Tom’s Turkey Tidbits
Everyone needs a place to find good basic advice for the cooking of your Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. I created this page to provide some advice and act as a reference when you are in a pinch. This advice comes from about 15 years of commercial cooking in restaurants and catering. It also comes from the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal for a gathering of up to 30 people from the time I was 15 to about 40 years old.
Sage Advice For Your Holiday Turkey
Whether you like a giblet dressing, oyster dressing, or a simple bread dressing, they all have a few things in common. A few simple vegetables, celery and onions, some broth or water to wet the bread and eggs to bind the mixture. Season to taste and then cook. Whether you are stuffing your bird or cooking it in a pan or slow cooker, the center of the dressing needs to reach 165 degrees to be done.
Spicy or simple seasoning, one of the first steps in the cooking is to season the bird. Before that happens, a little cleaning is in order. Rinse the bird inside and out, remove any extra fat. There are usually a couple of large chunks near the cavity between the legs. Pat the bird dry, both inside and out. This is especially important if you are deep frying. Season the inside of the bird and the outside. If you are using an injector to add flavor, inject in several places to spread the flavor around.
If you are stuffing the bird, that will add some extra flavor, but if not, peel and quarter an onion, and clean a couple celery ribs and cut in half, placing them in the cavity to add flavor.
A roasting rack is recommended to allow the bird to be up off the bottom of the pan and it makes it easier to clean up later. If you don’t have a rack for your pan, use a couple ribs of celery and a couple peeled carrots to raise the bird up.
Roast in the oven at 325 degrees until the bird reaches 165 degrees at the thickest part of the meat.
To help seal in some of the juices, and give a crisper skin, I will preheat the oven to about 400 degrees, put the prepared turkey in the oven with no water in the pan and wait about 20 minutes. I then pull the bird out, rub on some oil (or butter) over the breast and thighs and then ad about a half inch of water or stock to the bottom of the pan. Return the bird to the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Baste the bird about every 30 minutes and if the skin gets too dark, use foil to cover those areas to prevent burning.
When is the Turkey Done?
The US Department of Agriculture has these recommendations:
When the bird has reached 165 degrees, pull it out of the oven and allow it to rest on a tray for about 20-30 minutes. You can cover it with foil if you like. That should allow you enough time to make the gravy and start putting the side dishes in the serving bowls. Once the turkey has rested, you can begin slicing it and you should find it fairly moist.
APPROXIMATE COOKING TIMES
(325 F oven temperature)
UNSTUFFED (time in hours)
- 4 to 6 lb. breast only 1 1/2 to 2 1/4
- 6 to 8 lb. breast only 2 1/4 to 3 1/4
- 8 to 12 lbs……………. 2 3/4 to 3
- 12 to 14 lbs…………… 3 to 3 3/4
- 14 to 18 lbs…………… 3 3/4 to 4 1/4
- 18 to 20 lbs…………… 4 1/4 to 4 1/2
- 20 to 24 lbs…………… 4 1/2 to 5
STUFFED (time in hours)
- 8 to 12 lbs…………… 3 to 3 1/2
- 12 to 14 lbs………….. 3 1/2 to 4
- 14 to 18 lbs………….. 4 to 4 1/4
- 18 to 20 lbs………….. 4 1/4 to 4 3/4
- 20 to 24 lbs………….. 4 3/4 to 5 1/4