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How to Shop for, Prep and Roast a Turkey

Let's talk turkey! Every Day with Rachael Ray answers your big questions before the big day about the big bird.
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roasted turkey with stuffing

What's the deal with all the different kinds of birds? Turkey is turkey, right?

Not quite. Here's a quick overview, but you can always ask your store's butcher for more.

Natural
No artificial ingredients or preservatives. Upside: Tastes more "turkeylike" than other turkeys. Downside: Usually less moist and tender than other types.
Basted or Self-Basting
Injected with a brothy solution to add moisture and taste. Upside: Juicy and flavorful. No need to brine. Downside: May contain additives and artificial flavors.
Kosher
Hand-salted, rinsed and double-inspected under rabbinical supervision. Upside: Well-seasoned and hand-processed birds. Downside: Only available frozen in many markets. A few feathers usually left to be plucked.
Heritage
The kind of turkey your grandparents ate: specially bred and raised. Upside: Richer, depper, fuller flavor than commercial turkeys. Dark-meat-lovers' dream. Downside: Expensive and in limited supply.

How much turkey do I buy?

Buy 1 pound of uncooked turkey per person, and add a little extra for leftovers. Want to just cook parts? To make four servings, cook one whole breast and one leg. To make eight servings, cooking one whole breast and two legs. To make twelve servings, cook two whole breasts and two legs or one whole breast and four legs.

 

How do I thaw the turkey?

Thaw a wrapped frozen turkey on a tray in your refrigerator, allowing five hours per pound; or submerge the wrapped bird in cold water for 30 minutes per pound, changing the water every half-hour.

 

What should I look for in a roasting pan?

We like the following features:

An Adjustable Rack
It can hold meats of all shapes and sizes. The best are made from nonstick materials.
A Manufacturer's Guarantee
Make sure they'll replace your pan if it warps or buckles.
Sturdy, Fixed Handles
It should be easy to grab with oven-mitted hands.
A Rectangular Shape
It fits inside your oven with 2 inches of clearance on all sides (to ensure good heat circulations). A 14- to 16-inch-long pan fits inside your roasting pan.
Manageable Weight
The roasting pan should be light enough to handle when it's loaded down with a 20-pound turkey.

 

How do I know when the turkey's done?

Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the inner thigh, then the inner wing, of a cooked bird, without touching bone. The temperature should be between 165°F and 170°F and will rise slightly as the turkey sits.

 

You've been great. But who can I ask for help?

You can direct all of your holiday turkey trimming questions to the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline (888-674-6853), Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline (800-745-4000) or Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (800-288-8372).

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