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How to Cook Perfect Holiday Turkey

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Turkey as a symbol of celebration and festivities is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. It used to be that the larger the bird, the more festive the gathering. Continue the tradition at your holiday table with these no-fail tips that are guaranteed to help make your feast a success.

How to buy a turkey

  • To calculate the size of the turkey you'll need, plan for about one pound per person, plus more if you want leftovers.

  • Use fresh turkey within two days of purchase. If your turkey's frozen, defrost it in the fridge, allowing about five hours per pound. That's two days for a ten pound bird, so plan accordingly!

Buttering and stuffing

  • When preparing the bird for roasting, butter it up for extra flavour and crispy skin. To do this, gently pull up on the skin and work in a windshield-wiper motion to separate it from the breast meat. Then fill this pocket you've created with butter. You can watch how to do this in our video here. For extra flavour, season the butter first with your favourite chopped, fresh herbs. After you've stuffed it, coat the whole bird with butter to help achieve nice, golden skin. Do this first before adding salt and pepper so the seasonings have something to stick to.

  • Stuff your turkey just before cooking it to reduce the risk of contamination. For even roasting, pack it loosely to allow for ample air circulation inside the bird. Use a skewer or trussing needle to sew up the bird and help prevent the inside meat from drying out.

Roasting rack etiquette

  • Tuck your wings under the bird before it goes in the oven. Because smaller surfaces cook quicker, this will help to prevent the wing tips from burning.

  • To avoid the turkey from sticking to your roasting rack, lay a slice of buttered bread, butter side down on the rack and lay your bird on top of that.

  • Tent the bird with aluminum foil for the first three hours of cooking. This slows the cooking of the turkey's outside so it doesn't burn before the inside meat is cooked. Keep the foil loose on both sides so the air can circulate and remove the foil for the last hour and a half of cooking to allow the crust to get golden.

Cooking the turkey

  • Baste your turkey with the pan drippings every 30 minutes.

  • In a 325°F (160°C) oven, turkey needs about 20 minutes per pound to cook. You'll know it's done when it reaches 170°F (77°C) on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear when you pierce it.

  • To take the temperature, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, which in a turkey is right in between the thigh and the breast meat. For an accurate read, insert it as far as it will go without touching the bone.

  • Let the turkey rest anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle and redistribute.

Practice these turkey tips at your next feast with any of these tested-till-perfect recipes:


Check out many more great holiday tips and recipes on Best Recipes Ever.