There are so many different ways to cook a turkey, and it really isn’t difficult, but it is so intimidating the first time! The thing is to know what size you need, what size you have purchased, and timing.
First thing’s first, how big a turkey do I need? For enough to have leftovers, a good rule of thumb is 1.5 pounds per adult and 1/2 pound per child. Chances are that you won’t be able to get a turkey exactly the size you need. For my own Thanksgiving dinner, I am expecting 8 adults and two children. By this rule of thumb, I would need a 13 pound turkey. I don’t think I’m going to find a turkey that small in a regular grocery store. My options would be to buy turkey pieces or to buy bigger and plan to have more leftovers to freeze.
Once the turkey is purchased, it’s important to know how much it weighs because your thawing and cooking times vary by size. Do not roast a frozen turkey. Make sure it is thawed. The rule of thumb for thawing is one day per every 4 pounds. A 16 pound turkey will take 4 days in the refrigerator to thaw. That is a long time to have an entire turkey sitting and taking up space in the fridge. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead on this.
How long should a turkey be cooked? That is dependent upon the size, cooking method, and cooking temperature. There are so many ways to cook a turkey, that I just can’t go into detail on every one of them. I am going to give you some basic numbers for oven-roasting the whole bird, because I think that’s still the most popular technique. ** NOTE: I do not stuff my turkey. I think the stuffing comes out too soggy, and it is difficult to get a proper read on the internal temperature. It is just asking for trouble as far as food safety is concerned.
I like to roast my turkey, covered, at 275 for ten minutes per pound, then turn up the heat to 375 and slather the bird in butter and roast uncovered until the internal temperature is 170 degrees F. Once the bird is uncovered, I baste every 30 minutes. You could check your temp, with a meat thermometer, while basting .
Butterball recommends that a turkey be roasted at 325 for about 20 minutes per pound, again until the internal temperature is between 165 and 170 degrees.
What do I do to my turkey before roasting it? I really like to brine my turkey. I use Ree Drummond’s brine recipe. She makes note in her blog that frozen turkeys are already injected with a salt solution and should not be brined. Only brine a fresh turkey.
Other people like to put lemons and herbs into the cavity of the turkey, which infuses it will flavor while it roasts. This makes for a beautiful presentation.
Other options are a dry poultry rub or a glaze. Some turkeys and hams come with a glaze packet ready to go.
My last tip is this one: If you get in a bind or have an emergency question, call the Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372)
However you decide to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey, I hope it is stress-free and delicious! Take a picture and post it on Instagram and tag it #jessicaskitchentable