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How long to roast the turkey?

If you plan to present a whole roast turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner--or any other occasion--you want a beautifully browned bird with moist, juicy meat.

But because there is much conflicting information about how long to cook a turkey, we decided to start from scratch in Sunset's test kitchens and run a series of carefully controlled tests. We roasted matching pairs of 10- to 26-pound unstuffed birds, cooking each in identical ovens; then we roasted more to compare times for stuffed and unstuffed birds.

Some of the results were very surprising. All the birds, no matter what their size, cooked in 2 to 4 hours, give or take a few minutes. Turkeys that weighed 20 to 26 pounds often cooked in the same amount of time--except 24-pounders often cooked more quickly, as the proportion of bone to meat appears to jump.

Smaller turkeys, simply because they cook for a shorter time, didn't brown as richly as the larger ones. Stuffed birds sometimes took a little longer to cook.

We agree with the general consensus that 170[deg.] is the ideal temperature for moist breast meat, but there is only one way to tell: use a meat therometer in the breast, not the thigh. Turkeys cook fairly evenly throughout. If the thigh reaches 180[deg.] to 185[deg.], as commonly recommended, you will be disappointed by a dry breast.

AT 170[deg.] or thereabouts, the thigh joint is often--but not always--pink. It may be undercooked or slightly discolored. If the meat is underdone when you cut it off, cook it further while you carve the bird.

A 10-pound cooked bird may have as little as 65 percent meat, while larger ones may yield 70 to 78 percent meat. Toms, at 16 pounds, can have as much as 10 percent less meat than hens of equal weight. Roasting a turkey

Allow 3/4 pound raw turkey for 1 serving. To prepare turkey for roasting, remove neck and giblets and reserve for gravy; pull off and discard large fat lumps.

Rinse turkey inside and out. Set, breast up, on a rack in a pan that allows an inch or two of space all around the turkey. Stuff if desired; pin neck skin to back and skewer body opening shut. Leave legs free so they cook more evenly at the hip joint. Rub with butter or margarine and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or season according to a favorite recipe.

Roast in a 325[deg.] oven until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast, not against bone, registers 170[deg.].

For unstuffed birds, allow about 2 hours for a 10-pounder, 2-1/4 hours for a 12-pounder, 2-1/2 hours for a 14-pounder, 3 hours for a 16-pounder, 3-1/4 hours for an 18-pounder, 3-3/4 hours for a 20-pounder, 4 hours for a 22-pounder, as little as 3-1/4 hours for a 24-pounder, and 4 hours for a 26-pound turkey.

Check thermometer every 15 to 30 minutes after the first 2 hours as cooking rate varies with conformation of the bird; also, jiggle thermometer around to be sure it is in the coolest part of breast. If bird is stuffed, anticipate as much as 30 minutes' extra cooking time.

Let the turkey stand 20 to 40 minutes before carving for juices to settle in meat. Cut of drumsticks and thighs at joints. If thighs aren't done, put in a shallow pan and roast in a 450[deg.] oven until meat fibers pull apart easily, 10 to 15 minutes; meanwhile, carve the bird and continue to serve dinner.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1984
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