Turkey Cheat Sheet

Bookmark this page: It's everything you need to know about the big bird.

Buying

  • Plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds turkey per person.
  • Buy a fresh or frozen bird: Choose from self-basting, natural, free-range, kosher or organic.

Thawing

  • Set an unwrapped frozen turkey on a rimmed baking sheet and thaw in the fridge; allow 24 hours per 5 pounds.
  • To thaw the same day, submerge the wrapped bird in a cooler of cold water for 30 minutes per pound, changing the water every 30 minutes.

Brining

  • Use 3/4 cup kosher salt for every gallon of water needed to cover the bird. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for at least 8 hours.
  • Flavor the brine with 1 to 2 cups juice, beer or spirits, if desired. You can also add herbs and spices.
  • Don't brine kosher or self-basting turkeys.

Prepping

  • If you brined your turkey, rinse it inside and out with cold water. Remove the giblets and neck.
  • Set the bird breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan and pat the skin dry with paper towels. For extra-crisp skin, refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, overnight.
  • Tie the legs together with twine, tuck in the wings and let the turkey stand for 30 minutes atroom temperature before roasting.

Roasting

  • Plan on about 20 minutes per pound. Tent with foil if the skin gets too brown.
  • Check for doneness with a meat thermometer: The thigh meat and stuffing (if used) should register 165 degrees F.
  • Let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Carving

  • Slice through the skin between the leg and body on one side; pull the leg away from the body, then cut through the joint to remove the leg.
  • Separate the drumstick from the thigh: Locate the joint in the middle of the leg and cut through it.
  • Working on the same side, pull the wing away from the body and cut through the joint to remove. Remove the leg and wing on the other side.
  • Remove each side of breast meat by slicing downward along the breastbone, following the curve of the ribs.
  • Place each breast on the board skin-side up and slice against the grain.

Photographs by Anita Calero (top); Steve Giralt (5 bottom)