Turkey Roasting Tips
Tips on How to Roast a Turkey
- Remove the giblets from turkey cavities after thawing. Cook them separately. (You can use giblets to make a nice broth for gravy.)
- Set oven temperature no lower than 325° F.
- Place turkey on lower rack in a shallow roasting pan. A roasting rack is helpful for lifting the bird out of the pan when it's cooked.
- For even cooking, bake stuffing in a separate casserole dish, versus in the bird.
- If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time. Separate wet and dry ingredients, and chill wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.) until ready to prepare. Mix wet and dry ingredients together just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165° F.
- Pull the wing tips forward and tuck them under the breasts so they don't burn. This also keeps the turkey sitting nice and straight.
- After seasoning, (salt it well inside and out) tie the legs together with kitchen string or dental floss (plain, not mint-flavored). This important step will ensure even cooking, and a beautifully shaped turkey.
- Loosely cover the breasts with a piece of foil. This will help keep the turkey moist, and prevent the breasts from getting too brown. Remove the foil for the last hour of roasting to brown the skin.
- Whole turkeys should be cooked to a minumum of 165° F. To check for doneness, insert a food thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh without touching the bone.
- Let the turkey stand for 20 - 30 minutes, lightly covered with foil, before carving to allow the juices to redistribute. The turkey will carve more easily.
Turkey Thawing Instructions
To thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator:
Keep the turkey wrapped and place it in a pan. Let it stand in the refrigerator roughly 24 hours for each 5 pounds. Large turkeys should stand in refrigerator a maximum of 5 days. The giblets and neck, which are customarily packed in the neck and body cavities of frozen turkeys, may be removed from the bird near the end of the thawing period. If desired, the giblets and neck may be refrigerated and reserved for making giblet broth for gravy.
To thaw a frozen turkey in cold water:
Make certain that the turkey is in a leak-proof package or a zipper-seal plastic bag. This prevents bacteria in the surrounding environment from being introduced into the food, and prevents the poultry tissues from absorbing water. Use a 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket or large cooler. Completely submerge the turkey in cold water the day before. Change the water frequently to keep the turkey chilled.
Want to brine your turkey? Here is a basic recipe.
More turkey roasting questions? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline