Chef Neil’s Turkey Tips

Selecting a Bird

Fresh or Frozen?

  • Fresh birds tend to end up being juicier and more tender, however considerably more expensive.
  • Frozen birds are economical and generally if cooked properly are moist and tender.
  • You will want to count on approximately 1- 1.5 pounds of raw turkey per person so a 20 pound turkey should feed 10-15 people which should leave some for the all important leftovers.

Thawing Your Turkey

  • To thaw a frozen turkey safely you should place in the fridge and allow it to thaw slowly. A 20-pound turkey will take at least 3-4 days to thaw completely.
  • Remove turkey from wrapping and place in sink, remove neck and bag of giblets and wash turkey cavity out with cold running water.
  • Drain water and dry out the cavity using some paper towel.
  • I usually let the turkey sit in the fridge uncovered over night to allow the skin and cavity to dry out further. This will assist in creating a nice crisp skin.
  • Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. I usually rub the skin down with some olive oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cooking Method

  • Turkeys cook very unevenly. White meat is usually done before the dark meat and when you stuff the bird by the time the stuffing reaches the safe temperature (165ºF) chances are the meat will be over cooked.
  • If you are going to stuff your bird I would recommend that you do not densely stuff it, in fact you may want to do your stuffing in separate pan and loosely fill the cavity with aromatic ingredients such a chopped onion, garlic, halved lemon, fresh herbs (sage, thyme, basil).
  • When it comes to cooking a stuffed bird I generally will start the turkey at a high temperature on convection roast at 450ºF for about 10 minutes then I will change the mode to a normal roast or bake (no convection) and reduce the temp to 325ºF for the remaining time.
  • If the breast begins to get too dark, I may place tin foil over the breast meat so that it does not dry out
  • You will want the internal temperature of the bird to reach 180ºF at the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Remove from oven and allow the bird to rest covered with foil to keep warm for at least 15-20 minutes before beginning to carve it. This will allow the meat to relax and for the moisture to redistribute itself throughout the meat making for a moist delicious turkey.turkey


Approximate Cooking Times:

A fresh turkey will cook slightly faster than a thawed frozen turkey.


8 to 12 lbs…………….2.5 to 3 hrs

12 to 14 lbs…………..3 to 3.5 hrs

14 to 18 lbs…………..3.5 to 4 hrs

18 to 20 lbs……………4 to 4.5hrs

20 to 24 lbs…………..4.5 to 5 hrs


8 to 12 lbs……………3 to 3.5 hrs

12 to 14 lbs…………..3.5 to 4 hrs

14 to 18 lbs…………..4 to 4.25 hrs

18 to 20 lbs……..4.25 to 4.75 hrs

20 to 24 lbs……..4.75 to 5.25 hrs



  • While the turkey is resting you can make your gravy with the dripping from the turkey.
  • You may be surprised there is not as much liquid in the pan compared to a conventional oven. This is because the liquid that is usually in the pan is still in your turkey. The convection action sears in the juices. There should still be enough caramelized juices, sugars and fat from the turkey to achieve a tasty gravy.
  • If you find there still is not enough juice for gravy, the next time you cook a turkey dinner you may want to have a strong turkey stock you can make ahead of time and freeze so you have it when you need gravy.

Good luck and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me!!

Happy Cooking,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s