Here is a great little guide I found some time ago that really works especially the part
about stuffing and cooking time.
The general rule is that defrosting takes 5 hours per lb. in the refrigerator or 30 min per
pound in cold water.
A safe way to thaw a turkey is in your refrigerator. It can also be thawed under cold water.
To prevent harmful bacterial growth, keep the turkey cold while thawing and cook it
promptly after thawing. Allow 1 day per 5 pounds in the refrigerator to thaw safely.
This is a quicker method of defrosting and adds to the flavor and texture of your turkey.
Submerge the bird in a large non reactive pot with a good handful of salt, the bigger the
bird the more salt, changing the water and rinsing the bird every two hours. When
defrosted, pat dry the turkey and remove any water from the cavity and cook the turkey as
soon as possible. The turkey can also be left in the brine overnight after a few rinses as
long as the bird stays covered and cold. If there is no room in the fridge, use an ice chest
and put the bird in a double plastic trash bag with the brine or just get one of those
disposable foam ones and put the bird straight in the chest and discard it afterwards.
Remember to remove the inner packages of the turkey parts (necks, giblets etc.) when
defrosted so you can give the bird a proper rinsing before cooking.
If you choose to stuff the turkey rather than cook the stuffing separately, stuff the bird just
before it goes into the oven and pre-cook your stuffing so that it comes up to temperature
along with the turkey. If you let it stand around with it stuffed before you roast it, the raw
juices from the bird will get in the stuffing and will get contaminated bring on the possibility
of salmonella. Be sure to remove the giblets and neck from the cavity and rinse the
turkey in and out with cold water first and pat it dry inside and out. Place the stuffing
loosely into the turkey’s cavity. If you over stuff the turkey or pack it too tight, you risk the
chance of bacteria contamination because your stuffing will not reach the proper
temperature needed to kill off the bacteria (salmonella) from the juices absorbed from the
raw turkey. It is very difficult to have the turkey and the stuffing reach the safe
temperatures at the same time. It is best just to place fresh aromatics like bunches of
parsley, carrots, onion halves, celery stalks etc., loosely inside the bird to enhance the
flavor and then make your stuffing or dressing on the side. Remember, you will need to
allow a longer cooking time if the bird is stuffed.
People have different ideas about how to cook a turkey. So long as you roast the bird at a
minimum of 325 degrees until the thickest part of the inner thigh registers 180 degrees on
an instant-read thermometer, you will be fine. The breast meat should register 160
degrees, and if the bird is stuffed, the stuffing must reach 165 degrees to be safe from
salmonella. See below for approximate cooking times.
Once out of the oven, let the turkey to rest for at least 15-20 minutes to allow the juices to
settle and redistribute. The temperature of the bird will continue to rise. After carving the
turkey, allow leftovers to cool slightly (but no more than an hour), then place in an airtight
container and store in the refrigerator. Store leftover stuffing separately.
It is sometimes better to cook 2 smaller turkeys than one big one. They cook quicker,
are usually more tender and you also get double the dark meat, drumsticks and wings
which always seems to be a favorite,
||Defrosting Time in
|Defrosting Time in
|6 - 8 pounds
||30 - 40 hours
||3 - 4 hours
|10 - 12 pounds
||50 - 60 hours
||5 - 6 hours
|14 -18 pounds
||70 - 90 hours
||7 - 9 hours
||90 hours +
||9 hours +
|Cold Water and Brine Method
||2 3/4 - 3 hours
||3 - 3 1/2 hours
||3 - 3 3/4 hours
||3 1/2 - 4 hours
||3 3/4 - 4 1/4 hours
||4 - 4 1/4 hours
||4 1/4 - 4 1/2 hours
||4 1/4 - 4 3/4 hours
||4 1/2 - 5 hours
||4 3/4 - 5 1/4 hours