Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can seem daunting and overwhelming. Everyone wants to have that picture perfect meal. There is a lot to do and there are decisions to make before you even buy the bird. Here are some general turkey tips to get you started:
The general rule for turkey buying is one pound per person. One and a half pounds or more if you want generous leftovers.
Number of guests Size of turkey
8 people 12 to 14 pounds
10 people 15 to 6 pounds
12 people 18 to 20 pounds
14 people 21 to 22 pounds
16 people 24 pounds
Fresh vs Frozen
Frozen Turkey: They are widely available and usually on sale during the holidays. You can buy them well before Thanksgiving, but you need to allow enough time for them to thaw. Allow 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.
Fresh Turkey: They are preferred by many people, but are usually more expensive. They also have a shorter shelf life and may need to be special-ordered. Don't buy it more than two days ahead of time.
Thawing a Turkey
Recommended: Place frozen turkey (still in packaging) breast side up in a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds. A thawed bird can keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Fast thawing: Place a still-wrapped turkey in a large cooler or bowl breast side down and completely submerge in cold water. Allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound and change the water every 30 minutes. Cook turkey immediately.
Clean and Cook
Remove the bag of giblets and rinse the outside and cavity of the turkey and pat dry. Make sure to thoroughly clean all surfaces afterwards. Now you are ready for your recipe of choice and roasting! Remember it is safer to cook the stuffing in a separate dish instead of stuffing the bird. Approximate cook times below for fresh or frozen whole turkeys at 325 degrees.
Weight Cook Time (unstuffed)
4 1/2 to 7 lbs. 2 to 2 1/2 hours
7 to 9 lbs. 2 1/2 to 3 hours
9 to 18 lbs. 3 to 3 1/2 hours
18 to 22 lbs. 3 1/2 to 4 hours
22 to 24 lbs. 4 to 4 1/2 hours
24 to 30 lbs. 4 1/2 to 5 hours
Always check for safe food temperature with a meat thermometer. Turkey is done when the thigh is 180 degrees F and breast is 170 degrees F.
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