Top 10 Turkey Questions Answered

Learn, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Countdown, Tips & Techniques

How to Roast a Turkey

Whether it’s your first turkey or your 30th, there are always a few questions that pop up on the big day.  Our test kitchen tackled some of the most frequently asked questions about roasting a turkey (How do I thaw my turkey? Should I stuff the turkey? Should I baste it?) and have pointed you in the right direction, so your turkey will turn out flawlessly without worry.


1. How big of a turkey should I buy?

To make sure you have enough turkey for Thanksgiving Day, along with some leftovers, plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per person. If you have hearty eaters, increase this amount by 1/2 pound.

2. What’s the best way to thaw a frozen turkey and how long does it take?

The safest and easiest way is to thaw the frozen turkey in the refrigerator. A good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours for every 4 pounds of turkey. Depending on your refrigerator temperature, a 12-pound bird should thaw in 3 days.

3. It’s Thanksgiving morning and my turkey is still frozen. What can I do?

Place the unwrapped turkey in a deep sink and fill with enough cold water so the turkey floats. Drain the sink and replace the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Allow about 30 minutes per pound, and know that if all else fails, you can roast a turkey from frozen. Here’s how to do it.

4. Can I stuff the turkey the night before roasting?

No. Always stuff the turkey just before putting it in the oven. You can, however, make the stuffing the night before and refrigerate it until you’re ready to roast the turkey. Be sure to let the turkey and the stuffing rest at room temperature one hour before stuffing.

5. What’s the proper way to stuff a turkey?

A great trick is to line the turkey cavity with a double layer of cheesecloth before loosely spooning the cold stuffing inside. Don’t pack the stuffing in too tightly, since it will expand as it roasts.

6. How long does a turkey need to roast and at what temperature?

Roasting times can vary depending on the temperature of the turkey when it goes in the oven, if your oven temperature isn’t accurate and how big the turkey is. So always check the temperature of the turkey to ensure that it’s fully cooked. Click here for approximate roasting times.

7. How do I know when my turkey is done?

The most accurate way is to take the internal temperature using a thermometer. The breast needs to register 165°F and the thigh, 175°F. If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing needs to reach 165°F as well.

8. How often should I baste the turkey?

Basting is optional when roasting a turkey. To ensure a moist turkey, the key is to not overcook it. Try using a remote digital thermometer that will alert you when the turkey is fully cooked yet still juicy. If you choose to baste the bird, do so every 30 minutes.


Be sure to check out a few other ideas on adding flavor and moisture to your holiday turkey.

9. Can I roast my turkey the day before Thanksgiving and then reheat it?

Turkey is always best served the day it is roasted. However, if you need to cook it ahead, carve the roasted turkey into thick slices, arrange in a shallow baking dish and refrigerate. When you’re ready to reheat, add about 1 cup of chicken stock to the dish, cover with foil and heat in a 325°F oven until the meat is warm.

10. How long does cooked turkey keep in the refrigerator?

Cooked turkey will keep in the refrigerator for approximately 3 days. Before storing leftover turkey, remove the meat from the bones, place in an airtight container and drizzle with a little stock before sealing. Don’t miss all our great recipes using leftover turkey!

Still have questions about the bird? You’ll find everything you need to know about serving your best-ever turkey in our All About Turkey guide. 

22 comments about “Top 10 Turkey Questions Answered

  1. Your All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Guide

  2. Elizabeth Furdell

    I am cooking a turkey and taking it to my hostess’s home, about 10 minutes away. Do you have any suggestions on how best to ferry it there?

    1. Ken

      Put it in a cooler still in pan surrounded by towels. Will stay piping hot and moist!!!

  3. JJ

    This is my first turkey attempt. I brined the turkey using the buttermilk recipe from the WS website. Went to turn the turkey over in the refrigerator and saw through the brine that parts of it look purple. Is something wrong with it? Hope I can get a response before tomorrow. Thanks.

    1. ollie

      Mine had the same reaction the last time I brined and again this year… don’t know for a fact but it didn’t kill any of us and still turned out great… hopefully great this year too…

    2. ollie

      I brine and make a honey butter beer injection as well… turns out very tender

  4. Judith Hayes

    I bought a frozen Butterball turkey last Friday, Nov. 22, and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. It’s Wed., Nov. 27 and it still hasn’t thawed! It weighs just 10.71 pounds; what should I do? Thank you.

    1. Holly Price

      Leave out of refrigerator over night. I took mine out of freezer this morning at 8:00am and left out in room temperature. It is 6:30pm and not guite thawed.

      1. Robin

        No, no, no! Don’t let the turkey thaw at room temperature — that will encourage bacteria to grow! Thaw in cool water, changing the water every 30 minutes.

      2. Hugh Young

        She may have sickened (sickened at the least; and poisoned was a very real possibility–indicated here with sincere regrets–please look up salmonella bacterium) the entire table with this turkey that was very incorrectly thawed. We regret not seeing this errant advice much earlier, but perhaps this will support the first urgent reply from Robin helping someone along the line some other day.

      3. ollie

        Better to buy ahead of time and thaw for days in fridge… poultry is dangerous thawing like that… when I first started cooking 15 years ago I made that mistake with chicken and got everyone sick… it was horrendous… I’m leary about poultry now… but you might get lucky… personally I wouldn’t recommend it…

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  8. Tracey

    Never, ever leave bird out overnight to thaw! You’re inviting bacteria! Just let your turkey thaw in the sink with water. Clean your sink, take the turkey out of the package and remove the innards, and put the turkey in the sink. Then fill the sink with cool water. Make sure it’s covered with water if you can. Change the water every 20-30 minutes until it’s thawed. only leave a bird out for about 1 hour to take the chill off before cooking (like you would beef).

  9. Heather

    My 21 lb turkey thawed out in 4 days! Will it be OK to cook if kept in fridge for 4-5 more days?

  10. mae

    After turkey comes out of oven how long
    should it cool before going in frig?

  11. Joyce

    I cooked a turkey / and a chicken to the temp it said to when it’s done. But there was still pink juice on the platter, does that mean it wasn’t done ? Even if the thermometer had the correct temp ?? It was in the thick part of the turkey &chicken. It’s a fairly new one.

  12. Top 10 Turkey Questions Answered – My Blog

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