How to Roast a Turkey

Getting the turkey into the oven—and out again—is the perennial challenge. Here's how.

By FamilyTime

 As Thanksgiving Day approaches, let us help.

How to Thaw?
The best way to thaw a frozen turkey is to put it, still wrapped, in a large pan and leave it in the refrigerator for about three days—a small 12-pound turkey will defrost in 2 ½ days; a large 24-pound turkey will need 3 ½ or 4 days.

Another method is to fill a large tub or the sink with cold water and submerge the turkey breast down. Change the water frequently to keep it cold. A 15- to 16-pound turkey will thaw in 8 to 9 hours; a larger turkey, in 10 or 11 hours.

Do not leave the thawed turkey at room temperature for any length of time. A thawed turkey will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Should I Stuff the Turkey?
This, too, is a matter of preference. If you decide to stuff the turkey, do not do so until right before roasting. See The Stuff of Stuffing.

Getting Ready
Preheat the oven to 325°F. about 20 minutes ahead of time. Position the oven rack so that the turkey will sit in the center of the oven without touching the roof of the oven. The position of the rack will depend on the size of the turkey and the size of the oven.

Remove the packaged giblets from the turkey's body or neck cavity rinse and wipe out with paper towels. Reserve the giblets to make gravy.

Spoon stuffing loosely into the turkey's cavity, if desired. Set the turkey, breast side up, on a flat roasting rack positioned in a large roasting pan. The roasting pan should be 2 to 2 ½ inches deep. You can use a disposable roasting pan.

Roasting Tips
About an hour before the turkey is done, cover the breast with aluminum foil to keep it from drying out while the dark meat completes cooking.

Roast the turkey until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 180°F. The internal temperature of the stuffing should be 160° to 165°F.

Allow about 12 to 20 minutes to the pound for a stuffed turkey; less for an unstuffed bird. Smaller turkeys require more minutes to the pound.

Roasting Timetable
For stuffed turkeys roasted at 325°F, in an open pan:

9 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 16 pounds: 3 ½ to 4 hours
16 to 20 pounds: 4 to 4 ¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 ¾ to 5 ½ hours

For unstuffed turkeys, subtract about 30 minutes overall. Never rely on time alone; always use a thermometer.

Should I Baste?
There is no good reason to baste a roasting turkey. Liquid will not penetrate the skin and opening the oven door only lengthens the cooking time.

The turkey will provide its own moisture as it bakes.

Tests for Doneness
We recommend using an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh shortly before you think the bird is done (do not touch the bone with the thermometer). When the turkey is cooked, it will read 180°F.

Insert the instant-read thermometer in the stuffing, as well. It should read 160° to 165°F.

You can also use a standard meat thermometer, inserted in the thigh before the turkey is put in the oven.

Check if the juices will run clear, not pink, when the thigh meat is pierced. This is another test for doneness.

Do not overcook the turkey or it may be dry.

Before Carving
Let the turkey sit on the platter for at least 20 minutes before carving it. You don't have to cover it with foil – it will stay hot.

After 20 or 30 minutes, the juices will have redistributed themselves and the bird will be ready for carving.