If you’ve ever found yourself in a panic on Thanksgiving day, worrying about how long it takes to cook a turkey, fear not! We’ve got you covered with some expert tips and tricks to ensure your turkey turns out succulent and flavorful every time.
Achieving the Perfect Roast
When it comes to roasting a turkey, it’s important to pay attention to the details. If you find the skin getting too dark before the desired internal temperature is reached, simply tent the browned parts with a double-thick layer of buttered aluminum foil. This will protect them from excessive heat and prevent over-browning.
Once your roast turkey reaches the ideal temperature, resist the temptation to carve into it right away. Allowing the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes is crucial. This resting period allows the juices to settle back into the bird, resulting in moist and tender meat. Carving too soon will only cause the juices to escape, leaving you with dried-out meat. No one wants that on their Thanksgiving table! And don’t worry about covering the turkey with aluminum foil while it rests. Doing so would make the skin lose its crispiness. The turkey can rest for up to 90 minutes and still be hot when it’s time to carve. So, relax and take your time to make that perfect gravy!
Cooking a Heritage Turkey
If you’re planning to cook a heritage turkey, there are a few things you need to know. These birds, with their longer thighs and drumsticks and leaner breasts, have a different cooking process compared to your typical Thanksgiving turkey. But fear not, with our tips, you’ll be able to master it!
Due to their more active lifestyle, heritage turkeys require a slower cooking process at a lower temperature to achieve tender meat. Start by prepping the bird with butter, salt, and pepper. Then, set your oven to 325°F and roast the turkey for 3½ to 4 hours for a 12- to 14-pound bird. Remember, the internal temperature is key. Some heritage breeds may still have a pinkish hue even when fully cooked. As long as the temperature has reached 165°F on a reliable meat thermometer, you needn’t worry about it.
Cooking a Frozen Turkey
Oops! You forgot to thaw the turkey. Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world. However, cooking a fully frozen bird will take more time than usual. Trying to partially thaw the turkey is a big no-no, as it will result in uneven cooking. So, how can you successfully cook a fully frozen turkey? Let us share a two-pronged cooking method that works like magic.
Start by preheating your oven to 325°F and plan on cooking a 12- to 14-pound turkey for 5 to 6 hours, divided into two stages. The first stage is a controlled partial defrost. This helps relax the bird and allows seasonings to stick to it. After about 2 hours, remove the turkey from the oven, brush it with oil or melted butter, season it with salt, pepper, and any other flavors you desire.
Then, return the turkey to the oven, set at 325°F, and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 hours. Check the internal temperature in several places, ensuring that all sections read at least 150°F. Position any slower-cooking areas toward the back of the oven. Once the turkey reaches 150°F in all sections, remove it from the oven and let it rest as normal. The temperature will rise to a safe 165°F while the turkey rests.
Remember, these cooking methods are tried and tested, ensuring a delicious turkey every time. So, relax, enjoy the process, and impress your guests with your culinary skills!
- This article was written by Melissa Clark for Epicurious and contains additional reporting by Grace Parisi and Sam Worley. It has been expanded and updated by the Epicurious team.