A perfectly roasted, juicy turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving menu. As you plan for the big day, you may be wondering what size turkey you’ll need, when to start thawing a frozen turkey or how to determine when the turkey is done. We’ve got you covered from start to finish with our easy- to-follow video to ensure a tender and moist turkey to impress your guests.
1. Size, Thaw, Prep
To determine what size turkey you’ll need, a good rule of thumb is about 1 pound of turkey per person which allows for leftovers. Thaw a frozen turkey in its packaging in a rimmed pan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to minimize the potential spread of bacteria from any leaking juices. Plan ahead, as a turkey can take up to 4 days to thaw. Once thawed, it can remain refrigerated up to 3 days.
To further minimize the spread of bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, it’s also a good idea to have all ingredients and equipment ready to go so you won’t have to touch kitchen surfaces as you prepare the bird.
2. Roasting Pan and Rack
A rack is used to elevate the turkey off the bottom of the roasting pan, away from the drippings. This allows the oven heat to circulate around the turkey for even cooking. If you don’t have a rack, simply place the turkey on top of the neck, giblets and vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan.
Trussing, or tying, a turkey with kitchen twine will also help to evenly cook the bird and retain its natural juices.
For a more accurate reading of the turkey’s internal temperature, use an instant-read thermometer rather than relying on a turkey’s pop-up timer. The turkey is done when it reaches 160°F in the thickest part of the thigh without the thermometer touching bone. As the turkey rests, the internal temperature will rise 5° to 10°F upon standing for a final temperature of 165° to 170°F; the juices will run clear and the legs will wiggle freely.
5. Drain Juices
Any juices inside the turkey can be used to make a flavorful gravy. Before removing the roasted turkey from the roasting pan, use a pair of tongs to tilt the bird, allowing the juices to drain into the pan.