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Turkey FAQs

Article by: Allrecipes staff  |  Picture by: chibi chef
Turkey FAQs
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All of your turkey queries are answered here, with our concise guide to frequently asked questions on preparing, cooking and storing turkey.

How do I roast a turkey?

First remove the giblets from the fresh or thawed turkey. Next, rinse the turkey inside and out, then pat dry with kitchen paper. If you are stuffing the turkey, do so now with a freshly prepared stuffing. Stuff loosely, allowing approximately 100 to 175g per 450g of turkey.

Brush the skin with melted butter or oil. Tuck the drumsticks under the folds of skin or tie together with kitchen string. Lastly, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, but should not touch the bone. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting tin, and into a preheated 180 C / Gas 4 oven.

Check out our Roast turkey recipe collection for loads of fail-safe recipes, and see our Cooking turkey article for more tips.

How large a turkey should I get?

Turkeys are available fresh or frozen, in sizes ranging from a diminutive 2kg to a whopping 10kg. Count on 300-600g of turkey for each guest, depending whether you want plenty of leftovers or just a few. (If you have lots of guests to feed, you may choose to buy two medium-sized turkeys rather than one giant; the cooking time will be shorter.)

How do I thaw my turkey?

The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Allow one day for every 2.25kg of turkey. A quicker way is to thaw the turkey in a cold water bath. This will take about 30 minutes per 450g. The water should be running from the tap, or changed frequently to prevent freezing. You may also use a combination of these methods. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.

Can I roast my turkey the day before and reheat it?

Never partially roast a turkey the day before to save on cooking time the next day. This creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth that can result in food poisoning. That said, you can carve the bird, and layer the meat in a baking dish for re-heating. You can reduce the moisture loss by sealing the baking dish with foil. The breast meat will have a greater likelihood of drying out, so you should place it on the bottom of the dish, and consider covering it with gravy, or perhaps a small amount of turkey stock.

Can I stuff the turkey the night before?

You should never stuff a bird hours before roasting, as the cavity can provide an environment for bacteria to grow. When cooking stuffing in a turkey, it is always best to prepare it just before filling and roasting the bird. The stuffing should be warm when placed in the turkey so it cooks and reaches 74 degrees C by the time the turkey is done. Stuffing should always reach a temperature of at least 74 degrees C to kill bacteria. This temperature can be measured by placing a meat thermometer into the centre of the body cavity.

If the turkey is finished cooking before the stuffing has reached the correct temperature scoop it out, and place it in a greased baking dish. Microwave it on high or bake it at 180 C / Gas 4 until it reaches 74 degrees C.

How do I freeze cooked turkey meat?

Cooked turkey will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but freezing is always a great option if you've loads of leftovers.

Turkey that is sealed airtight in cling film or a freezer bag can be frozen for up to four months. Freezing turkey with gravy will help it retain moisture. Thaw frozen turkey overnight in the fridge, or use the defrost setting on your microwave. When thawing foods in the microwave, they should be cooked immediately afterwards. When re-heating turkey meat, be sure to heat it to an internal temperature of 70 degrees C.

If you don't use them straightaway, consider freezing the turkey bones and carcass separately and using them later to make delicious turkey stock for soups and stews.

How do I smoke a turkey?

Smoking a turkey is very easy provided you have the right equipment. The right equipment, in this case, is a smoker. Smokers allow you to carefully regulate the temperature, which is vital when cooking a large turkey over a long period of time. It's possible to smoke a turkey using a charcoal barbecue, but only if you're prepared to get cosy next to the barbecue and watch it constantly for the better part of a day!

How do I make turkey gravy?

Start with equal amounts of flour and a fat such as butter, turkey dripping or other meat drippings. This is known as a roux. Mix them into a paste over medium heat, then gradually introduce turkey or chicken stock, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened, while stirring continually to prevent lumps from forming on the bottom of the pan. As a general guideline, 8 tablespoons of roux will thicken 1 litre of liquid. Check out our how to make turkey gravy guide for more.

See our Turkey recipe collection for loads of delicious turkey recipes.
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