By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Succulent turkey is the perfect lean protein, filled with B vitamins, selenium and zinc. Is turkey on your holiday menu? These great tips will help you cook it perfectly.
If you’re buying a whole bird, you’ll need 1 pound of turkey per person. Serving 8 guests? Buy an 8-pound bird — or 10 pounds if you want leftovers. For time-saving convenience, you can also purchase cut turkey pieces (breast, thigh or leg), which are quicker to cook.
Fresh whole birds should be refrigerated and generally cooked within 2 days of purchase. Defrost your frozen turkey in the fridge for about 5 hours per pound of turkey. Example: An 8-pound bird needs nearly 2 days to defrost; plan accordingly. Do not defrost poultry or meats on the countertop, since bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature.
To enhance flavor, butter your bird, and then add salt and pepper. You may choose to add herbs or citrus zest, too. One thing not to add? Stuffing. For food safety, cook stuffing separately, not inside the turkey. If it is a family tradition and you must stuff your turkey, ensure the stuffing reaches 165°F before you eat it.
Cook your turkey at 325°F and calculate 20 minutes per pound. That’s almost 3 hours for an 8-pound bird. You’ll know it’s done when a food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat reads 165°F.
Enjoy your turkey for dinner, and then serve leftovers in lasagna, sandwiches or soup or on nachos.