Here are turkey safety tips and recommendations from the Free Press Test Kitchen and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Before you start cooking:
Thaw the turkey, if frozen. If you haven’t yet taken it out of the freezer, do it today.
Thaw it in its original package on a tray.
Allow almost 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. A 12- to 16-pound turkey will take 3 to 4 days to thaw in the refrigerator.
If you forget to thaw your turkey in advance, place it in a sink in its original wrapper and fill the sink with cold water. Change water every 30 minutes. A 12- to 16-pound turkey will take 6 to 8 hours.
The USDA does not recommend rinsing or washing your turkey first, which is a step in many recipes. Why? The splashing water can contaminate nearby foods and utensils.
Several years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered the safe cooking temperature for the overall turkey to 165 degrees.
Invest in an instant-read thermometer. Make sure the thermometer you have is working properly. You can buy thermometers at grocery stores, hardware stores, warehouse clubs, kitchen supply stores and retailers that have kitchen tools. They start at $5.
ROASTING YOUR TURKEY
To roast your turkey, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan. Below are the USDA’s recommended roasting times for a stuffed or unstuffed turkey.
It’s important to note, that stuffing a turkey isn’t generally recommended because the center of the stuffing may not reach a safe temperature.
Approximate hours of roasting time needed for a whole turkey:
8 to 12 lb. turkey: 2.75 to 3 hours, unstuffed; 3 to 3.75 hours, stuffed
12 to 14 lb.: 3 to 3.75 hours, unstuffed; 3.75 to 4 hours, stuffed
14 to 18 lb.: 3.75 to 4.25 hours, unstuffed; 4 to 4.25 hours, stuffed
18 to 20 lb.: 4.25 to 4.75 hours, unstuffed; 4.25 to 4.75 hours, stuffed
20 to 24 lb.: 4.75 to 5 hours, unstuffed; 4.75 to 5.25 hours, stuffed
Serving size guidelines
Here are amounts to consider per person when you planning your meal:
Turkey: 1 pound per person or 1.75 pounds per person if you want generous leftovers.
For 12 people, you will need either a 12- or 18-pound turkey.
Stuffing (or dressing): 0.5 to 0.75 cup per person. A 1-pound loaf of bread will yield 10 to 12 cups of bread cubes. But you will need to factor in your other stuffing ingredients: onions, celery, sausage, etc.
Mashed potatoes: 0.75 pound of potatoes, which is generous, per person.
Gravy: 0.5 cup gravy per person.
Casseroles: 0.75 to 1 cup person.
Vegetable side dishes: 0.5 to 0.75 cup per person.
Cranberry sauce: 1/3 cup per person