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Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking Tips You NEED to Try

holidays lifestyle Nov 15, 2022

Whether you’re a newbie to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey or a seasoned pro, it’s time to call to session Turkey 101 and answer all of your turkey questions. Here are some Thanksgiving cooking tips you NEED to try!

What Kind of Turkey Should I Buy?

If you choose to go with a frozen bird (because you got a screamin’ deal at the market), remember it takes about 24 hours to thaw 5 pounds. If you buy a 15 pounder, it will take you about 3 1/2 – 4 days to completely thaw your turkey.

You should thaw your bird in the refrigerator, not on the countertop (prime breeding ground for bacterial growth). If you are short for time, you can do a cold-water thaw in which you place the turkey in the sink or in a bathtub and completely cover it with cold water, changing the water every 30-60 minutes. With this method, you can thaw 5 pounds in 2 hours. Score!

If You Don’t Go The Frozen Route…

While frozen birds are popular, we’re personally not big fans of them, as you don’t know when the turkey was actually frozen. Quite often, supermarkets are selling last year’s turkeys at bottom basement prices. Our next Thanksgiving cooking tip is we recommend you go with a fresh, organic turkey – not only does it taste better, but you know that it’s truly fresh.

How Big of a Bird Should You Buy?

If you’re wondering how big of a bird you should buy for this year’s Thanksgiving gathering, the rule of thumb is one pound per guest.

No, people aren’t actually eating a pound of turkey meat – this rule takes into account the bones, skin, and connective tissue in the bird. So, if you’re feeding 25 people this year, you will need a 25-pound turkey.

Personally, we think that any turkey over 25 pounds starts to taste a little tough and gamey, so we would instead opt for two 13-pounds birds. They will taste better and cook in much less time than a 25-pounder.

How to Cook a Turkey

1. Start with a fresh or thawed turkey. Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity. Drain the juices from the cavity. Give the turkey a wash (inside and out) under cold water. Pat dry.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

3. Place the turkey on a V-shaped rack in your roasting pan, breast side up. Stuff with herbs, sliced onion, and citrus fruits, which will perfume the turkey as it cooks. Lightly rub the outside with avocado oil and season with salt and pepper. If you are looking to jazz up your bird this year, try adding chili powder, smoked paprika, and orange zest to your rub.

4. Insert the meat thermometer (We use a digital one in which the display magnetically sticks to the fridge) into the lower part of the thigh, but not touching the bone. Set the thermometer alarm to 160F.

5. Place the roasting pan into the oven and cook until about 2/3 of the way done or when the skin turns golden. At that point, tent the breast and legs with aluminum foil so you don’t burn the skin as it continues to cook.

An unstuffed bird will take about 1 1/2 – 2 1/4 hours for every 5 pounds (every oven is different, thus the food thermometer). When your turkey reaches 160F, remove it from the oven and allow it to stand for 30 minutes before cooking. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the turkey, resulting in a moist and juicy turkey.

While the bird is cooking, you have plenty of time to make some amazing side dishes. Check out some of our great recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes and dessert.

Our Best Paleo Lemon-Thyme Stuffing

Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower "Potatoes"

Crustless Pumpkin Pie with Maple Cinnamon Cream

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

We aren’t proponents of stuffing the turkey. Even though the stuffing can obtain some great flavor from the fat of the turkey dripping into it while it cooks, the stuffing and the turkey cook at different rates, which can lead to a properly-cooked bird but under-cooked stuffing (which poses a bacterial hazard), or an over-cooked turkey and a properly cooked stuffing.

The turkey needs to reach a temperature of 160 F (in the thigh), while the stuffing needs to reach a temperature of 165 F. Unfortunately, they don’t cook at the same rate. By the time the Thanksgiving stuffing reaches 165F, your bird will be overcooked and very dry.

Your best bet is to stuff the turkey with some great aromatics, such as sliced lemon, orange, onion, and fresh herbs. Cook the stuffing separately in a covered casserole dish until it reaches 165 F. That way you’re assured of a delicious turkey and excellent stuffing.

Now you have some pro cooking tips to have the most delicious turkey ever!