Whether it’s your first turkey or your 30th, there are always a few questions that pop up on the big day. You can find all you need to know about turkey technique on our website. Here, our test kitchen tackles your top 10 most frequently asked questions about turkey basics (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. (Watch our 15-second video below for how to do it.) 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.