Eric Akis: Eric’s Easy Guide to Cooking a Christmas Turkey

Cooking the big holiday bird can be nerve-wracking, so here are some sure-fire tips

Every year around this time, readers ask me for advice on how to roast a whole turkey. It’s an appetizer often served on a special occasion, like Christmas, that some people are afraid to cook because, quite simply, they don’t know what to throw away. If this is your case, below is some useful information that I have respected over the years to help you. No fancy recipes or brining techniques, just basic tips to help you make a great roast turkey.

What size turkey to buy?

To make sure you have flavorful leftovers, when choosing a whole turkey, allow at least a pound and a half (about 680 grams) per person, if not a little more. The whole turkey, of course, has bones and the meat shrinks as it cooks, so take that into account. For example, to serve six, a nine or 10 pound turkey (about 4 to 4.5 kilograms) should suffice. To serve eight, a 12-14 pound (about 5.5-6.35 kilograms) bird should work. When purchasing, if the turkey in my suggested range still seems too small, just choose a larger bird.

Purchase, storage and thawing

When buying a fresh turkey from a supermarket, check the expiration date to make sure it coincides with when you’ll be cooking it. If possible, to reduce home storage time, buy the turkey or order it for pickup, two to three days before cooking. To store it, place the bird in its storage wrap in a side-walled dish / pan and refrigerate until needed.

If you have purchased a frozen turkey, the safest way to thaw it is to place it in a pan / pan in the refrigerator. Allow at least 24 hours of thawing for every five pounds (about 2.25 kilograms) of turkey. For example, a bird weighing 12 to 14 pounds (about 5.5 and 6.35 kilograms) will take about three days to thaw.

If you don’t have time to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, another safe method of thawing is to submerge the wrapped turkey completely in cold water. Allow about an hour of thawing for every two pound (900 gram) slice of turkey. Once thawed, the turkey will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.

Prepare the bird for cooking

When you’re ready to cook the turkey, don’t rinse it first in cold water, as some older methods suggest, as the raw liquids it contains could contaminate many kitchen surfaces. Instead, carefully remove from its packaging and place in a shallow-rimmed roasting pan. Do not use a deep sided pan or the sides of the turkey will not brown as well. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

If you stuff the turkey, do it right before cooking it. Fill the main cavity with stuffing, but do not wrap it tightly, as it may not get hot enough during cooking to kill bacteria in the turkey. Also fill in the cavity behind the large flap of skin at the end of the bird’s neck. Place leftover stuffing in a saucepan, cover and bake when turkey is resting, until heated through, about 30 minutes or more.

Stuffed or unstuffed, before roasting the turkey, brush the skin with a generous amount of olive oil or melted butter, which will enhance its color during cooking. If desired, toss fresh dried or chopped herbs in oil or butter before brushing them onto the bird, such as sage leaves, rosemary, thyme, poultry seasoning and / or herbs. Provence. Season the turkey with salt and freshly ground black pepper and it’s ready to roast.


Some methods say to put the turkey in the oven and cook it until done, without basting. Others suggest basing it occasionally with the cooking juices to keep the turkey moist and to enhance the color. However, if you water it too frequently, it can slow down the cooking time, as the oven temperature fluctuates every time you open the oven door.

I take an intermediate approach. I leave the roast turkey undisturbed until my first doneness check, which usually comes when the poultry is not fully cooked. Since I have to open the oven door to do this, it makes sense to baste the turkey afterwards for the reasons already mentioned. At this point, I will also rotate the rotisserie 180 degrees to make sure the turkey is browning evenly on both sides. When I check doneness again, if the turkey hasn’t quite reached the internal temperature shown in the next section, I will baste it again and roast it a little longer, until it is. completely cooked.

Roasting time

The suggested roasting times below for whole unstuffed and stuffed turkey are taken from the BC Turkey Farmers website, They are intended for cooking a whole turkey at an oven temperature of 325 F to 350 F (163 C to 177 C), using regular oven heat, not convection. My preference is 325 F. When you buy a whole turkey, you will notice that they are not all uniform in shape. Some may have thicker breasts, others thinner legs; different traits that can affect cooking time. That’s why I check the doneness about an hour before the recommended roast time ends to see how it goes. At this time, as stated above, I will also baste the bird with the cooking juices. According to the BC Turkey Farmers website, the turkey is done when the juice escaping is clear and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted deep into the inner thigh, without touching the bone, indicates 170 F (77 C) for an unstuffed turkey, and 180 F (82 C) for a stuffed turkey.

Roasting time for whole turkey

• 6-8 lb (2.7-3.5 kg), unstuffed, 2 1 / 2-2 3/4 hours, stuffed 3-3 1/2 hours

• 8 to 10 lbs (3.5 to 4.5 kg), unstuffed, 2 3/4 to 3 hours, stuffed 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours

• 10-12 lb (4.5-5.5 kg), unstuffed, 3-3 1/4 hours, stuffed 3 1 / 2-3 3/4 hours

• 12-16 lbs (5.5-7.25 kg), unstuffed, 3 1 / 4-3 1/2 hours, stuffed 3 3 / 4-4 hours

• 16-20 lbs (7.25-9.0 kg), unstuffed, 3 1 / 2-4 1/2 hours, stuffed 4-5 hours

• 20 to 25 lbs (9.0 to 11.25 kg), unstuffed, 4 1/2 to 5 hours, stuffed 5 to 6 hours

Once the turkey is cooked

After cooking, transfer the turkey to a large dish. If you stuffed it, remove the stuffing now and place it in a heatproof dish. If it is not hot, cook the stuffing until the center registers a temperature of 165 F (74 C) which kills bacteria on an instant-read thermometer. Tempt the turkey with foil and let stand for at least 15 minutes to set the juice before carving. The tented turkey will stay hot long enough.

To make about three and a half cups of the sauce, remove the fat from the cooking juices. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add three cups of turkey (or chicken) broth and bring to a boil. Place 1/2 cup turkey (or chicken) broth and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour this mixture into the mold. Whisk and simmer the sauce until thickened, about five minutes, then season with S&P. Increase the amounts of ingredients if you want more sauce than that.

To carve the turkey, using a sharp, fine carving knife, remove the thigh and wing from one side of the turkey and place them on a cutting board. Cut this leg into pieces of drumstick and thigh, then cut the meat into pieces. Cut the breast from the side of the turkey from which you removed the thigh by making thin vertical slices slightly inclined parallel to the breastbone. Arrange the meat on a second plate as you go. Repeat this process on the other side of the turkey, stopping when you think you have enough sliced ​​meat for your meal.


When the meal is finished, remove the remaining meat from the turkey carcass. According to several sources, this cooked turkey, any leftover sliced ​​turkey from the meal, and the turkey carcass, which you can use to make broth, can be wrapped and refrigerated for three to four days. It can also be frozen for three to four months. For tasty recipes that use leftover roast turkey meat and one for turkey broth, search Google for “Eric Akis Leftover Turkey Recipes” and you’ll discover a few.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His chronicles appear in the Life section on Wednesdays and Sundays.

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