Whether this is your first, tenth or hundredth holiday dinner, here are our top 10 tips for your Thanksgiving turkey:
1. Plan ahead if you’re cooking a frozen turkey. The safest way to thaw a bird is in the fridge; count on about five hours per pound for it to fully defrost (so a 20-pounder will take four days).
2. For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Both low-heat and high-heat roasting have their merits. At 325 degrees F, the classic method, figure on 15 to 18 minutes per pound for smaller birds or 12 to 15 minutes per pound for larger. At 450 degrees F, with the turkey split so that it lies flat, you can speed roasting to a mere eight minutes per pound. Either way, always rely on your meat thermometer to determine doneness (see tip number 8).
4. Turkeys cook more evenly if they're not packed full of stuffing. A loose handful of aromatics (carrots, celery, onions and garlic) or fresh herbs adds flavor without leading to a dry bird. Cook the stuffing in a dish on the side, moistened generously with stock.
5. Trussing your turkey makes it look professional and pretty, but for even cooking, leave it untrussed. And hey, it's one less thing for you to do.
6. Scatter roughly chopped chunks of onions, carrots, celery and garlic on the bottom of your roasting pan before arranging the turkey on top. They'll add tons of flavor to your drippings (and thus to your gravy).
7. Once the turkey goes in the oven, don't open the door too often. Every time you do, the heat drops precipitously, so it'll raise both the cook time as well as the odds of a dry bird.
8. Remove the turkey from the oven when the thickest spot between the leg and the breast reads 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. If you stuffed your bird, the stuffing should also read 165.
9. Once your bird is done, tent it loosely with foil and let it rest about half an hour before carving. If you need more time to prep gravy and sides, you can let it rest for up to an hour without losing too much heat.
10. Carve your turkey with as sharp a knife as possible. Take the legs and wings off first (go straight through the joint) and you’ll have more room to maneuver when you get to the breast.
Browse our best turkey recipes to find the perfect bird for your Thanksgiving feast.