Thursday, November 26, 2009
We were going to give you just 20 simple turkey-cooking tips, but we realized there are far too many turkey questions, so instead we created this comprehensive "Handbook for The Perfect Turkey." It's still very simple and easy to follow, but we think it addresses more of the complexities of why turkeys come out properly cooked, overcooked and unfortunately at times, undercooked (itself a health hazard). If you follow our advice, you'll end up with the best turkey you've ever eaten, no matter whose basic recipe you're following. Here are the chapters and questions you'll find included in The Global Gourmet's Perfect Turkey Handbook:For uniform cooking results, the USDA recommends cooking the stuffing outside of the bird. If you insist on stuffing the turkey, stuff loosely and follow the steps below.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Check the wrapper to see how much the turkey weighs and determine approximate cooking time (see chart below). Remove the giblet bag from the breast and remove the neck from the turkey cavity. Wash the turkey inside and out and pat skin dry with paper towels.
2. Mix stuffing and lightly fill cavity. Allow 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. It is safer to understuff than to overstuff the turkey. Stuffing expands during cooking. Refrigerate any leftover stuffing and bake in greased casserole during the last hour of turkey roasting time.
3. Place turkey breast side up on a rack in a shallow (about 2 inches deep) roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer in thigh (see Turkey Safety: Using a Thermometer). Add up to 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan, if desired.
4. Cover turkey loosely with a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Cooking time takes longer for a stuffed turkey. For example, a 20 pound stuffed turkey will take 4 1/4 to 5 1/4 hours to cook. (See timetable below).
5. Remove the foil cover after about 1 to 1 1/2 hours of cooking to brown the skin. Brush with vegetable oil to enhance browning, if desired.
6. A whole turkey is done when the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast, the wing and the stuffing. The stuffing must reach 165°F or higher, if it is not, return it to the oven and continue cooking.
7. Check the internal temperature of the stuffing. Insert the thermometer through the cavity into the thickest part of the stuffing and leave it for 5 minutes. Or use an instant red thermometer which will register the temperature after 15 seconds. The stuffing temperature will rise a few degrees after the turkey is removed from the oven. If the center of the stuffing has not reached 165°F after stand time, return the turkey to the oven and continue cooking.
8. Allow turkey to set 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving to allow juices to saturate the meat evenly.
USDA Roasting Timetable for Fresh or Thawed Turkey at 325°F.
These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed thermometer.
8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
The USDA does not recommend cooking turkey in an oven set lower than 325°
Chapter 1. Buying a Turkey
What size turkey should I buy?
Is it better to buy one large turkey or two small ones?
Should I buy fresh or frozen?
What about turkeys that have been injected with fats and seasonings?
What about turkey parts and frozen stuffed turkeys?
Chapter 2. Storing an Uncooked Turkey
How long can a whole turkey be kept frozen?
How long can a fresh turkey be kept refrigerated?
Chapter 3. Thawing a Frozen Turkey
Turkey Thawing Charts
Chapter 4. Stuffing (or Not Stuffing) a Turkey
Is it best to cook the stuffing inside the bird, or separately in a baking dish?
If I do want to stuff the bird, what's the best way to do it?
How much stuffing do I need?
Do I need to close up the cavity after it has been stuffed?
Chapter 5: Preparing the Turkey for Roasting
Stuffing & Trussing
Do I need to truss the bird's legs, or can I just roast it the extra effort?
Chapter 6: Roasting the Turkey
How do I keep the breast meat moist when cooking?
Chapter 7: How to Tell When It's Done
Use a Meat Thermometer
My turkey comes with a plastic pop-up timer. Can't I use that instead?
How accurate are "recommended cooking times"?
How can I tell when the turkey is done?
USDA Timetable for Turkey Roasted at 325 degrees F.
Chapter 8: Making the Gravy
Rules for Making Gravy
Making the Basic Gravy
Additions to Gravy
Chapter 9: Carving the Bird
Basic Carving steps
Removing the Thigh, Drumstick & Wings
Carving the breast
Chapter 10: Storing Leftovers & Food Safety After Cooking