Cooking a whole turkey can take 2 1/2 to 4 hours depending upon the size of the turkey and the cooking method used. Allow 1 pound of turkey per person. Buy your turkey only 1 to 2 days before it will be cooked. Keep it stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook it. Place the turkey on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may drip. If the turkey will not be cooked within 1-2 days it should be frozen. A frozen turkey will keep for one year at zero degrees. If the turkey if frozen, it will need to be thawed. Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator in the original package.
Allow 24 hours of thawing time for each five pounds of turkey. If the turkey is thawed in water, the water must be cool and changed every 30 minutes. Never thaw a turkey on a counter. To roast a whole turkey begin by removing the giblets and neck from the turkey. The giblets and neck can be boiled with seasoning and used to make gravy if desired. Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat it dry. Close the turkey with skewers and truss. Tie the ends of the legs together with kitchen twine. Tuck the wingtips under the turkey by lifting them up and over back.
Place the turkey on a roasting rack over a roasting pan. Brush with oil. Bake the turkey at 325 degrees F for 3 to 4 hours or according to the time given on the package based on the weight of the turkey. Check the turkey to determine if it is done by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The meat thermometer should register at least 165 degrees F. Even if the turkey has a pop-up timer, it should still be checked with a meat thermometer. Once the turkey is done, let it stand for about 20 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to set and make the bird easier to carve.
Cooking bags can also be used to cook at turkey. Because the turkey is sealed inside of the bag, the steam from that builds up inside the bag helps cook the bird more quickly. To prepare a turkey this way, choose a cooking bag large enough for the turkey. Follow the directions on the package for preparing the bag and placing the turkey in the bag. Depending upon the size, turkeys cooked this way can be done in as little as two hours.
Stuffing a turkey is not recommended. To keep stuffing safe, it is recommended that stuffing be cooked outside the bird in a baking dish. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the stuffing. Like the turkey. the stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
When stuffing a turkey, place the stuffing loosely in the cavity just before roasting. Cook the turkey immediately. To determine if the stuffing is done check the center to make sure it has reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.