Magazine article Sunset

Perfect Turkey: How to Cook the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner

Magazine article Sunset

Perfect Turkey: How to Cook the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner

Article excerpt

Pumpkins and pilgrims aside, a beautifully browned roast turkey is what Thanksgiving is all about. We've tested a mind-boggling number of variations in our kitchen, but we still love a simple, butter-glazed bird. Here's how we produce it, as well as classic gravy. Follow the chart at right to determine how long to roast your turkey--and at what temperature. And keep the carving instructions on page 125 handy for a complete Thanksgiving success.

Classic Roast Turkey

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 10 minutes to prep, 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours to roast, and at least 20 minutes to rest

MAKES: Allow 3/4 pound uncooked turkey per serving, or 1 pound if you want leftovers

NOTES: If using a frozen turkey, start thawing it in a pan in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days before roasting, depending on its size. During roasting, if turkey overlaps the pan rim, tuck a strip of heavy-duty foil along the sides of the pan to keep fat from dripping over.

1 turkey (10 to 30 lb.; see notes) Melted butter or olive oil

1. Remove and discard leg truss from turkey (A). Pull off and discard any lumps of fat. Remove giblets and neck (they're often packed in the neck or body cavity) and save for gravy (recipe on page 125). Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Rub turkey all over with butter.

2. Place turkey, breast up, on a V-shaped rack in a 12- by 17-inch roasting pan, or one that is at least 2 in. longer and wider than the bird (B). Insert a meat thermometer through thickest part of breast to the bone. (If using an instant-read thermometer, insert when checking temperature later.)

3. Roast in a 325[degrees] or 350[degrees] (depending on size of bird) oven until thermometer registers 160[degrees] (C).

4. If turkey is unstuffed, tip slightly to drain juices from body cavity into pan (D). Transfer turkey to a platter. Let stand in a warm place, uncovered, for 15 to 30 minutes, then carve. If thigh joints are still pink (common in an oven-roasted bird), cut drumsticks from thighs, place thighs in a baking pan, and bake in a 450[degrees] oven until no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes; or put on a microwave-safe plate and cook in a microwave oven at full power (100%) for 1 to 3 minutes.

Per 1/4 pound boned cooked turkey with skin, based on percentages of white and dark meat in an average bird: 229 cal., 39% (90 cal.) from fat; 32 g protein; 10 g fat (3 g sat.); 0 g carbo; 82 mg sodium; 93 mg chol.

Oven-roasted turkey:

temperatures and times

TURKEY     OVEN           INTERNAL     COOKING
WEIGHT     TEMP.          TEMP.*       TIME**
WITH
GIBLETS

10-13 lb.  350[degrees]  160[degrees]  1 1/2-2 1/4 hr.
14-23 lb.  325[degrees]  160[degrees]  2-3 hr.
24-27 lb.  325[degrees]  160[degrees]  3-3 3/4 hr.
28-30 lb.  325[degrees]  160[degrees]  3 1/2-4 1/2 hr.

* To measure the internal temperature of the turkey, insert a
thermometer through the thickest part of the breast to the bone.
** Times are for unstuffed birds. A stuffed bird may cook at the same
rate as an unstuffed one; however, be prepared to allow 30 to 50 minutes
longer. While turkeys take about the same time to roast in regular and
convection heat, a convection oven does a better job of browning the
bird all over.

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Traditional Gravy

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 1 3/4 hours

MAKES: 7 to 8 cups without giblets; 10 to 12 servings

NOTES: You can prepare through step 4 up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill. …

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