Guide to Turkey

Buying. Brining. Cooking. Carving.
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Flavor Crusaders

A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and a brush of butter are delicious but sometimes a celebration calls for something more. Here are four easy ways to boost flavor:

  1. Brine. For an especially juicy turkey, soak the bird in a saltwater solution for 4 to 24 hours before roasting or make a dry brine. Learn how to brine.
  2. Inject flavor. Blast flavorful liquids (broth, butter, olive oil, etc.) directly into the meat with a poultry injector — it looks like a really big syringe and is sold at most kitchenware stores. This technique has many of the advantages of brining, plus it works almost instantly and is less cumbersome for really big birds.
  3. Use fresh herbs. Put herbs to work three ways:
    • Loosen the skin over the breast meat and thigh of the turkey with your fingers and stuff chopped herbs under the skin
    • Place whole herb sprigs in the cavity
    • Sprinkle chopped herbs over the exterior of the turkey
  4. Try a spice rub. Combine dried herbs and seasonings of choice and sprinkle them in the cavity and over the skin of the bird. Loosen the skin over the breast and thighs of the bird and work a little under there as well.

Stuffing: Yea or Nay?

Stuffing is a matter of preference. Your turkey will roast more evenly and quickly without the stuffing inside. If you choose to stuff your bird, be aware that doing so could increase the risk of food-borne illness, so make sure you do it safely.

  • Always stuff loosely; estimate 1/2 to 3/4 cups stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake extra stuffing in a casserole dish.
  • Stuffing your bird increases the cooking time by about 5-7 minutes per pound.
  • Check the temperature of the stuffing and not just the bird before serving. The stuffing must register at least 165°F before it is safe to eat.
  • Never stuff the bird ahead of time. Stuff with freshly prepared stuffing just before roasting.


  1. Remove the thawed turkey from refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting. Prevent it and its juices from coming in contact with other foods. Unwrap and remove neck and giblets from the cavity. Tuck the wing tips under the back of the bird and tie the legs together.
  2. Place breast-side down on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour white wine or chicken broth into the bottom of the pan.
  3. Baste only at the beginning of the roasting process. Basting later may make the skin soft instead of crispy.
  4. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Test at the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone; when the thermometer registers 165°F, the turkey is done.
  5. Let bird rest for about 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat and makes for smooth carving.


Cooking times can vary depending on a number of factors, including oven temperature and accuracy, the type of roasting pan used and how frequently you open the oven door. The type of bird you choose can also make a difference in the cooking time. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, add an additional 5-7 minutes per pound.

Begin to check for doneness about 30 minutes before the first suggested roasting time. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (don’t hit the bone). When it reads 165°F, take the turkey out of the oven. Check that the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.

  • 8-12 pounds — 2 to 3.5 hours
  • 12-16 pounds — 3 to 4 hours
  • 16-20 pounds — 4 to 5 hours
  • 20-25 pounds — 5 to 6 hours
  • 25-30 pounds — 6+ hours

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