Fresh or Frozen?
Fresh birds tend to be juicier and more tender, however more expensive. Frozen birds can also be moist and tender if cooked properly and they are more economical. When buying, allocate about 1-1.5 pounds of raw turkey per person. For example, a 20 pound turkey should feed 10-15 people and still leave you with some to freeze for soup or other leftover recipes for later.
Thawing Your Turkey
To thaw a frozen turkey safely, it is recommended to place it in the fridge and allow it to thaw slowly. A 20-pound turkey will take at least 3-4 days to thaw completely.
Once thawed, remove wrapping and work with it in the sink. Remove neck and bag of giblets from the cavity and run cold water through it. Drain all of the water and dab the cavity dry with some paper towel. To completely dry the turkey, let it sit in the fridge in an uncovered container overnight. This will also give you a crispier skin.
Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. For tasty, crispy skin, rub it down with some olive oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Turkeys cook very unevenly. White meat is usually done before the dark meat and when you stuff the bird, the meat might be overcooked by the time the stuffing reaches the safe temperature (165ºF).
If you are going to stuff your bird, do it loosely or you may want to cook your stuffing in a separate pan and fill the cavity with aromatic ingredients such a chopped onion, garlic, halved lemon, fresh herbs (sage, thyme, basil).
When cooking a stuffed bird, you should start at a high temperature, convection roast at 450ºF for about 10 minutes then 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, placing tin foil over the breast meat will prevent it from drying out.
Make sure the internal temperature of the bird reaches 180ºF at the thickest part of the thigh.
Once done, remove the turkey immediately from oven and allow it to rest covered with foil to keep it warm for at least 15-20 minutes before beginning to carve. This will allow the meat to relax, allowing the moisture to redistribute itself throughout the meat making it moist and delicious.
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 drippings from the turkey.
When cooking with convection, there isn’t as much liquid in the pan compared to a conventional oven. This is because convection cooking sears in the juices in your turkey. There should still be enough caramelized juices, sugars and fat from the turkey to make gravy.
If you find there still is not enough juice for gravy, add turkey stock or mild vegetable stock. And remember to make turkey stock to freeze for gravy material for your leftovers or next turkey dinner!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!