Whole Story

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Turkey Triage

By Elizabeth Beal, November 21, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Beal

At Thanksgiving, a lot of home cooks — novice and experienced alike — attempt to cook something they’ve never tried before: turkey. Since our stores are open a few hours on Thanksgiving Day, we get a lot of calls from customers and we’re happy to help. Even reheating can be a challenge at times, so feel free to give us a ring. And so you won’t feel intimidated, here are a couple of our favorite calls:

One year a man called who had purchased one of our cooked birds. He had been reheating it for three hours and said it was still cold. Lesson? Always make sure you’ve turned on your oven, and not just your oven timer. — Mike Gannon, Prepared Foods Associate Team Leader, Raleigh

If you’re buying a new oven, don’t test it on Thanksgiving. A woman called who had been “cooking” her turkey for seven hours and wanted to know why it was still raw. Luckily, we had a hot meal ready for her that afternoon. Needless to say, she got her oven replaced! —Mike Bradley, Prepared Foods Associate Coordinator, South Region

Here are our top turkey questions along with our best answers.

What’s this little bag doing inside my turkey? You may have a bag of giblets inside your bird. If you do, be sure to remove it before cooking. Giblets make great gravy. If you don’t plan on using them, discard. This turkey recipe includes an Herb Riesling Gravy that calls for giblets.

How long does this thing have to cook? That depends on how large your turkey is and how hot your oven is, if it is stuffed or not and if you are cooking one of our fresh birds that cook faster than conventional frozen turkeys. At 350°F, you can expect to cook your bird for about 13 minutes per pound. See our Turkey Roasting Chart (at the bottom of that page) for more help.

How do I know when it’s done? We recommend using a meat thermometer in the leg registering 165°F  – just make sure you don’t hit the bone, or you’ll get an artificially high reading. Use the turkey roasting chart for a guide and check that the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.

What about that plastic thermometer stuck in my bird? Won’t that pop up when it’s ready? Pull it out and throw it away! Pop-up thermometers are often inaccurate. Invest in a good meat thermometer, preferably instant-read. (And you won’t have a pop-up thermometer in a turkey from our stores. *smile* )

Should I stuff before I roast? Your turkey will roast more evenly and quickly without the stuffing inside. If you do choose to roast the bird with the stuffing, plan for an extra 5 – 7 minutes cooking time per pound, and be sure the stuffing and turkey both register temps over 160°F separately before you serve them.

When do I baste? If the turkey is uncovered, spoon pan drippings over the breast and thighs every 45 minutes during the first half of the roasting time. Basting later may make the skin soft instead of crispy. If the drumsticks begin to brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil.

What if I forgot to defrost my frozen bird? Quick-defrost a bird by soaking it in cold water in the sink or tub and replacing the water every thirty minutes or so until fully defrosted. This will take about a half hour per pound. Whatever you do, don’t use hot water, don’t microwave it, and don’t cook it frozen. (You can’t microwave a whole turkey, although many have tried.) We sell fresh, unfrozen birds so you can always come pick up one ready for cooking and save your frozen one for later in the season.

My turkey caught on fire. Now what? First, put that fire out. Next, serve your delicious sides, pies, rolls and cranberry sauce with plenty of wine, accompanied by everyone’s favorite last-minute entrée: a cheese omelet. Save yourself a smoky kitchen and omelet dinner by reading our guide to cooking a perfect turkey first. And remember, you can always call us. Happy Thanksgiving!

Category: Holidays 2011, Turkeys




aaron says ...
Hi. I purchased w whole foods brined turkey. Do I need to rinse the turkey before roasting or do I just toss it in?
11/24/2011 4:47:49 PM CST
BECKY says ...
11/22/2011 5:31:10 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Michelle Here's our recipe for brining and roasting a turkey. The recipe uses a 14-15 lb turkey and since yours is much larger, you'll want to just about double the cooking time. Make sure you use a roasting thermometer to check the inner temp. The roasting temperature should be just at 350 degrees. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1139
11/22/2011 12:16:02 PM CST
Gabriel Chang says ...
I need detailed instruction for reheating, as I already purchase the precooked turkey from WholeFoods for the coming Thanksgiving dinner.
11/21/2011 6:50:41 PM CST
Sandra says ...
I purchased an organic bone-in turkey breast (not frozen) on Monday. Can I wait until Thursday (Thanksgiving day) to cook it? I'm not sure how long it will stay fresh in the refrigerator...
11/22/2011 1:14:33 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Gabriel Thanks for reaching out. Your turkey should come with detailed instructions for reheating and the Team Members in both the Meat Department and at our Holiday Table (food ordering table) will be happy to also share this information. Happy holidays!
11/22/2011 12:22:34 PM CST
michelle says ...
I have a 25lb free range turkey I want to should I soak it in the salt water mix? What temp should I cook it at Thanks
11/22/2011 8:25:28 AM CST
Vered says ...
Or... make your life easier and roast just the breast! (Feeds eight, easily). http://healthyrecipesblogs.com/2011/11/13/roasted-turkey-breast/
11/22/2011 3:31:17 PM CST
Arlene Lane says ...
My boyfriend thought he'd help me and so he picked up a 5lb boneless stuffed turkey breast at your store this Tues before Thanksgiving. I have no idea how to cook a boneless stuffed turkey breast. Oven temp? thermometer temp? How long? Lets face it, white meat dries quickly and easily. Please advise before thanksgiving! I need help!
11/22/2011 8:28:16 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Denisa Not to worry! Here is our recipe and directions for cooking a brined turkey! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1139
11/23/2011 9:16:25 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Arlene You'll want to cook this breast the same way you would cook a few chicken breasts. Time about 10 minutes per pound at 350 degrees and make sure you use your meat thermometer to ensure the breast reaches at least a 160 degree inner temp. To ensure that the breast stays moist, you could baste every 30 minutes or even try searing the exterior. Here's one recipe for an herb crusted turkey breast. Good luck! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1171
11/23/2011 9:19:27 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Becky Yes, we should have pre-made stuffing available. However, since our stores source their products differently, you'll want to contact the store directly to ensure they've got what you need. The link below will take you to the contact information for your store. http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/plantation/
11/23/2011 9:22:05 AM CST
Milissa says ...
I bought the brined turkey. Should I put butter, olive oil, or seasoning on it?
11/23/2011 1:49:24 PM CST
Denisa says ...
I am not sure how to cook my brined turkey!!! Please help
11/22/2011 10:32:24 PM CST
Viki says ...
how long and at what temperature should I use to reheat one of your 5 lb. cooked herb roasted boneless turkey breasts?
11/23/2011 2:19:50 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Viki Hopefully you got this one figured out but you can reheat on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.
11/28/2011 8:38:12 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Clueless Hopefully you got this one figured out in time. The bird should be roasted according to regular roasting directions. Follow the instructions from the this recipe. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1139
11/28/2011 8:40:23 AM CST
Clueless says ...
Picked up my herbed and buttered 16lb turkey but it did not come with any instructions. Would you please send? Thanks
11/23/2011 8:57:22 PM CST
JulianC says ...
You say you get a lot of calls on Thanksgiving Day, but our local stores are all closed so who do you call?
11/24/2011 8:10:32 AM CST
Chelsea Grammer says ...
hey yeah i have the free range turkey too but my chef is cooking it and he wants to know how i like my turkey garnish but i am cluless about garnish help!!!!!!!!!
11/24/2011 12:28:44 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@JulianC Hmm, good question. If your local stores are closed on Thanksgiving day, I would recommend reaching out to another store in a nearby town. Stores from the same region usually carry similar products and would be able to answer questions regarding those products. To locate a store near by and their contact information, use the following link. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores
11/28/2011 8:42:34 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Aaron I'd say that's a personal call. The turkey was rinsed before it was brined at Whole Foods but if you'd like to rinse it again, then go ahead. The brine should not wash off since it was soaked for many hours.
11/28/2011 9:36:43 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Milissa It never hurts to coat the outside in oil but basting would probably do the trick too.
11/28/2011 8:36:07 AM CST
Meena says ...
Please provide detailed instructions for the precooked turkey (medium size) so it turns out moist and not dry.
11/13/2012 10:53:52 AM CST
Shelly says ...
The is the second year in a row that the pre-cooked turkey I purchased from Whole Foods had no cooking instructions. It would be great if you would post instructions online.
11/22/2012 7:02:45 AM CST