NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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Let's Talk Turkey

Roasting a turkey

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Turkey anyone? Who can resist the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, growing ever more golden brown almost by the minute, its gravy-making juices crackling and sizzling in the bottom of the roaster pan. 

If you are preparing the turkey for a holiday this year, it’s recommended, for fresh and frozen turkeys, to allow 1 pound of turkey per person.

Buy a fresh turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it. Keep it in the refrigerator on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak until you're ready to cook it. Frozen turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer indefinitely; however, cook within 1 year for best quality.

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. 

In the refrigerator (40 °F or below) allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. 

In cold water allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

Check your owner's manual before thawing in the microwave. Determine the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping. Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.

Roasting Your Turkey

  • Set your oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.
  • Place your turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
  • For more even cooking, it is recommended you cook your stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate. Chill all of the wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.). Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavity. Fill the cavity loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.

Source:  NDSU Extension. Fight BAC! Let’s Talk Turkey FN1443

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