• so helpful! thanks:)

    From Jessica
    November 19, 2011

Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey 101

Thanksgiving is approaching and by now you are thinking about 2 things: cooking turkey and eating turkey.  A few simple tips will not only ease your holiday fears, but will ensure a delicious and a safe meal for you, your family and friends. I have some tips and tricks in preparation for the big day!

What Sized Turkey Should I Purchase?

We all love turkey leftovers but you want to make sure you do not have too many leftovers; you want just enough to last a few days after Turkey Day!

What Size Turkey

Type of Turkey

Pounds to Buy

Whole bird

1 Pound per Person

Boneless breast of turkey

1/2 pound per person

Breast of turkey

3/4 pound per person

 Fresh or Frozen?

If you choose to buy a frozen turkey you may do so at any time, but make sure you have adequate storage space in your freezer. Be sure to allow enough time for the entire turkey to thaw out. If you buy a fresh bird, be sure to purchase it only 1-2 days before cooking.

Thawing Time in the Refrigerator

Size of Turkey

Number of Days

4-12 Pounds

1-3 Days

12-16 Pounds

3-4 Days

16-20 Pounds

4-5 Days

20-24 Pounds

5-6 Days


To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment; plus you want to avoid over dry stuffing. Another option is to cook the stuffing outside the bird in a casserole dish. Stuffed or not, the times will vary depending on the size of your turkey, set your oven at 325 degrees for all sizes.

Cooking Time- Not Stuffed

Size of Turkey

Hours to Cook

8-12 Pounds

2 3/4- 3 Hours

12-14 Pounds

3-3 3/4 Hours

14-18 Pounds

3 3/4- 4 1/4 Hours

18-20 Pounds

4 1/4- 4 1/2 Hours

20-24 Pounds

4 1/2-5 Hours

Cooking Time- Stuffed

Size of Turkey

Hours to Cook

8-12 Pounds

3- 3 1/2 Hours

12-14 Pounds

3 1/2- 4 Hours

14-18 Pounds

4 – 4 1/4 Hours

18-20 Pounds

4 1/4- 4 3/4 Hours

20-24 Pounds

4 3/4- 5 1/4 Hours

What Temperature?

Always use a thermometer! A turkey is safely cooked when the internal temperature is 165 degrees throughout the bird. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast.  Also, the stuffing should reach 165 degrees whether cooked inside or outside of the turkey.

It’s Done!

Once the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, allow the turkey to rest for about 15 minutes by covering it with a tent of aluminum foil. Letting the turkey rest will ensure a delicious and moist turkey. It will also give you time to make gravy or reheat any side dishes.

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