Two of the biggest questions on the minds of turkey cookers everywhere are:
- How long do I could the darn thing?
- And stuff, or not to stuff?
You have questions. I have answers …
How long should I cook my turkey?
This is where I have to give an obligatory speech about how important it is to cook the life out of your turkey so there’s no risk of killing your guests via nasty salmonella or other unsavory critters. Most sources recommend cooking to an internal temperature of 170, but I have a few caveats to add.
First, any bacteria that may have set up shop in your turkey kicks the bucket at lower temperatures, in the 140 degree range. What’s more: Even if you remove your turkey at 170, it’s going to keep cooking inside for a bit, to a higher temperature that will dry the poor thing out even more.
So definitely take it out the oven before it hits 170, and ideally even 10-15 degrees sooner.
How do you know when that is? Inserting a good ol’ meat thermometer into the thickest part of the bird gives you the best reading. Many turkeys also come with automatic pop-up timers these days. They’re convenient, sure, but also don’t pop until you’re past the 170 mark. Meaning they’ll keep cooking after that. And be dry as chalk.
But the “recommended” rule of thumb is this: Roast for 12-15 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature hits, ahem, 165-175 degrees – or, if you want tasty turkey, a little less.
To stuff or not to stuff?
Here again, food safety experts caution against stuffing your bird. A mass of stuffing inside draws heat away from the turkey itself, increasing the risk that your meat won’t cook to a safe temperature.
That could definitely happen. So I also recommend against stuffing the turkey, not just for safety reasons but also quality, too.
All of that bread inside can not only suck up your heat, but also soak up all of the turkey’s natural juices. That may make for mighty moist stuffing, but not tasty turkey.