Tips on cooking turkey!
So are you cooking your first turkey or your 20th one? I lost count a long time ago but do know that some of the rules for handling a turkey safely have changed over the years and I want to talk about that. No one wants to be remembered for the year you made your whole family sick. They will never let you forget it if you do.
How long does it take for a turkey to thaw?
The safest way is in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees). Allow a day for every 4 lbs of turkey. Thawing at room temperature or in warm water allows the bacteria to grow, ie unsafe.
So a 12-pound turkey = 3 days to thaw
What happens if I waited to Tuesday to buy my turkey?
There is a quick thaw method. Leave the turkey in its package. Cover with cold water – not warm. Change the water at least every water. I even add ice when I do this. This method will take 30 minutes per pound to thaw a turkey. Once thawed, it’s safe in the refrigerator for three or four days before cooking.
So a 12-pound turkey = 6 hours to thaw.
I like my stuffing baked in the bird, is it safe?
I like mine done that way too. It is safer however to bake it outside of the turkey in another dish. The stuffing has to reach a temperature of 165 degrees in the center of it for it to be safe.
If you insist on stuffing that turkey, make sure your stuffing is hot when it goes into the bird. Mix it together with whatever hot liquid you are using just before stuffing the bird. I use turkey or chicken stock with butter. I pour that over the dressing ingredients and mix right before stuffing.
Do not pack the stuffing too tightly into the turkey.
If the dressing reaches 165 before the turkey is done, remove the stuffing from the bird and put the turkey back in the oven to finish baking. This is the safest way to do it.
How do I brine a turkey?
This is my favorite way to do a turkey. I use a basic brine solution of 2 cups kosher salt (or 1-1/2 cups table salt) to 2 gallons of cold water with 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns and bay leaves. You can also use orange rinds, lemon or lime rinds, fresh herbs or garlic. Make sure the brine is cold. Remove the turkey from it’s bag, remove extra parts and put in a pan large enough for the turkey to be submerged in the brine. Put turkey and brine in the refrigerator for 12 – 24 hours before cooking. If you do it any longer than that the turkey will start to break down and not be as tasty.
Rinse the turkey well when you remove it from the brine. When you are finished wipe down the sink and counters and anywhere else you may of touched or water splattered to, with a mild bleach solution — 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water). You should be doing this anytime you handle poultry of any kind.
If you are worried about the salt, don’t. I have never had a turkey be too salty when prepared this way. I do NOT add additional salt before cooking the turkey. When making the gravy don’t add salt until after you taste it, sometimes I need a little more and some times I don’t.
How long does it take to bake my turkey?
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and follow this roasting guide.
8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours
24 to 30 pounds 5 to 5 1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
24 to 30 pounds 5 1/4 to 6 1/4 hours
Still have questions? Try the Butterball hotline @ Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL
Safe Cooking Tips from the CDC