How to Cook A Thanksgiving Turkey
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Cooking Turkey

How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey Frequently Asked Questions
  1. I have read where slow-cooking a turkey can be dangerous. Is this true?
    This isn't a frequently asked question, once actually on 11/16/06, but it's a good one. I researched it on the Internet and saw that some slow-roasting methods use temperatures as low as 190° to 200°. The method I've been using slow cooks the turkey at 250°. I did some further research and found that the USDA recommends that poultry not be cooked below 325°. So the method is somewhere in the middle. The concern is that if the turkey cooks too slowly there is an opportunity for toxins to develop in the turkey before it has had a chance to heat to the proper temperature. It follows then that the larger the turkey the greater the risk.
    I found another website that recommended not slow-cooking a turkey even if you have done so successfully many times before. Again they were talking about slow-cooking at the very low temperatures, not at 250°. I suppose that's possible because you really don't know the history of your turkey. If it was mishandled in processing there could be a pre existing problem that I suppose could become a big problem in the slow-cooking process.
    Although none of these websites address the method I've been using to cook a turkey which is at a higher temperature, and although I or any of the thousands of people using this method has ever had a problem cooking any size turkey using this method in the past, I never-the-less now recommend that you use this method for smaller birds...20 lbs. or less...just in case. It doesn't matter how great the turkey gets if there's even the slightest chance of a problem. It also follows from what I've shown above that the smaller the turkey the safer this method really is if the problem really exists at all.
  2. I have a convection oven. Will this affect my cooking time?
    I never roasted a turkey using a convection oven so I'm not sure. But as I understand it a convection oven simply more evenly distributes the heat. I tend to think that it would not affect the cooking times especially if the turkey is covered. Note: I would be great if someone who used this method in a convection oven would report back to me with the results. I will post the information on the website so everyone will know what to do. Until I have a definite answer you might just want to keep an eye on the meat thermometer to see if it's done sooner.

    Update...11/27/08: I got feedback that using a convection oven does reduce the preparation time. This person suggested that the preparation time worked out to be about 15 minutes per lb. instead of 20 minutes per lb. Since there are so many variables involved I would suggest that you use this result as a guideline and check the turkey after the time calculated using the 15 minute/lb. calculation but be prepared to roast it longer if necessary. Be sure to use a quality meat thermometer. Interior breast meat should be 170°F and 180°F for thigh meat.
  3. You mention cooking the turkey in a covered roasting pan but show pictures roasting the turkey uncovered. Which way is correct?
    I recommend keeping the turkey covered because I personally prefer when the skin does not become too crisp. As the prior statement implies, cooking the turkey uncovered will make the skin more crisp.
  4. The turkey is too large to fit in my roasting pan to allow me to cover it with the lid. Can I use aluminum foil to cover the turkey?
    Yes. But make absolutely sure the shiney side faces inward and the dull side faces outward.
    If you get this wrong your cooking times will wrong and the turkey will not get done on schedule.
  5. Some recipes recommend covering the turkey with aluminum foil. If I did this, would it affect the cooking time?
    I think it would affect the cooking time. It's not necessary when you use a slow cook method for cooking turkey. So I don't recommend it. There are enough variables that I worry about when I recommend a method for cooking turkey. Has the person fully thawed the turkey. Is the temperature accurate in the oven used to cook the turkey. The fewer the variables the better I sleep. I want everyone's Thanksgiving to be perfect.
  6. What about stuffing? It's not mentioned. Does this affect cooking time?
    I absolutely do not recommend that you stuff the turkey. There are huge health considerations when you cook a stuffed turkey. I stopped stuffing my turkeys years ago when the problems came to light. The cooking times on the website are for turkeys that are not stuffed only.
  7. I don't have a big roasting pan. Will this method work if I use a disposable aluminum pan?
    I have never used a disposable aluminum pan. But some of my website visitors have reported that they used them and everything was fine.
  8. Does a roasting bag affect the cooking time?

    I never used a bag. But the following feedback was received from a person who did and it significantly reduced the cooking time. I don;t have any precise times to offer you. Here is the person's comment...
    "I used your method last night, which is GREAT btw, however after the first 20 minutes I put the turkey in a bag. I set the timer and I have a digital meat thermometer and I was suprised to hear it go off nearly an hour before the timer was supposed to go off. I also have an oven thermometer and made sure it stayed at the correct temp the whole time so I would imagine using alluminum foil as some people have asked would reduce cooking time since the bag GREATLY reduced it. We were able to cook a 13 lb turkey on a weeknight and still get some sleep! It was done through and through and juicy as can be. Eating some of the breast right now and the rosemary really improved the flavor. Thanks again!" Dylan H., 12/9/08
Copyright 2014 How to Cook a Thanksgiving - Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Turkey