January 18, 2018

Turkey Roasting Tips

Roasting a turkey requires an appliance – your oven, a BBQ, an electric roaster, or if you’re looking for a riskier approach, a deep fryer. If you are going the traditional route, with an oven roasted bird, we’ve got some tips for you.

* Set your oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.

* Place your turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.

* For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, it is recommended you cook your stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

* If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate. Chill all of the wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.). Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

* A whole turkey 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, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

* If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.

* For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.

* Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavities.

Timetables for Turkey Roasting
(325 °F oven temperature)

Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.

4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours

4 to 6 pounds (breast) Not usually applicable
6 to 8 pounds (breast) 2½ to 3½ hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4¾ to 5¼ hours

It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet packages during the cooking time. Remove carefully with tongs or a fork.

Optional Cooking Hints

* Tuck wing tips under the shoulders of the bird for more even cooking. This is referred to as “akimbo.”

* Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan.

* If your roasting pan does not have a lid, you may place a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for the first 1 to 1 ½ hours. This allows for maximum heat circulation, keeps the turkey moist, and reduces oven splatter. To prevent overbrowning, foil may also be placed over the turkey after it reaches the desired color.

* If using an oven-proof food thermometer, place it in the turkey at the start of the cooking cycle. It will allow you to check the internal temperature of the turkey while it is cooking. For turkey breasts, place thermometer in the thickest part. For whole turkeys, place in the thickest part of the inner thigh. Once the thigh has reached 165 °F, check the wing and the thickest part of the breast to ensure the turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product.

* If using an oven cooking bag, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the package.

For more advice on turkey defrosting, prepping and safety visit the USDA’s Food safety site.

Roasting a Turkey in Your Convection Oven

If you’ve got a convection oven, Thanksgiving is a great day to use it.  The even heating that a convection oven provides is great for your turkey and baking.  Here are some turkey roasting tips straight from the experts at eatturkey.com.
A whole turkey or turkey breast will cook in less time with more even results when a convection oven is used. The convection oven circulates preheated air around the oven cavity for faster and more even cooking. Depending on the manufacturer, it is recommended the traditional roasting times be reduced by 10 to 40 percent. Usually both roasting temperature and time are reduced when using a convection oven. In such cases, the convection oven cooking temperature is lower to 300 degrees F.

The formula for conversion is different for each convection oven. Some manufacturers provide the conversion formulas on the front control panel of the oven.

The newest convection ovens feature an electronic thermometer probe that assists in more accurate roasting. The temperature probe should be set to the desired internal food temperature of 180 degrees F and inserted in the inner thigh. The electronic thermometer probe monitors the internal temperature and will alert the chef when the desired temperature is reached.

With or without the automatic thermometer, it is important to use a thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 180 degrees F in the thigh and 170 degrees F in the breast. If the turkey is stuffed, verify the stuffing temperature registers 165 degrees F.

NTF Convection Oven Open Pan Method Guidelines for a Fresh/Thawed Turkey Roast on the Lowest Rack Position
Cooking Method Cooking Temperature Weight Unstuffed Estimated Cooking Time Weight Stuffed Estimated Cooking Time
Roast 300 degrees F. 14 – 18 lbs. 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hrs. 14 – 18 lbs. 2 1/2 to 3 hrs.
Roast 300 degrees F. 18 – 22 lbs. 2 1/2 to 3 hrs. 18 – 22 lbs. 3 hrs. to 3 1/2 hrs.

Other Hints:

1. The preferred method is to roast the turkey in the center of the lowest rack or oven shelf so the top of the turkey will be centered in the oven. If two racks must be used, place the turkey on the lowest or middle rack. When baking with two pans, position the pans in opposite corners of the oven. Place the pans so one is not directly over the other.
2. Basting is not necessary when using the convention mode of roasting. If a special sauce or marinade is used, baste the turkey during the last hour of cooking.
3. The hot air must circulate around the turkey for even heat distribution. For best results, allow 1-1/2 to 2 inches of space around the turkey, including other pans as well as the oven walls.
4. If the oven door is opened frequently, there will be heat loss and cause longer roasting times.
5. The wings and drumsticks may brown more quickly and should be covered with foil to prevent over browning.
6. If the turkey is lightly tented with foil to reduce surface browning, be sure the foil is secured so it will not blow around and impair the fan action.
7. If the turkey is to be cooked in a closed oven bag or completely encased in foil, convection roasting is not necessary.

Remember these safety tips from the USDA:

Always wash hands, utensils, the sink, and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and water.

Storing Your Leftovers :

  • Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within 3 to 4 days. Use gravy within 1 to 2 days.
  • If freezing leftovers, use within 2 to 6 months for best quality.

Reheating Your TurkeyCooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated.


In the Oven

  • Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.
  • Reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
  • To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.

In the Microwave Oven

  • Cover your food and rotate it for even heating. Allow standing time.
  • Check the internal temperature of your food with a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 °F.
  • Consult your microwave oven owner’s manual for recommended times and power levels.