Ok, the truth is that size really does matter when it comes to turkeys when you’re calculating how many people it will feed. Any bird under 16 pounds should be fine for 10 to 12 people but probably no leftovers (about a pound of turkey for each person precook weight) and you’ll be fine. Not to much, if any leftover but you should be fine. Over 16 pounds you can figure ½ to 3/4 lb per person and you’ll have leftovers. IF you’re going to have a BIG crowd. Go with two smaller birds rather than 1 large bird. Lots more dark meet options for everyone that way.
TYPES OF TURKEY:
Fresh: NEVER BEEN FROZEN, DUH
Frozen: Rock Solid, in the freezer. You should probably count on 2 days for it to defrost in the fridge before you can cook it.
Organic: A “certified” organic turkey has been raised with 100% organic feed, probably free range and never been given hormones or antibiotics.
Kosher: processed under rabbinical supervision. Kosher turkeys are, as per kosher requirements, soaked in a salt brine which in my opinion makes them the hands down winner in the taste department.
Marinated/Self-basting: These birds are either injected (under the skin) with or marinated in a concoction of oil/ broth and a variety of herbs and or spices.
Free-range: They live and eat outside of cages.
STUFFING OR DRESSING
Very simply, stuffing is a bread like mixture that is “stuffed into and cooked” inside a turkey or chicken. Dressing is the same “stuff” only cooked in a casserole dish. Cooking stuffing can be tricky as it add cooking time to the turkey and, if the temperature of the stuffing doesn’t reach at least 170 degrees you can run the risk of food poisoning. I prefer dressing as the typical bread, broth, vegetable and seasoning mixture always tastes better when it has a crunchy top and a custard like consistency inside. When you cook it in the bird it’s delicious but kind of mushy.
TO TIE OR NOT TO TIE: I never tie the turkey legs together. Doing so increases the density of the bird and the cooking time and you run the risk of dry white meat. Folding back the wings is also optional. Typicaly I just cover them with foil to prevent cooking too quickly.
TEMPERATURE: you can, start at 425° for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven to 325° for the remainder of the time need (saves anywhere for 30 to 45 minutes cook time) but I prefer 325 at 18 to 20 minutes per pound for the best results. If the legs or wings start to get too brown cover them with foil.
UPSIDE DOWN OR RIGHT SIDE UP
ALWAYS, start with the breast side down. This will allow the juices to flow into the breast and keep the white meat as moist as possible. Flip the turkey after about 1.5 hours to 2 hours or halfway thru the cook time.
TURKEY COOKING TIMES
10 to 12 lbs. approx. 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 18 lbs. approx. 3-1/2 to 4 hours
18 to 22 lbs. approx. 4 to 4-1/2 hours
22 to 25 lbs. approx. 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours
IS IT DONE?
To make sure your turkey is PERFECTLY cooked ( not overcooked or under, hello food poisoning) never rely on those red pop-up thingamajigs stuck haphazardly in the turkey. Trust me, it’s never accurate. Invest in an instant-read probe thermometer. Stick that gadget into the thickest part of the thigh, count slowly to 5 and check the temperature. The sweet spot you’re looking fore is 170. To be extra sure check both thighs.
WHEN TO CARVE
The turkey needs about 15 to 20 minutes rest time after you take it out of the over prior to carving it. The juices need time to settle into all the nooks and delicious crannies so that when you do carve it, every piece is a juicy, delicious part of your holiday menu.