Next to spending time with family and friends (and let's not forget the presents!) the turkey dinner is one of the most important traditions of the holiday season. While some families may decide to cook a roast or ham this Christmas, turkey has long been a favored main course to serve on Dec. 25. For beginner chefs, or for those who simply need a refresher course, here are six easy steps to make the perfect holiday bird this Christmas:
The following tips, a compilation from Butterball.com, TheKitchn.com and AllRecipes.com, are best used for (previously) frozen and/or fresh whole turkeys:
1. Preheat your oven. Depending on the type of oven you're using (whether regular or convection), Butterball.com suggests to cook your turkey at temperatures ranging from 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare the (already thawed) turkey by removing the giblets from the bird. If store-bought, the birds' giblets will usually be contained in a plastic baggy that can either be tossed or used for gravy or stuffing. (More information on how to properly thaw your turkey here.)
3. Rinse the bird with water and pat it dry with paper towels before placing it breast up in a cooking pan. Depending on the size of the bird, the pan should be 2 inches to 2.5 inches deep.
4. To give your turkey a better taste, brush or spray the skin of the meat with butter, cooking or vegetable oil. (Tying the birds' legs together is an optional step that will make carving easier later on.)
5. Before placing the bird in the oven, don't forget to place a meat thermometer inside the thickest region of the bird. The most commonly used section is one of the two thighs, as its best to keep the thermometer away from any of the birds' bones in order to get a proper temperature reading. Your turkey needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit before leaving the oven.
6. To make sure your turkey stays moist, wrap your the turkey breast and drumstick areas with tin foil two-thirds of the way through the cooking process. Once your bird is fully finished cooking (see below for cook times) wait 15 minutes before slicing and then, enjoy!
While the above steps will work for any size turkey in any type of oven, specific cook times are critical to keep in mind to create the perfect holiday bird. Below are turkey cook times as suggested by Butterball.com:
REGULAR OVEN COOK TIMES:
4.5-7 lbs. 2-2.5 hrs. (unstuffed) 2 ¼-2 ¾ hrs. (stuffed)
7-9 lbs. 2.5-3 hrs. (unstuffed) 2 ¾- 4.5 hrs. (stuffed)
9-18 lbs. 3-3.5 hrs. (unstuffed) 3 ¾-4.5 hrs. (stuffed)
18-22 lbs. 3.5-4 hrs. (unstuffed) 4.5-5 hrs. (stuffed)
22-24 lbs. 4-4.5 hrs. (unstuffed) 5-5.5 hrs. (stuffed)
24-30 lbs. 4.5-5 hrs. (unstuffed) 5.5-6 ¼ hrs. (stuffed)
CONVECTION OVEN COOK TIMES:
6-10 lbs. 1.5-2 hrs. (unstuffed) 1 ¾- 2.5 hrs. (stuffed)
10-18 lbs. 2-2.5 hrs. (unstuffed) 2.5-3 ¼ (stuffed)
18-22 lbs. 2.50-3 hrs. (unstuffed) 3 ¼- 3 ¾ hrs. (stuffed)
22-24 lbs. 3-3.5 hrs. (unstuffed) 3 ¾-4 ¼ hrs. (stuffed)