Thanksgiving is approaching and you’ve picked out the perfect bird. Now, you’ll need to roast it to perfection. You may get tons of various advice from your family and friends about the best way to roast your turkey. In the end, you’ll need to decide for yourself how to roast the perfect turkey.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with concise, expert advice on how to cook the perfect, classic oven-roasted Thanksgiving turkey.
Thawing Your Turkey
Plan ahead and make room in your fridge and thaw your turkey on time. It will take about 24 hours to thaw every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey weight. A 20-pound turkey will take 4 to 5 days to thaw in the refrigerator. After thawed, the turkey can safely stay in the fridge up to 2 more days before you roast it.
Although fridge thawing is the most common way to thaw your turkey, you can also thaw it quicker in a cold-water bath according to USDA food safety guidelines. Using this method, it will take 30 minutes per pound to thaw the bird. Follow these steps to thaw a turkey in water:
- Find a container such as a stock pot that your turkey will fit in without having a lot of extra room.
- Place the turkey in the container, leaving it in its original packaging.
- Fill the container with chilled water (around 37-degrees F) to completely immerse the turkey. Place a heavy dinner place on top of the turkey to weigh it down if necessary to the top of the bird doesn’t stick up out of the surface of the water.
- Replace the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Replacing the water at the end of the thawing process will ensure that the turkey stays below the safe storage temperature of 40 degrees F.
You’ll need to roast the turkey immediately after thawing in the water bath so plan the timing of this procedure carefully.
To Brine or Not To Brine
Some turkeys don’t necessarily need brining because they’re already injected with salt and butter. Check the label on your bird to see whether it has salt added. Brining may add too much salt to a pre-salted turkey.
Organic turkeys with no additives can benefit greatly from brining. If you decide to brine your bird, follow these tips to safely soak the turkey.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to use a stock pot large enough to house your turkey. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to buy a new one to use.
You’ll also need to make room in the fridge for the large stock pot. Because the pot will be heavy, you’ll need to arrange space on a sturdy shelf such as one above a crisper drawer or deli tray. You can store items from your fridge in ice chests while you brine the turkey if necessary.
If you plan to add herbs to the brine, review the recipe for the brine and get the ingredients that you need. You’ll also need enough salt for the brine so buy more salt if necessary.
Brine the Turkey
Follow the recipe that you choose to brine your turkey. The general brining steps typically include:
- Place the turkey in the stock pot. Unwrap the turkey, then remove the giblets and neck. Place the turkey in the stock pot and add the spices and aromatics according to your brine recipe.
- Mix the brine solution. Heat 1 quart of water until it’s warm and dissolve the required amount of salt in the water. Let the water cool until it’s lukewarm. Pour the salt water over the turkey. Add cold water to the stock pot to dilute and cool the salt solution as directed by your brine recipe. Completely cover the turkey with the brine.
- Cover and refrigerate the turkey. If the turkey floats and it sticks up out of the brine water, weigh it down with a heavy dinner plate. Cover the stock pot and place it on a sturdy shelf in the refrigerator. Brine the turkey for 12 to 24 hours.
- Prepare the turkey for roasting. Move the stock pot to the sink and pull the turkey from the brine. Rinse the turkey under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Clean your kitchen sink thoroughly after doing this step to avoid cross-contamination. If you want the brined turkey to develop a crispy skin while roasting, let the turkey air-dry overnight in the refrigerator. Place it on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan and cover it loosely with plastic wrap to prevent cross contamination.
- Roast the turkey. Set the oven rack toward the bottom of the oven to house the turkey. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and roast the turkey until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. A brined turkey typically requires less time to roast so begin checking internal temperature sooner than your time chart indicates.
Turkey Roasting Tips
Whether you brine your turkey or not, here are some expert tips to help you roast the perfect turkey.
Clean and Maintain Your Oven Before the Holiday Season
Getting your oven in top shape for the holidays will help ensure that your baking goes smoothly all season long.
When your oven has a self-clean cycle, you’ll want to run a cleaning cycle as the first step in cleaning the oven. Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for your oven to use the self-clean cycle.
If your oven doesn’t have a self-clean option, use an oven cleaner to remove spills and residue from the oven cavity. Follow the directions on the oven cleaner and in the owner’s manual for your oven to safely clean the oven.
To keep your oven operating efficiently and safely, schedule a Sears Technician to perform a Clean & Maintain yearly. The tech will ensure that the controls are accurately governing temperature in the oven so your turkey roasts safely. Having your oven professionally serviced every year will also help prevent unexpected breakdowns during the holidays.
Don’t Stuff the Turkey
We know, this is a heated topic that’s been debated all over the internet the last several years. The decision is up to you. Here’s why we advise against stuffing the turkey.
- Stuffing can prevent airflow through the turkey’s cavity so inner parts of the breast may not get cooked as well.
- The stuffing needs to cook to a temperature of 165 degrees and it may not reach that temperature when the rest of the turkey is already done.
- Stuffing cooked inside the bird will typically stay moist and soggy – especially if you brine the turkey. To bake firm, browned stuffing (also called dressing), bake the stuffing separately in a casserole.
Season the Turkey
Adding seasoning is key to your success in roasting the perfect turkey. You can skip this step if you already brined in seasoning or marinated your turkey.
To perfectly season a turkey, you can go mainstream and rub the skin with salt and pepper. You can also spice things up and apply your favorite dry rub for more flavor.
Roast the Turkey
After skillfully preparing the turkey, it’s time for roasting. Position the oven rack as needed and preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Place your turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and cover loosely with aluminum foil. The foil deflects heat from the skin to prevent the skin from browning too quickly. Remove the foil about halfway through the roasting (usually after 2 hours).
Roast the turkey until internal temperature in the middle of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh reach 165 degrees. This typically takes 3 to 5 hours depending on the size of your turkey.
Let it Rest
After pulling your turkey out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Resting the turkey allows the juices to spread out inside the meat. If you carve the turkey right away, the juices will quickly leak out, leaving your turkey dry. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil as you let it rest.
Now, you can carve and enjoy the perfect turkey.