There are many methods used to cook a moist and tasty Roasted Turkey.
Most methods rely on basting. The turkey can be basted every 30 minutes
with a basting bulb, or covered with cheesecloth soaked in butter.
Other methods include brining the turkey (soaking in a salt water solution
for 8-10 hours), or injecting a basting solution into the meat.
Whatever method you prefer, proper roasting is key to tender moist meat.
Completely thaw the turkey. Start early and thaw the turkey in the
refrigerator or in a place where the air temperature is no higher than 40
degrees. A 20-pound turkey takes about two or three days to thaw
completely. Be sure the turkey is thawed completely, until no ice appears in
the inner cavity and the meat is soft. Be careful: If the inner cavity
is still frozen or even partially frozen when you put the turkey in the
oven, the outside of the bird will be done before the inside, and the
inside temperature will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing
bacteria, or if it is the outside meat will be dried out before the center
Remove the neck and giblets from the cavities. If this is your first
time cooking the turkey, be sure that both cavities are emptied. Reserve
the neck and giblets for use in preparing the giblet gravy, if desired.
Prepare the stuffing. If you are preparing the stuffing early, mix only
the dry ingredients. It is recommended that you cook the stuffing
separately, but if you do stuff the turkey, do not stuff it until you are
ready to roast it. Stuff the cavity loosely. Do not pack it. If you
choose to cook the stuffing separately, you can place a quartered onion and
some celery leave and other desired herbs in the cavity for flavor.
Prepare a basting sauce. I prefer to baste with melted butter to which
I add fresh or dried herbs. You can also baste with a mixture of wine
and butter. Baste the turkey with your sauce and place a loose tent of
aluminum foil over the turkey to prevent the skin from burning before
the turkey is cooked. This tent will be removed during the last 45
minutes or so of cooking. If you are using cheesecloth, soak the cheesecloth
with the basting sauce and place over the breast and drape onto the
thighs. When using cheesecloth, you do not need the foil tent. Baste the
turkey every 30 minutes during roasting.
Roast your turkey at 325 degrees for the recommended time for the
weight of your turkey. These times are approximate and should be confirmed
with a meat thermometer. Be sure to check the thermometer about 3/4th of
the way through the time indicated so as not to overcook. Dry meat
will result if the turkey is overcooked. The following table gives
approximate times for roasting turkey at 325 degrees F.
Estimated Cooking Times
|Wt. of Turkey ||Unstuffed ||Stuffed
|10-18 lbs ||3- 3 1/2 hrs. ||4 - 4 1/2 hrs
|18-22 lbs ||3 1/2 - 4 hrs ||4 1/2 - 5 hrs.
|22-24 lbs ||4- 4 1/2 hrs ||5 – 5 1/2 hrs
|24-29 lbs ||4 1/2- 5 hrs ||5 1/2 - 6 1/2 hrs
The turkey must be roasted all at once. You cannot partially cook it
ahead for later finishing. This method has been shown to increase the
chances of food borne illnesses.
For safety and doneness the internal temperature must reach 180 degrees
F in the thigh and 170 in the center of the breast. If the turkey is
stuffed, the stuffing should reach 165 degrees F in the cavity. This
temperature is essential to prevent food borne disease, and should be
measured with a meat thermometer. The pop-up thermometer that comes in many
turkeys serves as a good approximate of doneness, but should not be
relied on as the ultimate authority. When placing the meat thermometer in
the thigh or breast, it is important not to touch the bone. The bone
conducts heat and will be hotter than the meat. Do not allow the cooked
meat to come into contact with anything that has touched the raw
During the last 30 - 45 minutes of cooking, remove the foil tent to
encourage browning. If you desire to use a glaze, spread it over the
turkey now with a pastry brush.
After dinner, separate the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate
leftovers immediately. Within a few hours bacterial will begin to grow
causing disease if the meat is not quickly cooled. Large chunks of meat
will cool slowly, and therefore should be refrigerated immediately to
begin the cooling process. Meat, stuffing, and gravy can also be cooled,
then frozen for future use.
Luke warm leftovers allow bacterial growth. Food eaten cold will not
have the opportunity for further growth, however when heating leftover,
they should be heated to at least 165 to kill bacteria.
Follow these tips and enjoy a moist delicious and safe turkey this
Diane Watkins is a traditional southern style cook.
She enjoys cooking, teaching, and writing about good food and family.
For more information on southern cooking and recipes for everything
you need to complete a traditional style holiday meal, visit her website
Easy Southern Cooking.
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