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How to Roast a Turkey: Guide to Cooking & Serving Christmas and Thanksgiving’s Centrepiece

With Thanksgiving only one week away, it’s time to start prepping your kitchen for the annual roasting of the holiday turkey. For some of you readers, this may be the first time you’ll be roasting that turkey, and the process can be intimidating. Here’s a few pointers you need to know:

Buying: If a turkey weighs 12 pounds or less, buy 1 pound per serving. If a turkey weighs more than 12 pounds, buy 3/4 pound per serving. These buying guides are estimates only, and you may need to buy a larger turkey depending on how many people you plan to serve.

Thawing: To thaw a whole frozen turkey, place the wrapped frozen turkey on a tray in the refrigerator for 2 to 5 days (allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of meat). Remember: Don’t count the day you will be roasting the turkey. (For example, if you plan to roast a 12-pound turkey, start thawing the turkey Monday night if you plan to roast it on a Thursday.) Once the turkey is completely thawed, remove the giblets and the neck piece from the cavities. Rinse the turkey well and pat it dry with paper towels. Remember: Do not stuff the bird until you’re ready to roast it.

Stuffing: Just before roasting, spoon some of your prepared stuffing loosely into the neck cavity of the turkey. Pull the neck skin over the stuffing; fasten the neck flap to the back of the turkey with a short bamboo skewer or a long toothpick. Loosely spoon a small amount of stuffing into the body cavity. Do not pack the body cavity too tightly with stuffing. (You may want to reserve any remaining stuffing in a casserole dish to serve to those guests who prefer not to eat the stuffing that was cooked in the turkey. Alternately, if you prefer not to stuff your turkey, place quartered onions, herbs, and celery in the body cavity.) Tuck the drumsticks under the band of skin that lies just above the tail (or you can tie the drumsticks back with cotton kitchen twine.) Twist the wing tips under the back of the turkey and secure in place.

Oven Roasting: Place the unstuffed or stuffed turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. If you want to attain a lacquery skin color, you can brush the skin with melted unsalted butter. Place the turkey in a preheated 325 degree Fahrenheit oven and roast until a meat thermometer registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the thickest part of the meat. When the turkey is fully cooked, the drumsticks should move easily in their sockets and their thickest parts should feel soft when gently pressed. Also, the juices should run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a carving fork.

It’s very important to monitor the turkey while roasting. When the turkey is two-thirds roasted, it may be necessary to cover the turkey with aluminum foil to prevent the skin from over-browning in the oven.

When the turkey registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer, remove the roasted turkey from the oven, transfer to a carving board, and cover loosely with foil. Let the turkey stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. It’s important to let the turkey rest before carving; otherwise you may lose all of the juice from the meat if you carve it immediately out of the oven.

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