Whether you're a new cook or a seasoned pro, Thanksgiving can be a little intimidating. That's probably why for many, the thought of cooking a 12-pound turkey means tossing the bird into a roasting pan and putting it in the oven. But no one wants a dry, over-done turkey.
With a little help from Taste of Home, you can present a golden, crispy, and juicy turkey that you're whole family will love. Just follow our handy tips and tricks for roasting the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey.
Purchasing Your Turkey:
When purchasing your turkey there are many options to choose from: organic, free-range, frozen, the list goes on. The National Turkey Federation offers some helpful tips for purchasing the perfect turkey.
Which ever bird you choose, make sure that there will be enough for everyone. The rule is 1-1/2 pounds of turkey per person.
Number of Guests Size of turkey
8 12-14 LBS
10 15-16 LBS
12 18-20 LBS
14 21-22 LBS
16 24 LBS
Defrosting Your Turkey:
There are two methods for defrosting a turkey:
Defrost in the fridge - The USDA considers this method the safest choice. Place your turkey in the fridge in a shallow pan to catch any drippings. Be sure to allow 24 hours for every four to five pounds.
Defrost in a cold-water bath - This method is great for when you're short on time, and have limited fridge space. Submerge the sealed turkey in a cold-water bath of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain and change the water every 30-minutes. Allow 30-minutes per pound. Be sure to scrub and sanitize the sink or basin once the bird is thawed.
Flavoring Your Turkey:
There are many ways to give your turkey that juicy flavor you love. Here are two popular methods:
Brining - Believed to be the best way for infusing a turkey with extra flavor and moisture, the brining process is when you soak a bird in a mixture of salt water and seasonings. This method requires a large pot or other container and plenty of fridge space. Be sure to keep your turkey below 40 degrees Fahrenheit - brining does not preserve the turkey.
To brine your turkey, prepare the salt-water bath in a large container and submerge the turkey, breast side up, and let it soak in the fridge over night. Once the bringing process is complete, remove the bird and rinse under cool water then pat dry.
Tasty Brined Turkey Recipes
Dry Rubs - This method is a great way to add flavor and texture to your turkey. There are many dry rubs that can be used on your turkey depending on your family's tastes. Be sure to rub a generous amount all over the bird including the bottom.
Tasty Rubbed Turkey Recipes
Roasting The Turkey:
When you're ready to roast your turkey use a shallow, heavy weight pan. This will allow heat to flow around the entire bird. Be sure your pan is at least 2-inches wider and longer than your turkey and has a rack for your bird to rest on. Setting the turkey directly on the bottom of the pan restricts heat from the underside of the bird. Also, aluminum-roasting pans are not recommended and remember that dark roasting pans cook faster than shiny metal pans.
Unstuffed - After you've brined and/or dry rubbed your turkey, place it in the roasting pan and roast the bird according to the specified cooking time. Cook the dressing in a casserole dish separately from the turkey. Just be sure to add a little moisture like stock, to your dressing to replace the drippings you would have had from the bird.
Stuffed - If you're planning on stuffing your turkey, do not prepare your stuffing before hand. Instead keep the ingredients separate and assemble right before cooking. When it's time to stuff the turkey, don't pack the stuffing into the cavity. Instead spoon it lightly into the turkey and neck cavities. The stuffing will expand as it absorbs moisture from the bird. Also, keep in mind that stuffing your bird will increase the cooking time, so add about 5-7 minutes per pound. The stuffing is fully cooked when your instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the turkey finishes cooking before the stuffing, remove the turkey from the oven and put the stuffing in a casserole dish to finish cooking separately.
For Roastimg Times, Check Out Our Turkey Roasting Chart.
Carving The Turkey:
Your turkey is cooked and it smells delicious. Before carving, allow the bird to rest, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes after cooking. This redistributes the juices and makes for easy carving.
Once the bird has rested, place the turkey on a carving board and remove any stuffing. Holding the end of the drumstick, pull the leg away from the body and cut between the thigh join and body to remove the entire leg.
To separate he drumstick and thigh, cut through the connecting joint. Holding the drumstick by the end, slice the meat into ¼-in slices. Cut thigh meat parallel to the bone into ¼-in slices.
Hold the bird with a meat fork and make a deep cut into the breast meat just above the wing area. Slice down from the top of the breast into the cut you made above the wing. Slice meat ¼-in thick. To remove the wings, cut through the connecting joints by the wing bones and backbone.
For More On How To Carve A Turkey, Check Out Our Helpful Carving How To
We recommend eating your turkey leftovers within 3 days. You can freeze turkey leftovers for up to 2 months.
For More Turkey Leftovers, Check Out Our Top 10 Leftover Turkey Collection