JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We are answering some of the most common turkey questions to help you have a smooth Thanksgiving holiday.
Picking a size
First off, if you don’t have your bird, you need to buy it right away because Butterball recommends thawing frozen birds a week before Thanksgiving.
If you’re not sure what size turkey to pick up, Butterball suggests 2 pounds per adult and one pound per child.
Butterball has a portion calculator that can make figuring out the right size of your bird even easier. It includes factoring in leftovers if you want them, “light” eaters and even the amount of stuffing you will need.
A 16- to 20-pound bird needs four to five days in the refrigerator to fully thaw. But if you’re having a smaller crowd, an 8- to 12-pound turkey can go into the fridge on Monday.
You essentially need to account for one day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.
But it doesn’t hurt to get ahead. A fully thawed turkey can stay in the refrigerator safely for up to four days before cooking.
It’s best to thaw your turkey breast side down and put it in a pan to catch the juices.
Making it juicy
One of the most common questions every year is how to keep the turkey from drying out.
It starts with picking the right turkey. You want to make sure the packaging does not have any tears or holes.
How you thaw it can also play a big role. It should be thawed either in the refrigerator or in cold water. It is not safe to microwave a whole turkey.
Once it’s thawed, brine it. You can incorporate more spices and liquids, but salt water is the most basic type of brine. That makes your bird more tender and lets it absorb more liquid.
And don’t go too high with your oven temperature. Butterball recommends roasting at 325 degrees.
Making it crispy
How do you get the skin to crisp up nicely? Make sure you pat it completely dry after brining. Then, rub the skin with fat -- either oil or butter.
Some chefs recommend oil for crispier skin because butter technically has water in it.
Knowing it’s cooked
Finally, you do not want an uncooked bird to ruin your meal, so how do you know if your bird is fully cooked?
There are a ton of old wives’ tales about how to know, but the only way to be sure is to check the temperature with a meat thermometer.
You’ll want it to read 180 degrees near the thigh bone, 170 degrees in the breast or 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing.