If you have never purchased or cooked a turkey before it can be a bit daunting. Be sure to read my post, How to Buy a Turkey.
HOW MUCH TURKEY DO I BUY?
12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
5-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people
Butterball has a great planning calculator HERE.
Defrosting the Turkey
One of the most important things you need to do is defrost the turkey in advance. It will do you no good to have the right size turkey and a killer recipe if it is frozen solid. Plan on defrosting your turkey at least 4-5 hours per pound of meat. Going by that ratio, a 15 lb. turkey will take at least three full days.
There are two ways you can do this:
- In the Refrigerator – The best way to defrost a turkey is to put it in the refrigerator on a sheet pan tree to four days before you are ready to cook it. If you are going to do a brine overnight, you want to possibly look at four days, but it can also defrost in the brine.
- Cold Water Bath - This is a great option if you find you ran out of time and forgot to put it in the refrigerator. Simply take the packaged turkey and put it into a sink or large pot full of cold water. It will defrost in about 1/4 of the time as the refrigerator. Be sure to change out the water every few hours or so to make sure the water stays cold. It should defrost in one day.
Tips for Purchasing a Turkey
Tips for Cooking the Turkey
- Cook breast side DOWN (This allows all juices to run into the breasts, keeping it moist.)
- Cook stuffing separately (This makes it easier to cook the turkey evenly.)
- Bring it to room temperature before cooking. (Again, will make for more even cooking.)
- Remove giblets: Save these to use for stuffing, stock, and gravy (Giblet gravy recipe, Homemade Soup Stock)
- Whole Turkey, thawed (1-1¼ lbs per person)
- 2-4 celery stalks, roughly chopped (include leaves and end)
- 2-3 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, quartered
- fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove giblets and neck, rinse turkey with water and pat dry.
- Sprinkle generously inside and out with salt.
- Stuff turkey with quartered onion, celery ends and leaves, fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, sage and rosemary), carrots.
- Tie off legs to keep stuffed items inside turkey cavity.
- Cook 15 minutes per pound (i.e. - 12 lb turkey cooks for 3 hours).
- Let sit for 15 minutes before carving.
How to Carve the Turkey
I am not someone who has ever carved the turkey; I usually watch others do it. So be sure to check out the following to learn how:
(SOURCE: Simply Recipes)