This is the single subject that gives us the most grief over the holidays. Here are some helpful hints to make your turkey just right.
How big?: Count on one pound of raw turkey weight per guest. Believe it or not, you lose 50 per cent of turkey weight to bones, etc. I always count two kids as one guest.
Fresh versus frozen: I prefer fresh birds, as they are usually aged a couple of days before being shipped. This will make the bird more flavourful and tender. I look for things like free range or organic on the package. It’s better to add your own butter than try to buy one that’s already injected with a variety of unknowns.
Thawing time: This one can absolutely mess everything up if you don’t get it right. If you opt for a frozen bird, count on one full day of thawing in the fridge per five pounds of bird. Never thaw at room temperature. If you’re in a bind, a quick fix is to thaw it in a cold water bath, changing the water every hour. Keep the bird in the plastic and count on one hour for every pound. It’s tedious, but it works. The bird must be completely thawed before roasting. Make sure to remove the giblets pack inside the cavity before roasting.
Temperature: I’ve had the best success at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Since today’s birds are bred with larger breast weight they usually take about 12- 15 min per pound. A meat thermometer is the only way to ensure the proper temperature. If using a heat-safe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the thigh closest to the Healthy Body, but not touching the bone at the beginning of roasting. An instant read thermometer is just for checking temperature and must be removed. The bird is done when the internal temperature should read 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. The bird should rest for at least 20 minutes for the best carving results.
To stuff or not to stuff?: I prefer to cook my stuffing — actually dressing — in a separate dish in the oven. This ensures safe internal bird temperatures and also reduces the roasting time on my bird.