How To Calculate Cooking Time For A Turkey

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If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year and need to figure out how long to leave your turkey in the oven, here’s a handy guide for calculating cooking times.

Turkey has become a very popular meat from a family roast and not just at Christmas and Thanksgiving; the meat is low in fat, always tender and exceptionally delicious and it is a very reasonably priced alternative to a joint of red meat.

However when it comes to cooking the turkey many people worry that they are cooking it sufficiently. While undercooking the bird can be dangerous, over cooked turkey is dry and tasteless; so just what is the best method of calculating the cooking time for your turkey?

There are actually several things that need to be taken into account when calculating this cooking time; obviously the weight of the turkey but also, the moisture content of the bird, the temperature of the turkey when you place it in the oven and loss of heat caused by opening the oven door all contribute to the time it will take; also you need to work out just how long the bird needs to rest after cooking.

When you purchase the turkey always remove the giblets and place the uncovered turkey on a deep plate (to hold any juices which may escape) in the lowest part of the refrigerator. Ensure that you know the correct weight of the bird so that you can make an accurate calculation of how long it will take to cook.

However, if you are to cook the turkey stuffed, you should weigh the bird after stuffing. The British Turkey Industry recommend birds weighing less than 4kg should be cooked for 20 minutes per kilogram and then have a further 70 minutes cooking time at the end; whereas birds weighing more than 4 kg should be cooked for 20 minutes per kilogram and then have a further 90 minutes cooking time added on at the end.

It is far better to use a fresh bird than a frozen one as it contains less added water, however if you are using a frozen bird make sure that you allow plenty of time for it to defrost slowly and completely.

To roast the bird perfectly, cover the breast with strips of bacon or brush the skin with butter then cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Before cooking the oven should be preheated to 190°C (180°C for fan assisted ovens), 375°F or Gas Mark 5. Following the guidelines above for the weight of your bird and cook in the center of the oven, removing the foil for the last 40 minutes of cooking time so that you get a nice golden brown finish to the bird.

As all ovens can vary in heat, don’t rely on these times alone; always test to ensure that the bird is thoroughly cooked by piercing the thickest part of the leg with a skewer or pointed knife and check the juices that run out, if they are clear the turkey is done but if they are still pink the bird needs more cooking.

Preferably use a meat thermometer to test internal temperature of 180 °F, the meat should be white, not pink, and the juices should run clear. Always allow the turkey to stand for 15-20 minutes in a warm place before carving. Remember that you should never eat undercooked or raw turkey, and it is especially important that after you have handled, prepared or cut raw turkey that you thoroughly wash your hands, utensils and chopping board or working surface as soon as possible.

Following these instructions should ensure that you have a perfectly cooked, safe and tasty turkey.