Top 10 Turkey Questions Answered by Chefs

Holidays: Thanksgiving
Top 10 Turkey Questions Answered by Chefs

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December 26 2017

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Straightforward answers to the most frequently asked questions about buying, thawing, and preparing turkey. 

  1. How long does it take to thaw a turkey?

    About 24 hours per 4 pounds of turkey. So, for a 12-pound turkey, it would need to thaw in your fridge for 72 hours.

  2. How big of a turkey do I need to feed all of my guests?

    If you plan on having 5 to 6 guests over, think about one pound per guest, which would be a 5- to 7-pound turkey. If you plan on having 10, 15, or more guests, use 1 1/2- to 2-pounds per person. This means purchasing a 15- to 20-pound turkey.

  3. My turkey didn’t come with a pop-up time. How long should I cook it?

    For an unstuffed turkey:
    4 to 8 pounds: 1-1/2 to 3 1/4 hours
    9 to 12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
    13 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
    15 to 18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
    19 to 20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
    21 to 25 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours

    For a stuffed turkey:
    6 to 8 pounds: 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours
    9 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
    13 to 14 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 hours
    15 to 18 pounds: 4 to 4 1/4 hours
    19 to 20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
    21 to 25 pounds: 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

  4. How do I know when my turkey is done?

    An internal meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh and breast should both register at 165 degrees or higher. When the leg joint is pricked, the juices should run clear. All stuffing inside the turkey should also register at 165 degrees or higher.

  5. How do I prevent my turkey from burning?

    Use butcher's twine to tie the bird to cook as evenly as possible. This prevents over-cooking in one area of the turkey and undercooking in others. Cook the turkey in a 250 to 300 degree oven until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 130 degrees. After the turkey reaches 130 degrees, turn the heat up until the turkey reaches 165 degrees in the fattest part of the turkey thigh.

  6. How do I keep my turkey from drying out?

    The best way to keep a turkey moist is by brining is for a day prior to cooking. 

  7. How long can you keep a thawed turkey in your refrigerator before you have to bake it?

    Once thawed, one to two days.

  8. How long does the turkey need to rest before I carve it?

    At least 20 minutes, but a large bird can rest up to 40 minutes or longer, depending on the temperature of the room. Be sure to loosely cover it with foil.

  9. How do I get the turkey skin extra crispy?

    To make the skin crispy, brush clarified butter over the bird before cooking instead of regular butter. Regular butter has a higher water content, which can prevent the bird from turning crisp. To make clarified butter, butter in a pan on low, and scrape off the milk solids that float to the top. Continue to brush clarified butter over the turkey throughout the cooking process. 

  10. How long can cooked turkey stand at room temperature?

    All cooked foods need to follow the 4-hour rule, which means after it has been cooked, it can stay out for 4 hours before being discarded.