How To Cook A Turkey

Top Questions & Answers

Nannie’s Tips – How to roast and handle a turkey safely.

1. What’s the best way to thaw a turkey?

Refrigerator thawing is recommended. For every four pounds of turkey, allow at least one day of thawing. Thawing the turkey at room temperature is not recommended as it could promote bacterial growth.

2. How do you safely handle a turkey?

  • Only use paper towels, not cloth, to wipe off turkey and clean up juices.
  • Prevent uncooked juices from dripping onto other foods in the refrigerator by placing packaged turkey on a tray.
  • Thawed turkey may be kept in the refrigerator up to four days before cooking.
  • Roast fresh turkey as soon as possible, but no later than the “use by” date on the package.
  • Place raw poultry on non-porous surfaces; these are easy to clean.
  • Combine stuffing ingredients and stuff turkey just before roasting, NOT the night before.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils touched by raw poultry and its juices with hot, soapy water.
  • Use a food thermometer to determine turkey’s doneness.
  • Store turkey, stuffing, gravy, broth and other leftover cooked foods in separate containers in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking.

3. What do you need to do to a turkey just before roasting it?

  • Remove original plastic wrapper from thawed or fresh turkey.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from the body and neck cavities.
  • Drain juices and dry turkey with paper towels.
  • Stuffing is optional, stuff the turkey just before roasting. ~ SEE Stuffing tips below.
  • Return legs to tucked position, if un-tucked for rinsing or stuffing.
  • Follow roasting directions that come with every turkey

4. What’s the proper way to stuff a turkey?

Whether you choose to stuff your turkey or cook stuffing in a casserole dish is a matter of personal choice. As with any preparation involving raw food ingredients, it is important to carefully follow proper food safety and handling procedures.

  • Prepare stuffing just before placing in turkey. Use only cooked ingredients in stuffing.
  • Sauté vegetables, use only cooked meats and oysters, and avoid raw eggs or use pasteurized egg products.
  • Place prepared stuffing in turkey just before roasting.
  • DO NOT stuff the turkey the night before roasting!
  • Stuff both neck and body cavities of completely thawed turkey, allowing 1/2 to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • IMPORTANT ~ Do not pack stuffing tightly in turkey.
  • Return legs to original tucked position.

5. What’s the best way to roast a turkey?

  • Place thawed or fresh turkey, breast up, on a flat rack in a shallow pan, 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep.
  • Brush or rub skin with vegetable oil to prevent the skin from drying and to enhance the golden color.
  • Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle, but not touching the bone.
  • Place in a preheated 325F oven.
  • Basting the skin during roasting is not necessary. Pouring juices over the turkey’s skin while it roasts will not make the meat juicier.
  • Opening the oven door periodically to baste a turkey can interrupt roasting and may possibly lengthen the roasting time.
  • When the turkey is about two-thirds done, loosely cover the breast and top of drumsticks with a piece of lightweight foil to prevent overcooking the breast.
  • When thigh is up to temperature 180F/ 82C, move thermometer to center of stuffing check the temperature it should be 160F / 71C.
  • Remove turkey from oven. Before removing stuffing and carving, let turkey stand 15 minutes to allow juices to set and stuffing temperature to rise to 165F.

Use this roasting schedule as a guideline; start checking for doneness one hour before recommended end times.


Turkey Chart Time Table

6. How can leftover turkey be stored properly?

Refrigerator Storage:
Within two hour mark, after roasting, remove stuffing from turkey and carve meat off bones. Then chill in refrigerator before wrapping for storage. Wrap turkey and stuffing separately and use within three days.
Frozen Storage:
Wrap turkey and stuffing separately in heavy foil, freezer wrap or place in freezer container or bags. For optimum flavor, use stuffing within one month and turkey within two months.
Special Freezing Tip:
Use turkey stock to cover leftover turkey before freezing. The Stock helps to keep the turkey from drying out and helps prevent freezer burn.

epicurious has all the low down on How long can the turkey sit out before potentially becoming unsafe to eat. They also offer exotic ways to roast a turkey along with delicious new side dish recipes. If you are into traditional then just follow the above guidelines for an old fashioned roasted turkey, like the ones Nanny use to bake.

BONUS How to Make Turkey Stock

  • Place the skin, meat, bones, scraps of leftover stuffing and all in a large pan.
  • Optional: Add one to two tablespoons of vinegar to draw the calcium from the bones.
  • Optional: Add carrots, onion, bay leaves, pepper corns, and any other spices that you like.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 hours, adding additional water if needed.
  • Remove the bones etc. by straining the stock into a clean container.
  • Place container in fridge until the fat is solidified.
  • Skim off the solidified fat, place stock in freezer contains and freeze until needed.

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