As with almost anything, there is more than one way to complete a task. Cooking a turkey is no exception. There are several methods that can be employed, depending on the time management and preference of the cook.
Prior to cooking the turkey, however, some planning is required. Figure out the maximum number of people who will be attending dinner, then allow 1 pound to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. For example, 10 people for dinner means buying a bird between 10 pounds and 15 pounds.
If a frozen turkey is being used, take care to get it unthawed in time. A common defrost method is the use of cold water. Submerge the entire still-wrapped bird in a sink full of cold water until it is thawed inside and outside. When it is no longer frozen, unwrap it, remove giblets, wash carefully, season to taste and place on a cookie sheet or in an uncovered roaster to get ready to bake.
The most common way to cook a turkey is probably the oven baste. At an oven temperature of 325 degrees, plan to cook the turkey 20 minutes per pound. That means your 10 pound turkey will take 3 hours and 20 minutes to bake. About every half hour, though, it will be necessary to baste the turkey. Using a turkey baster, collect the juices that have dripped in the pan and redistibute them over the skin of the turkey. This is done to help keep the turkey from getting dry. It is also easy to keep an eye on the turkey’s progress this way.
A more modern method of cooking a turkey requires a little more faith than the oven baste. The modern method suggests cooking the turkey one hour for every five pounds, although a 10 pound turkey may take closer to 2 1/2 hours to cook. A 15 pound turkey, though, will follow the rule and need to cook for about 3 hours. After the turkey has been cleaned and seasoned, place it in a roasting pan with a fitted lid. Cook it the first hour at 450 degrees. After the first 60 minutes are up, turn the heat down to 350 degrees for the remainder of the time. Don’t open the oven at any time during the cooking process. The idea is that the initial high heat will start the juices flowing rather quickly. There is no constant opening of the oven so the turkey will cook in its own juices and steam, leaving it more moist than the oven baste method does. The only problem with this method is that the turkey can become so moist, it might fall apart a little before carving.
No Fuss Method
The average slow cooker can hold a 10 pound turkey. Place the prepared turkey in the slow cooker with about 1/2 cup of water. Turn the slow cooker on low overnight. The turkey will be done in the morning. If the slow cooker lid doesn’t fit perfectly at first, no problem. As it cooks it will shrink some, so the lid will settle on after a couple of hours.
Most turkeys have a red and white plastic “pop-up” indicator. Prior to cooking, make sure the indicator is as flat as possible against the turkey’s skin. As the meat cooks, it will gradually push the indicator out of the skin. It shouldn’t fall out but when the turkey is done, it will no longer be flat against the turkey. This, too, will help you determine when the turkey is ready. For more information about safely cooking poultry, visit Food Safety And Inspection Service.