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How to Roast The Perfect Turkey for the Holidays

Turkey and all the trimmings are the traditional choices for both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the majority of American homes. 

Whether you try a new recipe or use a traditional turkey recipe, the questions frequently asked are:

  •  “How should I roast the turkey? ” 
  • “Should the turkey be covered with foil? ” 
  • “What is the correct temperature to roast a turkey? ” 
  • “Should I use a cooking bag? ” 

The National Turkey Federation recommends turkey be roasted by the Open Pan method in a preheated 325 degree F oven until the internal temperature, as registered on a meat thermometer, reaches 180 degrees F in the thigh or 170 degrees F in the breast. Sherrie Rosenblatt, director of public relations for NTF says, “The open pan dry heat cooking method is the easiest and most reliable of all cooking methods and results in a juicy, tender, flavorful golden brown turkey.” 

In addition the National Turkey Federation makes the following recommendations when cooking turkey:

  1. Do not roast the turkey in a oven temperature lower than 325 degrees F Poultry should be roasted at 325 degrees F or higher to avoid potential food safety problems.
  2. Do not roast the turkey in a brown paper grocery bag. Present day grocery bags may be made of recycled materials and are not considered safe for food preparation.
  3. Do use a meat thermometer to determine the correct degree of doneness.

The following chart highlights the qualities of the finished turkey produced by various cooking methods.

 Heat MethodOven TemperatureAppearanceFlavor ResultsSuitable for Stuffing
Open Pan Conventional OvenDry heat method 325 degrees F results in minimum bird shrinkage and oven clean-up Golden brown color; crisp skin; juicyFull roasted flavor; pan drippings are most concentrated to produce a great gravy; tenderYes
Wrapped in Foil High TemperatureMoist heat method with turkey enclosed in foil 450 degrees F May have bare bones on drumsticks; split skin; uneven browning; foil must be opened to produce a golden brown colorMay have stewed or steamed flavor; a dry texture is possibleNo
Oven Cooking BagMoist heat method with turkey enclosed in the cooking bag 350 degrees F May have bare bones on drumsticks; split skin; uneven color and browning; skin may be torn if it sticks to the bagMay have stewed or steamed flavor; a dry texture is possibleYes
Charcoal Covered GrillDry heat method Try to maintain temperature between 325-350 degrees F Varies with outside temperature, humidity and briquettes; extra briquettes must be added each hour. Red-brown skin color; crisp skin; the charcoal combustion may result in a rosy band of meat just under the skin and slightly pink meat.Mild to moderate smoky flavor; tenderNo

Source: The National Turkey Federation

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