Turkey Roasting Tips

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What Size Turkey to Buy

To ensure ample servings for Thanksgiving dinner as well as generous leftovers, allow for 2 pounds of turkey per person.

Guidelines for roasting a turkey at 325°F on a lower rack in a shallow pan:

Weight        Unstuffed             Stuffed
8-12 lbs       2 ¾ – 3 hours         3 – 3 ½ hours
12-14 lbs     3 – 3 ¾ hours         3 ½ – 4 hours
14-18 lbs     3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours     4 – 4 ½ hours
18-20 lbs     4 ¼ – 4 ½ hours     4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hrs
20-24 lbs     4 ½ – 5 hours         4 ¾ – 5 1/4 hrs
24-30 lbs     5 – 5 ¼ hrs              5 ¼ – 6¼ hrs

Roasting a Stuffed Turkey

Stuff the turkey just before putting it in the oven. Spoon the dressing loosely into the body. For easier stuffing removal, line the inside of the cavity with a double layer of cheesecloth, allowing it to extend beyond the cavity by a few inches. Spoon the stuffing inside. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs together close to the body so that the stuffing cooks evenly. After roasting the bird, gently pull the overhanging cheesecloth and the stuffing will slip out easily. Remove all of the stuffing at serving time. You can also cook the stuffing separately in a casserole dish.

  • Keep fresh turkey refrigerated until ready to use (or freeze)
  • Remove giblets from turkey cavity before roasting. 
  • Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees and stuffing reaches 165 degrees. 
  • After taking the turkey out of the oven, let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes to let the juices set and make the turkey easier to carve.

Frozen Turkey Thawing Instructions

In the refrigerator    

Plan ahead: allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator. Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.

Thawing Times

12 pounds 3 days

  • 12 to 16 pounds  3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds  4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds  up to 6 days

In cold water

Make sure the turkey is in a leak proof package to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product.

Submerge the wrapped (leak-proof) turkey in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed, about 30 minutes per pound. A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately. 

Source: USDA