How big of a turkey do you buy? The general rule of thumb when buying a turkey is 1 pound per person or 1.5 pounds per person to ensure leftovers and a safety net in case your friend texts you the morning of to ask if her brother and his three friends can come too.
4-6 people > 6-10 pounds
8-10 people > 12-16 pounds
12-14 people > 18-21 pounds
For larger groups, consider getting two smaller turkeys instead of roasting one giant one. We know you want to boast about the mammoth size turkey you scored, but here are a few reasons to go the multiple route:
1. The two smaller turkeys will fit better into your refrigerator/oven.
2. The smaller birds will cook more evenly so you don’t run the risk of serving undercooked turkey on the inside and burnt crispy skin on the outside.
3. You can experiment with two different flavoring techniques.
So you have your turkey, now what? You have a few options. You can soak your turkey in a wet brine or try a dry-rub. Brining will give you an extremely moist and flavorful turkey. You can buy a pre-made brine or make your own (recipe below).
If you go the dry-rub route, combine kosher salt with herbs and seasonings – such as thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and oregano – rub it all over the bird, including the cavity. The salt will draw out the juices that will then get reabsorbed during cooking.
For both versions – let the turkey sit in a brining bag for at least twenty-four hours with either the dry rub or the wet brine. To save space in the refrigerator, let the bird chill with its flavoring ingredients in a cooler.
Now you’ve got to prep your bird. Make sure to pat the turkey completely dry before trussing or putting in the oven. Truss the bird with cooking twine. Cooking twine can be purchased at your local home store or at some grocery stores. Purchase online here. Trussing will help it cook more evenly and give you a better-looking presentation. Rub the turkey generously with butter, olive oil, or coconut oil. This will help the skin become brown evenly and gives extra flavor.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. This low temperature will cook the turkey more slowly but will give you juicier meat. Place your turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a good roasting pan. We know the cheap ones are tempting but they might cause your drippings to burn, making them hard to use for delicious gravy. After one hour, flip your turkey so it’s breast side up. Letting your bird cook breast-side down for a little bit of time will help the juices flow to the breasts, which tend to dry out more quickly.
6-10 pounds > 2 to 2 3/4 hours
12-16 pounds > 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 hours
18-20 pounds > 4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-26 pounds > 4/12 to 5 hours
To help prevent your turkey from getting too browned, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
*Cooking times are based on the 13 minute/lb rule of thumb. Cooking times are estimated for an un-stuffed turkey. Start checking your turkey about 45 minutes before the estimated time to ensure you do not over-cook it.
Make sure your turkey is done. Don’t risk guessing, get a meat thermometer. The breast should be 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit, while the thighs should be 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat will continue cooking for a few minutes even after you take it out of the oven so try to take it out when it registers 4 degrees below the required temperature.
Let it rest! Don’t carve into your turkey right away or all those flavorful juices will just run out onto the carving board and you will be left with dry meat. Cover the turkey loosely with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
Good luck potato-heads!
*Homemade Turkey Brine
6 quarts Water, cold
1 1/3 cups Kosher Salt
4-6 whole Bay Leaves
5-6 sprigs fresh Thyme, crushed
3-4 sprigs fresh Rosemary
4 cloves Garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons Whole Black Peppercorns
1 tablespoon Whole Juniper Berries, dried
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1 whole Clove
Bring 1 quart water and all ingredients to a simmer just until salt dissolves. Let steep until cool.
Place the turkey in a double-lined brining bag. Pour in the brining solution along with 5 remaining quarts of water. Seal the bag a refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping once. Pat dry once done brining and before cooking.