Whole Story

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Turkey Triage

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!

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43 comments

Comments

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?

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.

BECKY says …

I HAVE JUST BEEN ASSIGNED TO BRING STUFFING FOR A DINNER THAT I AM ATTENDING FOR T'GIVING.... DO YOU CARRY PRE-MADE STUFFING IN THE PLANTATION FLORIDA STORE?? HELP!!

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/

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

Gabriel Chang says …

I need detailed instruction for reheating, as I already purchase the precooked turkey from WholeFoods for the coming Thanksgiving dinner.

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!

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...

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

Vered says …

Or... make your life easier and roast just the breast! (Feeds eight, easily). http://healthyrecipesblogs.com/2011/11/13/roasted-turkey-breast/

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!

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

says …

@Denisa Not to worry! Here is our recipe and directions for cooking a brined turkey! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1139

Milissa says …

I bought the brined turkey. Should I put butter, olive oil, or seasoning on it?

says …

@Milissa It never hurts to coat the outside in oil but basting would probably do the trick too.

Denisa says …

I am not sure how to cook my brined turkey!!! Please help

Viki says …

how long and at what temperature should I use to reheat one of your 5 lb. cooked herb roasted boneless turkey breasts?

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.

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

Clueless says …

Picked up my herbed and buttered 16lb turkey but it did not come with any instructions. Would you please send? Thanks

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?

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

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!!!!!!!!!

Meena says …

Please provide detailed instructions for the precooked turkey (medium size) so it turns out moist and not dry.

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.

ChristyH says …

What do I do with the spices and celery/onions/carrots that came with my pre-cooked turkey. There are no instructions.

EMily says …

Our precooked turkey did not come with reheating instructions....

DellaRatta says …

How long does it take to heat precooked turkey (approx. 20 lbs.)

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SHELLY - Sorry to hear about that. It's up to each store location to decide how they want to provide the reheating instructions, either in your box of food or given to you separately upon pickup. If you did not see these instructions anywhere, I would encourage you to let the store leadership know about this so they can put them in a more visible location. Thanks!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRISTYH, @EMILY, and @DELLARATTA - Our apologies that the reheating instructions were not provided to you upon pickup. Each store decides how they will include these and if you had problems finding the instructions, or as you stated, they were not provided, definitely let the store know so they can improve their process.

Sue Reinhold says …

Like the past several years we bought a dressed but raw turkey. It did not come with the cooking directions. May I please get the cooking directions? Thanks a million. I promise to keep it this year.

Susan says …

My pre-cooked did not come with instructions. Thought there would be instructions in bag--but there were none. What are your instructions for re-hearing the turkey!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SHELLY - Sorry to hear about this. I hope you were able to find the instructions from the store where you ordered your turkey. If you have the chance to let anyone in store leadership know, they will appreciate the feedback. I will definitely pass along your comment to our meat team at the global offices.

Steve Mabley says …

The link to the turkey roasting chart leads nowhere for me and my Android. I'll try the laptop later.... but you may want to check this out.

David says …

I just bought a Young Turkey from Whole Foods and was planning on brining my bird before I roast it. However, when checking the nutrition facts it says 4% sodium. Are these turkey's already injected with some salt solution which would make it too salty if I also brine it? Or do many of your customers still brine the birds? Thanks.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DAVID - The process will differ between vendors. Check with your local store directly so they can look in to it for you.

Sue says …

Do your stores sell turkey gizzards (neck, stomach, heart, liver) separately (ie. separate from the turkey?). Thanks!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SUE - Most stores will offer this but it will differ between locations. Check with your local store to see what they typically have in stock.

I says …

Your turkey is to expensive

Scott says …

I picked up a thawed, brined turkey at Whole Foods on Sunday and would like to know how long it can be stored before I cook it. I was hoping it would store until Thursday (Thanksgiving), but may have picked it up too early...???

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SCOTT - I would suggest calling your local store where you purchased the turkey and speak directly with the meat team. They will be happy to suggest a time frame based on their specific products.

Elizabeth Shirley says …

I bought my turkey from whole foods and it had a pop up in it, I also followed the sheet they gave out about oven at 450 for 30 minutes then reducing and my turkey was done an hour early, not good.

Richard A Houchin says …

We did not receive giblets with our whole food turkey. We wanted to make gravy. Any suggestions?