Preparing the Turkey for Roasting
Rule #8: Follow the safe-handling tips
Rinse the turkey in cool water, avoid cross-contamination by washing all surfaces that come in contact with raw turkey in hot soapy water before using on any other foods.
Turkey Tip: Remove the whole turkey from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking (no more than that) to bring the bird to room temperature. Make use of this time to cook the giblets or neck for the stuffing, stock or gravy.
- Step 1: Preheat the oven 325 degrees F., or as specified by your recipe. Move the oven rack to the lowest rung.
- Step 2: Remove the Giblets
Just before cooking, remove the giblets from their bag (stuck in the neck cavity) and the neckbone from the body cavity and rinse the giblet pieces (heart, gizzard, liver) and neckbone under cool running water to remove bacteria. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside for use in the stuffing or stock. (Note: If you are not quite ready to cook the bird within an hour after removing it from the refrigerator, return the turkey to the refrigerator until an hour before ready to roast.)
- Step 3: Rinse & Season
Rinse the whole bird, including the body and neck cavities under cool running water, rubbing your hands over the surface to help remove any bacteria. Pull out any lumps of fat from the cavity and discard. Pat the bird dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the bird, and rub in any seasonings per your recipe.
- Step 4: Stuffing & Trussing
As discussed below, many chefs today prefer not to stuff or truss the bird. However, if you prefer to stuff and/or truss the bird, now is the time to do it. Follow the instructions for Stuffing the Bird, or if not stuffing, proceed onto Roasting the Turkey.
Q: Do I need to truss the bird's legs, or can I just roast it without all that extra effort?
A: Trussing, tying the bird into a more compact shape with twine or string, is an old-fashioned method used mainly for presentation, so that the legs and wings would be held closer to the body and hence "more attractive." Today, many chefs recommend not trussing the legs and simply folding the wing tips under the body instead. Why? Because trussed legs take longer to cook at the joint than untrussed legs, and hence the breast also ends up cooking longer and becoming more dry. Many turkeys today come with metal or oven-proof plastic clamps known as "hock locks" or "leg trusses" which, when the legs are placed under them, do the same thing as trussing with string. The choice of trussing is up to the cook, but for a moister bird that takes less time to cook, we prefer not to truss.
Turkey Tip: The larger the bird, the heavier it is to lift in and out of the pan, especially if stuffed. You can by a commercial turkey lifter, which loops over both ends of the turkey and has handles for easy lifting. Or, pull off two 3- to 4-foot long pieces of foil (depending on the size of the bird. Fold each foil piece over lengthwise to form a 1-inch wide long strip. Before placing the turkey in the pan, lay one strip across below the legs and one below the wings. Place the turkey on top, let the ends rest over the sides of the pan. Bring the lengths up over the top of the bird as handles and use them to lift the bird out of the pan.
- What size turkey should I buy?
- Is it better to buy one large turkey or two small ones?
- Should I buy fresh or frozen?
- What about turkeys that have been injected with fats and seasonings?
- What about turkey parts and frozen stuffed turkeys?
- How long can a whole turkey be kept frozen?
- How long can a fresh turkey be kept refrigerated?
- Thawing Rules
- Thawing Methods
- Turkey Thawing Charts
- Is it best to cook the stuffing inside the bird, or separately in a baking dish?
- If I do want to stuff the bird, what's the best way to do it?
- How much stuffing do I need?
- Do I need to close up the cavity after it has been stuffed?
- Preparations Step-by-Step
- Stuffing & Trussing
- Do I need to truss the bird's legs, or can I just roast it the extra effort?
- Roasting Step-by-Step
- How do I keep the breast meat moist when cooking?
- Use a Meat Thermometer
- My turkey comes with a plastic pop-up timer. Can't I use that instead?
- How accurate are "recommended cooking times"?
- How can I tell when the turkey is done?
- USDA Timetable for Turkey Roasted at 325 degrees F.
- Rules for Making Gravy
- Making the Basic Gravy
- Additions to Gravy
- Basic Carving steps
- Removing the Thigh, Drumstick & Wings
- Carving the breast
- Storing leftovers
- Reheating leftovers
- Back to Thanksgiving Headquarters
This page modified November 2006