Turkey Cook Times from the Iowa Turkey Federation

Guidelines for "turkey cook times" answer common questions about preparing turkey for the holidays. Turkey is a perfect center of any meal. It is nutrient-rich, low in calories and has no saturated fat.

As the center of a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, cooks are always concerned on how to achieve a perfectly cooked turkey. Thawing the turkey has always been a concern. How long to thaw the turkey and finding refrigeration space adds to the preparation stress. What are the proper "turkey cook times" for a thawed-out turkey? Should a turkey be cooked thawed or unthawed? If a bird can be cooked unthawed, what is the best "turkey cook time"?

Cooks have discovered, and the USDA has endorsed, cooking your whole turkey while it is still frozen. It is safe and any size of turkey works, but the cooking time will take 25% to 50% longer than a fully thawed turkey. (A 14-pound turkey may take five hours versus four hours.) This method also promotes better food-safety practices.

When the turkey is frozen, no juices are able to leave the turkey and transfer onto sinks, counter tops and towels. This greatly reduces the risk for cross contaminating food.

Cooking a Frozen Turkey

To cook your turkey in this manner, there are a few key points to follow.

1. Roast your turkey in an oven or in an electric roaster. Do not smoke, grill, deep fat fry or microwave a frozen turkey.

2. Roast at 325° F is recommended.

3. Place turkey on a rack on an open sided pan or a covered roasting pan. By setting the turkey on the rack it will allow for the heat to circulate around the turkey.

4. After two to three hours of cooking, remove the turkey from the oven and using tongs or a fork, remove the packages containing the giblets. Now is a good time to season the turkey and insert an oven-proof thermometer into the thigh area of the turkey. If the giblets are in a paper wrapped bag, there is no concern if they remain in the turkey the entire cooking time. (If they are in a plastic bag, and the bag has been altered or melted by the cooking process, do not eat the giblets or turkey because harmful chemicals may have been leached in the meat. If the plastic bag has not been altered, the giblets and turkey are safe to eat.)

5. Cook the turkey until it reaches 180° F in the thigh portion of the turkey.

6. If the turkey is fully cooked prior to your desired serving time, allow it to set for 20 minutes and then carve the meat from the turkey. Place the meat in an oven-safe pan, cover with tin foil and hold in a 250° oven.

Hickory Smoked Turkey

Pastured Turkey
Salt and pepper
Seasoned salt
3 small hickory sticks
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grassfed butter

Season pastured turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Sprinkle until red with seasoned salt. Place in disposable open pan and put on grill when coals are very hot. Cover only with lid of grill. Soak hickory sticks in water at least 1 hour. Put these on fire after turkey has cooked an hour. Baste turkey with Worcestershire sauce and butter combined about 3 times during cooking. Turkey cook time: Roast a 14 pound turkey for 3 hours and 30 minutes or until internal temperature at deepest part of thigh reaches 180 degrees F.

Note: The internal temperature of the bird (180 degrees F) is more important than the exact turkey cook time.

Roast Turkey

Pastured turkey
Salt and pepper
Soft grassfed butter
Desired stuffing of your choice

Wash, clean turkey, dry thoroughly. Rub inside with salt, about 1/8 teaspoon per pound. Fill cavity and neck opening with desired stuffing: pack lightly. Close cavity with skewers or poultry pins, laced with cord; pull neck skin back over stuffing; fasten with skewers or poultry pins to back of bird.

Using a long cord, tie ends of legs together; bring cord from legs down around tail, drawing legs down, close to body; tie legs to tail. Bend tip ends of wings backward so they are held against back of bird.

Grease pastured turkey thoroughly with soft grassfed butter; sprinkle with salt, pepper.

Place breast side down in V type rack or lay breast side up on rack in open roasting pan.

Place piece of foil "tent fashion" over top of turkey, allowing it to remain loose so heat can circulate around under it. Add no water; do not cover; do not baste.

Suggested Turkey Cook Times

Turkey cook times according to weight:
7-10 pounds @ 300° F for 30 minutes per pound
10-15 pounds @ 300° F for 20 minutes per pound
15-18 pounds @ 300° F for 18 minutes per pound
18-20 pounds @ 300° F for 15 minutes per pound
20-25 pounds @ 300° F for 13 minutes per pound

These "turkey cook times" are approximate; differences in turkeys may necessitate increasing or decreasing time. To test for doneness, grasp end of leg bone. If thigh joint moves easily, bird is done. Also, drumstick meat should be very soft when pressed with finger. Do not pierce with fork.

When done, remove skewers, pins, cord from pastured turkey.

Make gravy from juices in pan. If turkey is allowed to set 5 minutes after removal from oven, it will be easier to carve.

Allow 1/2 -3/4 pound per person.

Turkey Mousse

When a large turkey has been well prepared and proper turkey cooking times have been observed, you will probably have some leftovers that family or guests are anxious to eat. Turkey Mousse may be your solution.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups leftover ground turkey
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons grated onion
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup whipping cream, whipped
Lettuce and salad dressing

Soften gelatin in 1/2 cup cold stock. Dissolve over hot water.

Combine remaining stock, ground turkey, curry powder, mayonnaise, celery salt and onion.

Add dissolved gelatin. Mix well.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chill until thick and syrupy.

Beat until light and foamy.

Fold in whipped cream.

Pour into a shaped mold or loaf pan of about 1 quart capacity.

Chill until firm.

Unmold on serving platter.

Serve with lettuce and salad dressing.

Six servings.

As is obvious, the "turkey cook time" for mousse is Zero!

If desired, garnish with salted whipped cream (put on with a pastry tube), pineapple rings and jellied cranberry slices.

What To Do With Leftover Turkey
GO to Main Holiday Recipes Page after reading Turkey Cook Times
HOME to Earh's Finest Flavors Come From Grassfed Recipes

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