / moderate
7-10 kg
14-20 lb
30 minutes at 425° F / 220° C / Gas Mark 7 / hot
3½-4 hours at 350° F / 180° C / Gas Mark 4 / moderate

For fan assisted ovens, reduce temperatures by 25º F / 10º C to avoid overcooking. Even with the reduced temperature, cooking times will be shortened.

Cooking the turkey wrapped in foil or in a bag will make for a juicier roast, but it will also take longer to cook.

For large birds, protect the breast legs with foil during the last cooking stages so they don’t brown in excess. If you do so, remove the foil 5-10 minutes before the turkey has finished cooking to achieve that desired golden color.

Checking for doneness

The time honored way to check if the turkey, or other meat, is thoroughly cooked is to pierce the flesh with a skewer –choose the thickest part, please. If the juices run clear, thumbs up, it is done. If there is any trace of pink, return it to the oven to cook for a little longer.

Once done

Stand still, seriously. Wrap the turkey in foil to keep the heat and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Carving will be much easier, honest.

Take care

Any food, even cooked food, standing for long in a warm kitchen is a potential health risk. The microorganisms responsible for food poisoning develop very quickly. Sometimes the food does not taste off, but it is still unsafe to eat and the effects are felt soon enough.

For the same reason, let the food cool down properly before putting it into the fridge. If you put warm food into the fridge, it can raise the temperature enough to spoil other food inside the fridge.