Perfect Roast Turkey

Buying, preparing, and roasting a turkey are time-consuming.  With careful preparation and attention to timing, you will be rewarded with a beautiful and tasty main course.

Your first decision will be selecting between a frozen or fresh turkey.  A fresh bird is more expensive, but will save you time and precious refrigerator space.  Buy the bird the day before you wish to roast it, but remember to reserve your turkey with the butcher.  It can be catastrophic to find that the only turkey available for your intimate four-person dinner is a 26-pound glacial beast.

A frozen turkey needs to be defrosted.  The preferred method is to defrost it in the refrigerator.  (Yes, the one filled with the rest of the holiday fare.)  Allow one day per 5 pounds. A 15-pound turkey will require three days to defrost thoroughly.  An alternate method is to defrost the bird in a cold water bath.  Allow 30 minutes per pound.  That 15-pound turkey will require only 7 1/2 hours to defrost using this approach.  It is also possible to use a combination of these methods.

Now you are ready to prepare the turkey for roasting.  First remove the giblets.  This is a fundamental step not only because you might want to use them to make the gravy, but also because it is disconcerting to find these paper-wrapped lumps when carving.  Next, rinse the bird inside and out.  Pat dry with paper towels.  If you are stuffing the bird, do so now with a freshly prepared dressing.  Stuff loosely, allowing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup per pound of bird.  Brush the skin with melted butter or oil.  Tuck the drumsticks under the folds of skin or tie together with string.  Lastly, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh ( if you have one ).  The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.

Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven.  Use the following chart to estimate the time required for baking.

Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent.  During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin.  Basting is not necessary, but will promote even browning.

Weight of Bird Roasting Time (Unstuffed) Roasting Time (Stuffed)

Weight of BirdRoasting Time (Unstuffed)Roasting Time (Stuffed)
3-3.5 hrs. 3.75-4.5 hrs.
15-22lbs3.5-4 hrs.
4.5-5 hrs.
22-24lbs4-4.5 hrs.5-5.5 hrs.
24-29lbs4.5-5 hrs.5.5-6.25 hrs.

The best test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin.  The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F, and when the breast meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.  If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing.  The stuffing should be 165 degrees F.  When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

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