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How to cook turkey - recipes for Thanksgiving: time, temperature in oven, seasoning...

On Thursday, millions of Americans will be tucking into the traditional Thanksgiving dinner of roast turkey with stuffing. Here’s how to cook it.

How to cook turkey - recipes for Thanksgiving: time, temperature in oven, seasoning...
FREDERIC J. BROWN AFP

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States on Thursday and as part of the celebrations, millions of Americans will be sitting down with their families for the traditional dinner of roast turkey and vegetables – a meal which 90% of the population eat every year on the fourth Thursday of November. The main course, roast turkey, is usually served with side dishes of vegetable including mashed potatoes, carrots, sprouts or parsnips along with dressings which normally means roast sage and onion stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Cooking a large turkey takes time and involves a certain amount of preparation – particularly if you need to defrost your turkey. If your turkey is frozen, it will need to be defrosted well in advance – thawing it can take several days. Frozen turkey must be thawed slowly – either inside the refrigerator or in fresh, cold water. As a rule, every five pounds of frozen turkey will take 24 hours to defrost inside the fridge or 30 minutes per pound in fresh, cold water. So if your frozen turkey weighs 20 pounds, it will take 4-5 days to thaw inside the fridge or 10-11 hours if placed in cold water outside of the fridge. Note that, if you are using the cold water method of defrosting your turkey, the water MUST BE CHANGED EVERY 30 MINUTES.

How to roast your Thanksgiving turkey

Roast turkey can be a little dry so to ensure it is succulent, you might want to dry-brine it beforehand – this involves rubbing salt into the skin and leaving it to draw out moisture overnight. You may also want to baste the turkey as it cooks with a mixture of cooked bacon rashers and butter which can be spooned over the bird while it roasts in the oven.

When your turkey is completely defrosted, dry-brined and ready to cook, remove any giblets or innards inside the bird and make sure there is no ice inside. Before it goes in the oven, the turkey must be at room temperature. Take it out of the fridge at least one hour before you are ready to put it into the oven, making sure you keep it on a tray and covered with a cloth. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan or gas mark 4.

Smear the butter baste mixture all over the turkey and season with salt, pepper and maybe some herbs such as thyme, rosemary or oregano. It is advised not to put stuffing inside the turkey as this will slow down the cooking process. Stuffing is best cooked separately. Place the turkey, breast-side up on a roasting tin and roast inside the oven. A 20-pound turkey will take 4-5 hours to cook. When thoroughly cooked, the internal temperature of your turkey should reach 70°C. You can check the temperature of the meat with a digital cooking thermometer or by piercing the skin of the underside with a spoon – if there are traces of blood in the juices, pop it back into the oven, the juices should be clear and golden. Your cooked turkey will need to rest for 30-45 minutes before carving to serve. Enjoy!