Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Whole turkey takes about 24 hours per five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. In cold water, changed every 30 minutes, turkey takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. When using a microwave to thaw a turkey, follow the manufacturer's instructions for the size turkey that will fit in your oven, the minutes per pound and the power level to use.
Never defrost turkey on the counter.
Once thawed, keep turkey refrigerated at 40 degrees F. or below until it is ready to be cooked. Turkey thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
Giblets are the turkey's gizzard, heart and liver. The giblets and neck, when cooked until tender, are delicious additions to gravy or stuffing.
FOLLOW THESE STEPS FOR SAFELY STUFFING TURKEY:
Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it's placed in the oven for cooking. If preparing the stuffing ahead-of-time, wet and dry ingredients should be refrigerated separately and combined right before stuffing the turkey.
Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
Use a two-step test for turkey doneness: First, insert a meat thermometer into the deepest portion of the thigh, not touching bone, and allow it to come to temperature for an accurate reading. Second, once the thigh has reached 180 degrees F., move the thermometer to the center of the stuffing.
Once the stuffing has reached 160 to 165 degrees F., the turkey should be removed from the oven.
FIVE EASY STEPS TO A PERFECTLY ROASTED TURKEY
1. Thaw the turkey and remove neck and giblets from the neck and body cavities.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. for conventional or 300 degrees F. for convection ovens.
3. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. If cooking stuffing inside the turkey, fill the body cavity with stuffing now.
4. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone.
5. Roast the turkey, uncovered, until the meat thermometer registers 180 degrees F. Use the roasting timetable to estimate approximate cooking time. If stuffed, make sure the temperature of the stuffing has reached 160 to 165 degrees F. before removing the turkey from the oven.
Thermal/Conventional Oven Open Pan Method Timetable for Roasting a Turkey at 325 Degrees F.
8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
Convection Oven Open Pan Method Roasting Guidelines for a Fresh/Thawed Turkey at 300 Degrees F.
14 to 18 pounds 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 2 1/2 to 3 hours
14 to 18 pounds 2 1/2 to 3 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
For a picture-perfect turkey, tuck wing tips "akimbo" under the shoulders.
Juices from the turkey will baste the meat as it cooks. For added moisture, pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of the pan and brush the turkey with oil or butter and seasonings.
Place an aluminum foil tent over the breast during the first 1 to 1 1/2 hours of cooking, then remove the foil to allow for browning.
For easier carving, allow the turkey to stand 20 minutes once removed from the oven.
SELF BASTING TURKEYS
As a value-added option for consumers, some turkeys are sold as "basted" or "self-basted," meaning they have been injected or marinated with a solution usually containing edible fat, natural broth, stock or water and seasonings. Self-basted turkeys are labeled with the percentage of the solution and its ingredients.
(Tips from the National Turkey Federation)