According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving. Selecting, thawing and cooking a turkey will require a little planning to keep the Thanksgiving holiday safe and uneventful. Here’s how to properly cook the turkey so that guests will have fond recollections of the holiday season.
Begin with the correct oven temperature set no lower than 325° F, preheating is not necessary. Place the turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey and a meat thermometer. For food safety and uniform doneness of the turkey, cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the stuffing has reached 165° F in the middle, thickest part.
Even if the turkey has a “pop up” temperature indicator, it is also recommended that a food thermometer be used to test in several places. Whole poultry is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165° F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, it is still best to cook turkey to higher temperatures, such as 180°
F, to remove the pink appearance and rubbery texture.
Many factors can affect roasting time of a whole turkey. A frozen or partially frozen turkey takes longer to cook than a completely thawed turkey. And, a turkey will cook faster in a dark roasting pan. The use of a foil tent for the entire cooking time can actually slow cooking. Putting a lid on the roasting pan speeds up cooking and an oven-cooking bag will shorten cooking time.
A fresh or thawed 12 to 14 pound turkey will take approximately 3 to 3 ½ hours to cook at 325° F. Cooking charts give times for judging cooking times of different sizes of turkeys; however, the only way to accurately determine doneness is by using a thermometer. When the turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand for 20 minutes. Avoid cross-contaminating the cooked turkey by carving the bird with a clean knife on a clean work surface.
— DeKalb County Cooperative Extension