Turkey Preparation 101

Fresh or Frozen?

This is your first decision selecting between a frozen or fresh turkey.

A fresh bird is more expensive, but will save you time and precious refrigerator space. But remember if you go to buy a fresh bird from down on the farm, always tell them at least five pounds heavier than you will need. I forgot this last year when I ordered my 20 pound turkey and after if was dressed it weighed only 17 pounds. try to pick up the bird the day before you wish to roast it but not more than 2 days , but remember to reserve your turkey with the butcher. Most grocers don’t keep a large stock of fresh birds on hand.

You will need to plan ahead if buying a frozen bird as well: it can be catastrophic to find that the only turkey available for your dinner is either to large or to small.

A frozen turkey needs to be defrosted. The preferred method is to defrost it in the refrigerator. (Yes, the one filled with the rest of the holiday fare.) Allow one day per 5 pounds. A 15-pound turkey will require three days to defrost completely.


To prepare the turkey for roasting, first remove the giblets! I remember the first time I roasted a turkey and forgot to remove the giblets, everyone laughed but I was 16 and red faced over the situation. Not only may it cause you and embarrassing moment but you may also wish to use the giblets in your gravy or stuffing. Next, rinse the bird inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. If you are stuffing the bird, stuff it loosely, allowing about ½ to ¾ cup stuffing per pound of turkey. If I am stuffing the bird I place my stuffing in cheese cloth as it is easier to remove at meal time. I place it in its own dish. Brush the skin with melted butter or oil. Tie drumsticks together with string. Lastly, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.

Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F oven. Use the following chart to estimate the time required for baking.

Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Baste every thirty minutes with the pan drippings.

Weight of Bird Roasting Time Unstuffed Roasting time stuffed

10 -18 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours

15-22 lbs 3 1/2 to 4 hours 4 1/2 to 5 hours

22-24 lbs 4 to 4 1/2 hours 5 to 5 1/2 hours

24-29 lbs 4 1/2 to 5 hours 5 1/2 to 6 1/4 hours

Ready to Eat

The only reliable test for doneness is the temperature of the meat. Do not rely on the color of the skin. The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing. The stuffing should be 165 degrees F as well. When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20 minutes. This resting time allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. This keeps the meat moist. And makes the turkey easier to carve.

Now sit back and relax and enjoy you meal with family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

Hope to see ya’ll soon.