Turkey 101: The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving Turkey + Video
From choosing the right size turkey to how to carve the bird, I’ve shared everything you need to know about Thanksgiving turkey, so that you can serve the most fabulous centerpiece at your Thanksgiving dinner table.
How much turkey do you need?
First things first… You need to know how big of a bird you need. Rule of thumb: 1lb per person. But if you want leftovers, plan on 1.5lbs, or even 2lbs per person, that way you’ll have a peace of mind that everyone can go for seconds, and you’ll have leftovers to make lunch the next day.
How long to thaw the turkey?
- Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38°F for 2-3 days.
- It usually takes about 24 hours per 5bls of turkey.
Forgot to take out the turkey? No problem. Here’s a safe way to thaw it quickly. Submerge the turkey in cold water (no warmer than 70°F), and change the water every 30 minutes. It’ll take 2.5 hours per 5lbs of turkey.
Brine or No Brine?
My husband is usually in charge of turkey every year. And he is in wet brining camp. It always produces juicy turkey, and we love it! I personally think you can get equally great results with both wet and dry brining and it’s just a matter of preference. Here’s a wonderful article on brining a turkey on Serious Eats.
Earlier this year, I tried another method: injecting melted butter into the meat before roasting. Oh my gosh, did it work! The meat was just as juicy as brined bird for zero hassle!! Check out my juicy no-brine turkey recipe for more details.
How long to roast the turkey?
Most recipes state to roast a turkey at 325°F. But I’m a rebel, and I roast mine at 350°F. I didn’t notice a big difference in timing, if not slightly quicker cooking. Unstuffed turkey will take anywhere between 2.5-5 hours, and 15-30 additional minutes for stuffed turkey. I’ve included a handy cheatsheet below with specific guidelines, broken down by weight.
How to carve a turkey?
Start carving once the turkey has rested for at least 30 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut through the skin between leg and breast and push the leg down toward the counter away from the body. You’ll hear a pop where the joint is separated, making it easy for you to cut through. To separate the drumstick, carefully cut the skin between thigh and drumstick, and gently push the drumstick away from the thigh. You’ll again hear a pop, and you can simply cut through the joint. To remove the bone from the thigh, cut along one side of the bone Repeat on other side.
Next up, breast meat. Slice into the breast on one side of breast bone. Keep slicing the meat following the shape of the bone, while pulling the meat away from it. Repeat on other side.
Now if none of this made sense, just watch this quick video tutorial and everything will make perfect sense.
And lastly, here’s a quick cheatsheet for you to reference back on details. Or you can download it right here: Turkey 101 Cheatsheet.
Hope you find this post helpful. And let me know if you have any turkey questions.
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