Your turn to prepare the turkey? We'll help take the pressure off. Preparing and roasting your Thanksgiving turkey isn't as intimidating as it seems. Simply watch our video demonstration and we'll walk you through the entire process. We've also provided a printable step-by-step guide to help you roast your bird to perfection.
1. Purchase your turkey.
Choose either a fresh or a frozen turkey, based on personal preference and available time. Frozen turkeys can be purchased farther in advance but take up to a week to thaw in the refrigerator.
Purchase 1 to 1½ pounds of uncooked whole turkey per person. For every pound of bird purchased, expect slightly under a half pound of cooked meat.
2. Assemble the tools and equipment you'll need.
Choose a sturdy roasting pan that is about 2 inches deep and has a rack. The rack will hold the turkey above the drippings and allow heat to circulate around the entire bird. You could also use your broiler pan with a rack inserted in the bottom.
Make sure you have a set of well-insulated oven mitts and accurate meat and instant-read thermometers to check for doneness. Other items that may come in handy are 100%-cotton kitchen string, small skewers, basting brush, and aluminum foil.
3. Thaw the turkey.
Allow enough time to properly thaw a frozen turkey. Count on about 24 hours for thawing every 4 to 5 pounds. (Don't include the roasting day when calculating the needed time.)
Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator in its original packaging on a shallow tray that has edges to contain the juices. For proper food safety, do not thaw at room temperature.
The turkey is ready for roasting when the giblets and neck can be removed and no ice crystals remain. Be sure to clean and sanitize any surfaces before and after they come into contact with the turkey or its juices.
4. Remove the giblets and neck.
Unwrap the turkey. Remove the bag of giblets and the neck from inside the turkey. You may need to release a clamp or band of skin around the legs to make preparation easier.
5. Prepare the turkey.
a.) Pull the neck skin onto the back of the turkey; secure with small metal skewers.
b.) Turn the turkey over so it is breast side up on the rack in your roasting pan. Secure the legs by resetting the leg clamp or by tying the legs to the tail with 100%-cotton kitchen string.
c.) To prevent the wing tips from overbrowning and for a neater appearance, twist the wing tips under the back of the turkey.
6. Season and roast.
To enhance browning and to prevent the skin from drying out, brush the turkey with cooking oil. If desired, rub the surface of the turkey with seasonings of your choice.
7. Place thermometer and set oven.
Insert a meat thermometer into the center of an inside thigh muscle without touching bone. (Do not use an instant-read thermometer for this. Instant-read thermometers are not designed to stay in food during cooking.)
Place the roasting pan on the lowest rack in a preheated 325°F oven and roast for the times suggested above. Baste occasionally with pan drippings while roasting, if desired. Ovens and turkeys vary, so adjust time as needed; this may be as much as 30 minutes. Use a thermometer to determine final doneness.
Clean and sanitize any surfaces or utensils that come into contact with the uncooked bird or its juices. Wash hands thoroughly.
When turkey is golden brown, cover the breast loosely with foil to prevent over browning.
8. Test for doneness.
Always use a thermometer to check doneness. For food safety the turkey thigh meat should register at least 165°F. Using an instant-read thermometer, check the innermost part of the thigh, wing and the thickest part of the breast. The temperature will register in about 15 seconds and should be at least 165°F. The drumsticks should move easily in their sockets, and their thickest parts should feel soft when pressed.
9. Remove turkey from oven.
When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and cover with foil. Allow it to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving; this will make the meat easier to carve.