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Step 1: Purchase and Store

Plan on one pound of turkey per person (this will allow for some leftovers).

Fresh or Frozen

  • Fresh turkey will keep 1-2 days in the refrigerator so only purchase a day or two in advance. Store on a tray to catch any juices.
  • Frozen turkeys may be stored in the freezer up to one year. Depending on the size, begin thawing up to five days in advance. (See chart below.)

Step 2: Thawing 

  • Thaw your turkey in its original wrapper. It is best to thaw turkey in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath. NEVER thaw at room temperature. 
  • Refrigerator - Allow approximately 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey. Make sure the refrigerator it set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Cold Water - Allow approximately 30 minutes per 1 pound of turkey. Change the water every half hour. 

Turkey Thawing Timetable 

Weight

Refrigerator thaw time

Cold water thaw time

8-12 pounds

2 to 2 ½ days

4 to 6 hours

12-16 pounds

2 ½ to 4 days

6 to 8 hours

16-20 pounds

4 to 5 days

8 to 10 hours

20-24 pounds

5 to 6 days

10 to 12 hours

Forget to thaw your turkey?

Don't worry, if you forget to thaw your turkey it is possible to roast a turkey from a frozen state. In fact, some people prefer to prepare the turkey this way. The USDA says that cooking time will take at least 50% longer than a fully thawed turkey.

Step 3: Clean and Place in Pan

  • Remove plastic wrapping from the turkey. 
  • Remove giblets (gizzards, heart, and liver) and the neck. 
  • Place the turkey on a metal cooking rack in a shallow pan or covered in roasting pan with approximately two inch sides. By setting the turkey on the rack it will allow for heat to circulate evenly around the turkey. Never squeeze your turkey into a pan. If it is crowded against the sides it will roast slower. 

Step 4: Season the Turkey

  • For a basic roast turkey, coat the turkey with vegetable oil or nonstick spray and sprinkle the inside and outside with your favorite herbs and spices. Rubs, marinades or brines can also be delicious!
  • Rubs:  Spice runs are a great way to add flavor to whole turkey. Purchase spice blends or make your own. If using dry spices, begin by coating the turkey with oil then sprinkle generously with the seasonings, rubbing them onto the surface of the turkey. Remember to coat the inside and outside of the turkey. 
  • Marinades:  A marinade is a seasoned liquid that includes an acid ingredient (lemon juice). The purpose of a marinade is to add flavor and make the turkey extra juicy and tender. For a whole turkey marinades may be brushed over the surface or mixed in a blender and injected into the bird with an injector designed for meats. 
  • Brines:  Bringing a whole turkey involves submerging it in a salt-water solution. Most 'brines' also contain sugar and other seasonings. Once the whole turkey soaks in the brine, the turkey is rinsed with water to remove any excess salt. The resulting turkey is extra juicy and it cooks slightly faster, so check the turkey 30 to 45 minutes before the end of the regular roasting time. 

Step 5: Tie and Tuck

For a picture perfect turkey, tie the drumsticks together with a cotton kitchen string unless already secures with a clamp or band of skin. If desired, twist the wings behind the back on each side. This will stabilize the turkey and encourage uniform cooking. Wash hands. 

Step 6: Cover and Roast

Cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees. Roast the turkey for the recommended time on the chart below. Remove the foil for the last 30-45 minutes of roasting time to allow it to brown. 

Turkey Roasting Timetable

Weight

Unstuffed

Stuffed

4-8 pounds (breast)

1 ½ - 3 ¼ hours

N/A

8-12 pounds

2 ¾ - 3 hours

3 - 3 ½ hours

12-14 pounds

3 to 3 ¾ hours

3 ½ - 4 hours

14-18 pounds

3 ¾ - 4 ¼  hours 

4  - 4 ¼ hours

18-20 pounds

4 ¼ - 4 ½ hours 

4 ¼ - 4 ¾ hours

20-24 pounds

4 ½ to 5 hours

4 ¾ - 5 ¼ hours

Test Temperature

According to the USDA food safety guidelines the internal temperature of whole turkeys need to reach a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when tested with a meat thermometer. Juices should be clear. 

Step 7: Remove and Rest

Remove turkey from the oven and tent loosely with foil. Allow to rest 20 minutes prior to carving. Temperatures may rise an additional five to ten degrees during this time. 

Step 8: Carve

Click HERE for our printable Turkey Carving demonstration from the Fareway market experts and CentsAble Health team!

Step 9: ENJOY!

Step 10: Store leftovers

Refrigerate leftovers in shallow container (for quicker cooling) within two hours of cooking. Discard any leftovers left at room temperature for more than two hours. Use leftovers within 3 days, reheating until temperature reaches 165. To keep the turkey moist while reheating, add a little broth or water and cover. Check out our creative, delicious recipes using leftovers.

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