Talkin’ Turkey and How To’s

April 7, 2012Katie

Thanksgiving Turkey

By now, you have probably bought your frozen turkey.  Or if you’re really cool, you’ve bought a fresh one or will be picking one up in the next day or two.

Here are a few FAQ’s about making your bird if you are facing this task for the first time.

THAWING THE TURKEY – place your turkey in a shallow pan (to catch any liquid) and place it in your refrigerator on the bottom shelf if possible.  Allow one day (24 hours) for each 4-5 pounds of turkey.  If you’re too late already for this step and need a jump start – place your bird completely submerged into a sink or a cooler full of cold water. Completely submerged means the entire thing has to be covered in water…the entire thing.  Mucho important!

Change the water about every half hour.  It will take 30 minutes to thaw one pound of turkey this way so you do the math – a 12 pound turkey will take 6 hours this way.

If you do have time, thaw it easily in the refrigerator.  Using the 4 lb./24 hour method, that same 12 pound turkey would take 3 days to thaw.

Below is a suggestive time table for you on thawing in the refrigerator.

Refrigerator Thawing Times

(Whole turkey)

  • 8 to 12 pounds……….1 to 2 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds……….2 to 3 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds……….3 to 4 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds……….4 to 5 days

Here are some suggested times for cold water thawing:

Cold Water Thawing Times

  • 8 to 12 pounds………..4 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds………..6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds………8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds…….10 to 12 hours

ROASTING THE TURKEY – These are instructions for using a shallow roasting pan in a 325º oven.  I like that temperature due to the fact that all of my other dishes pretty much need to be cooked at that temperature (or around 350º).

I don’t have stuffing instructions,  as I prefer my stuffing to get toasted on top and not be soggy, so I can’t give a lot of advice on stuffing, but I do know that it needs to be 185º to be safe when cooked properly. Use a meat thermometer and push it as far as you can into the stuffing in the middle to take a proper temperature.

Do NOT rely on the red pop-up timer in the turkey.  Invest in a cheap meat thermometer and stick it into the thigh (185º) or the middle of the breast (165º). Make sure you don’t hit a bone, as it will give you an improper (and hotter) reading.

Here are a few timetables to help you out easily:


4 to 8 pounds (breast)

1½ to 3¼ hours

8 to 12 pounds

2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds

3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4½ to 5 hours


4 to 6 pounds (breast)

Not usually applicable

6 to 8 pounds (breast)

2½ to 3½ hours

8 to 12 pounds

3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds

3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds

4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4¾ hours


There are a million ways to cook a turkey.  I’ve seen some ridiculous recipes and some really yummy sounding ones.  At our house, we keep it pretty simple.  We chop up 2-3 tablespoons of rosemary and sage out of our garden (or if our herb garden has frozen, we halve that amount and use dried).  We dump that into about a cup of olive oil, sprinkle in some salt and pepper and garlic powder.  Then we mix it up and brush it all over our bird.  We then baste it about every hour and … it’s delicious, simple and lovely.

Want to try a turkey breast for a smaller gathering? Here is a delicious recipe we love –Butter Herb Roasted Turkey Breast.

AND, if you’re feeling adventurous, here is a dry brine method that is WONDERFUL.

Incidentally, that picture up top is our turkey from last year…I think it was gorgeous.

I hope your turkey turns out wonderfully delicious this Thanksgiving…and one last pointer, especially if you’re a turkey virgin this thanksgiving…

Look inside the body cavity and remove the bag of stuff in there…my first Thanksgiving, I had no idea about that…until we smelled burned paper…

Memories …it’s what makes you smile years later!

Tell me about your favorite way to cook turkey? Do you fry it or roast it? Do you make a giant bird or just a simple turkey breast? Do you hate turkey? Did you do something silly like I did your first year?  Leave a comment below!

Don't be afraid to comment! I LOVE to hear from my readers!

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