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Let's Talk Turkey
Everything you need to know about roasting a turkey
(draft copy for Thanksgiving 2000)
How to prepare the perfect turkey
How To Thaw a Turkey?
Cooking  Times
How to void getting sick from your bird
Turkey Basting Myth
Turkey Emergencies
Main Thanksgiving page - Thanksgiving Cooking page

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How to prepare the perfect turkey:
If turkey is frozen, thaw in the refrigerator or cold water.

Preheat the oven to 325° F

Remove the neck  and the giblets from inside.

Run cold water in bird, drain, and blot dry with paper towels.

Just before roasting, stuff if you are planning to cook your stuffing inside the bird.

Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place.

Return legs to tucked position

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a flat rack in an open roasting pan about 2 inches deep.

Insert  meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh next to the body, not touching the bone.

Brush the skin with vegetable oil or butter to prevent skin from drying.

Roast, when the skin is light golden, about 2/3 done, shield the breast loosely with lightweight foil to prevent overcooking.

Check for doneness 1/2 hour before turkey is expected to be done. Turkey is fully cooked when the thigh's internal temperature is 180 ° F. The thickest part of breast should read 170° F and the center of the stuffing should be 160° F.

When done, let the turkey stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving

How To Thaw a Turkey?
First choice is in the refrigerator, breast side up, allowing 1 day for every 4 pounds. Bird is good for up to 4 days after being thawed.

However if things are running a little behind, dump it in the sink with cold water, breast side down. Change water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound.

If you are running noticeable behind and need your kitchen sink, do what I did, dump it in the bath tub. Again breast side down, change water every 30 to 45 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound.

Disaster lurking - Nuke it at 30%  power.  Allow 7 to 8 minutes per pound
Total Disaster - only hours until serving time, cook the darn thing frozen.
What ever you do DON'T thaw it on the counter. This can allow bacterial growth, in plain English food  poisoning!
Thawed or fresh turkey in a refrigerator, until ready to roast.

Cooking  Times

6 to 8 pounds  3 to 3 1/2 hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours
12 to 16 pounds 4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 1/2 hours
Turkey Trivia - How to void getting sick from your bird
  • Turkey is considered to be poultry, just like chicken before it's cooked can cause great illness!!
  • Prepare stuffing just before time to start roasting. Use only cooked ingredients in stuffing. Vegetables should be sautéed,  meats or seafoods (like oysters) should be fully cooked. Use pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs. Place stuffing in turkey just before roasting. Do not stuff the turkey the night before roasting!
  • Don't over stuff the turkey. Allow 3/4 cup or less of stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Never stuff a turkey that is going to be roasted/cooked any where other than an oven.
  • Place raw poultry on non-porous surfaces; that are easy to clean. Avoid wooden cutting boards.
  • Use paper towels, to dry off turkey and wipe up juices.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils touched by raw poultry and its juices with hot, soapy water.
  • Use cooking methods that allow the turkey to reach an internal temperature of 140° F. in less than four hours. Avoid using low roasting temperatures or partial cooking methods.
  • Store turkey, stuffing, gravy, broth and other left-over cooked foods properly within two hours after cooking.
  • Turkey should be removed from the bones, before  placing in refrigerator or freezer
  • Left overs that won't be eaten with in 3 days should be frozen. (Stuffing should be eaten with in a month, and turkey with in 2 months)
Turkey Basting Myth
Basting while baking won't make the bird any juicer.  The juice only penetrates about a 1/4 of an inch beneath the skin and most of the juice will run off into the pan.

Turkey Emergencies - Only hours to go and no bird

  • The perfect turkey was kidnapped by the dog. 
  • You just found out that hubby invited people over for Dinner, and you thought you were eating at the in-laws, 
  • The oven just went wild and your bird looks like  charcoal.
  • The oven has decided to it wants the day off, and refuses to heat.
  • You forgot to turn on the oven.
Don't laugh too hard, I know of real cases for each of these disasters.
Here is your step by step game plan:
  1. If you are lucky enough to have a raw bird, you have a great start!
  2. If you don't, call a couple of grocery stores as rule some of the larger stores are open Thanksgiving Day.
  3. Shop in this order: fresh turkey (14 lb or less), frozen turkey (14 lb or less), turkey parts (breast, legs, wings), a couple of large fat fresh chickens, frozen chickens
  4. If your bird is frozen, Place bird in a large dish, and thaw in microwave at 30% power allowing 7 to 8 minutes per pound. Once wing tips, ends of legs, and breast  have thawed shield with foil. When bird is about half way thawed flip him over.
  5. If your conventional oven is working, do the first half of the baking in the microwave and the last half in the oven. No one will be able to tell the difference. (been there, done that)
  6. If your conventional oven has died, you will need to nuke him. Don't worry he will still be tasty and look good. 
  7. Remove giblets, neck and any metal pieces, place a plastic rack in baking dish. If you don't have one use a microwave safe plate turned upside down. The idea is to keep the bird from sitting in the juices.
  8. Return to bird to baking dish, breast side down. Cover with waxed paper.
  9. Place in microwave, be sure that there is at least 1 inch between the bird and the microwave on all sides.
  10. Cook at 70% power, figuring on 7 1/2 minutes per pound.
  11. At the half way mark, remove bird and turn over (breast side up) if you will be finishing him in the microwave. And brush on sauce.
  12. If your conventional oven is working, place him in a roaster, and finish baking as you normally would.
  13. If you microwave has a temperature probe, place in thickest part of thigh, not touching bones. Set for 170 F. Continue cooking at 70% power.
  14. Cover bird with foil and allow to stand for 15 minutes 
Basic Browning Sauce
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon commercial brown bouquet sauce
3/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients, mix well

Honey Glaze
2  egg yolks
4 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup orange juice
Combine all ingredients, mix well

Call the "Turkey Talk-Line" -1-800-323-4848  1-800-TDD-3848
I would hate to even try to guess at how many turkey dinner they have rescued. ;-)