20 Plus Tips For A Turkey To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving.

By Melissa Shrader Editor/Publisher Fort Collins Macaroni Kid November 16, 2020
When it comes to the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, you don’t want to wing it. Thoughtful preparation will help achieving a tasty, juicy, just-perfect turkey.

Thaw your bird slowly and safely. The safest method to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator, but you’ll want to plan ahead. A 20-pound bird can take up to five days to defrost! If you like a crispy skin on your cooked turkey, consider unwrapping the turkey one day prior to roasting and leaving it uncovered (in the refrigerator) overnight.

Count on cooking time. Roasting time will vary depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen, but a good guideline to follow is 20 minutes of cooking per pound for frozen and 15 minutes per pound for fresh.

To stuff or not to stuff? If you plan on cooking your stuffing in the cavity of the turkey, note that additional cooking time will most likely be needed. Don’t over stuff! A densely stuffed turkey will not cook evenly. If you choose not to put stuffing in the bird’s cavity, you can add herbs and/or aromatic vegetables into the cavity instead. (Again, don’t over stuff.) This will add flavor but not increase cooking time dramatically.

Use muslin for moist meat. For an extra-moist turkey, cut a large piece of food-safe muslin or cheesecloth and dip it into melted butter. Place the muslin over the turkey and then cover with foil. (You’ll want to remove the foil and muslin for the last half hour of roasting.)

Don’t be a peeping Tom! Resist the temptation to continuously open the oven door to check on your turkey. Not only will you increase your cooking time but you risk drying out your bird.

Better safe than sorry. Even if your turkey looks done, test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 180 degrees F at the thigh and, if you stuffed your bird, the stuffing should read a minimum of 165 degrees F. The pop-up temperature devices that often come in frozen turkeys are generally unreliable; you should always use an oven-safe temperature probe to check the temperature.

Give it a rest. Once your turkey is roasted, let it rest on the stove top for about 20 minutes prior to carving. Be sure to tent the turkey with aluminum foil as it rests. This will help keep heat and moisture in. Use this time to make final preparations for the feast.

Follow these 10 basic steps below for the perfect turkey that your guests will gobble up!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees for about 10+ Min. Make sure your oven light goes off when it hits the right temp. Some ovens heat faster than others. 

2. Remove turkey from packaging DON'T forget the giblets in the cavity.

3. Prepare the turkey for roasting. How? Put it in a roasting pan, brush the outside of the turkey with melted butter and seasonings.

4. Time for the oven.  When you put the turkey in, immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Plan on cooking at this temperature for 15 minutes per pound. Again each oven is slightly different. 

5. Cook for 1 hour, then start basting. After the first hour is up, baste the turkey every 15 minutes for the remainder of the cooking time. Set a timer so you don't forget!

6. Keep an eye on the thermometer. The turkey is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (Note: always insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey).

7. Is it stuffed? If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing must also reach an internal temp of 165 degrees.

8. Let it cool. Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before carving.

9. Carve. When carving, be sure to use a sharp knife and slice against the grain.

10. Time to eat! Time to gobble gobble up the juicy turkey and all the fixin's !

11. Not stuffing your turkey? Add a one or two apples in the middle of it while its cooking. They will release the juice into the turkey and keep it moist. 

12. Also use aluminum foil to cover the wings and legs sections for a few hours so they don't over cook.
13. Lastly, just roast the turkey in a dry pan, add a pint or 2 of chicken broth to the bottom for more juice to baste with.

Have a small crowd or a simple family Thanksgiving this year?

  1. Instead of a whole turkey, you can roast a hotel breast (just the white meat parts of a turkey). Follow the same cooking instructions as above, but start basting after 20 minutes.
  2. Cornish hens or quail also make a nice alternative to the traditional turkey, and bonus, they take much less time to cook.
  3. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and remember that Fort Collins Macaroni Kid is truly thankful for you!