Thanksgiving, also known as Turkey Day, is as we all know a time to give thanks and celebrate a bountiful harvest. The traditional Thanksgiving feast includes turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkins and more besides.
One of the biggest problems with cooking such a big bird is the risk of Salmonella, a very unpleasant form of food poisoning which is passed from wild and domestic animals such as pigs, poultry, dairy cows and pets to humans. It can occur when an infected bird is not cooked properly resulting in the pathogen remaining intact within the meat.
Symptoms of Salmonella include a fever, stomach pains, Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. It can also induce a loss of appetite and last for two or three days.
To avoid the risk of food poisoning we have a guide which will help you work out how long to cook your big Thanksgiving bird for and how better to prepare it.
Cooking time and oven temperature are of the utmost importance, not only for health reasons but to make sure the meat is juicy and tender. If it’s too dry you’ve overcooked it.
The weight of the bird dictates thawing and cooking times. The following is a correct guide for thaw time per pound:
|8 to 12lbs||2 – 3 days|
|13 to 16lbs||3 – 4 days|
|17 to 20lbs||4 – 5 days|
|21-24lbs||5 – 6 days|
When the turkey is fully thawed and you’re ready to cook it, make sure the oven temperature is absolutely spot on. It’s essential that the bird is fully thawed first which can be done by leaving it in the fridge or running it under the cold tap (although this can lead to loss of flavour). Thawing in a microwave is a bad idea as it can cause bacterial growth and contamination.
Next up, preheat the oven to 475 degrees – this is very important.
After you’ve removed the gizzards (neck and giblets), pull the skin back carefully without removing it completely and rub butter on the bare breast meat. You can also add a few herbs such as Rosemary or Thyme, a little salt and some pepper.
You can also place a large onion inside the ribcage and sprinkle some finely chopped garlic over the buttered breast. Once seasoned put the turkey in it’s roasting dish and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes at 475 degrees lower the temperature to 250 degrees so that you begin to slow cook the bird. This will ensure that it comes out tender and moist with a good flavour.
The table below shows the average cooking times per pound but is only to be used for a completely thawed turkey.
|Weight (lbs)||Time @ 475||Time @ 250||Rest time||Total|
|10||20 mins||3h 20m||20 mins||4h|
|11||20 mins||3h 40m||20 mins||4h 20m|
|12||20 mins||4 h||20 mins||4h 40m|
|13||20 mins||4h 20m||20 mins||5h|
|14||20 mins||4h 40m||20 mins||5h 20m|
|15||20 mins||5h||20 mins||5h 40m|
|16||20 mins||5h 20m||20 mins||6h|
|17||20 mins||5h 40m||20 mins||6h 20m|
|18||20 mins||6h||20 mins||6h 40m|
|19||20 mins||6h 20m||20 mins||7h|
|20||20 mins||6h 40m||20 mins||7h 20m|
Before finishing make sure you check the internal meat temperature with a thermometer. It should read between 175 and 180 degrees.
Rest time is standing time after the turkey is removed from the oven. It is a guide line as to how long the bird should stand before carving.
The good people at Butterball have a turkey helpline available to give tips and guidelines and you can find the helpline number at their website.
Let us know if this was helpful by leaving a comment.
images: sxc.hu, tastingspoons.com