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Preparing the Perfect Turkey


Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey is a big responsibility and can feel very intimidating, especially if the task has been relegated to you for the first time. But freshman turkey makers fear not: there are plenty of tips and tricks to avoiding any disaster that might occur.


How much turkey should I buy?
This will obviously depend on the number of guests you are expecting, but a safe estimate is to account for about one pound of turkey per guest.

When should I take it out to thaw?
Depending on the size of your turkey, you may need to begin the thawing process anywhere from two to five days before serving, but a good rule of thumb is to allow for 24 hours per 4 pounds of turkey.

If you’re brining the turkey, allow it to sit in the brine in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before cooking.

What’s the first step in the preparation process?
Once the turkey is fully thawed, remove the bag of gizzards and organs from the inside, and thoroughly wash the inside and outside of the turkey with water. Pat the turkey dry, then cross the legs and tie them together with kitchen string.

How long does the turkey need to cook?
This will also depend on the size of the bird. Follow along with these time estimates based on the size of your turkey and your oven set to 350°F:

  • 9-11 pounds: 2.5 hours
  • 12-14 pounds: 3 hours
  • 15-17 pounds: 3.5 hours
  • 18-20 pounds: 4 hours

Tip: Baste the turkey with its own juices every 30 minutes as it’s baking. When the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F, remove from the oven.


Don’t forget to download this printable turkey prep cheat sheet to perfect your Thanksgiving supper.

For more Thanksgiving dinner ideas, including the perfect brine recipe for your turkey, visit www.americanlifestylemag.com/holidays.