The first step in preparing a Thanksgiving turkey is to purchase a bird that that 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of turkey for each person. This is the total turkey weight, not the pounds of meat you expect each person to eat. Thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator. You should plan for 24 hour of thaw time for each 4 pounds of turkey.
Plan your cooking time based on the weight of the turkey. For best results, roast the turkey in a 325 degree F oven.
Cooking times for an unstuffed turkey:
8 to 12 pound turkey: 2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pound turkey: 3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pound turkey: 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pound turkey: 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pound turkey: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
Cooking times for a stuffed turkey:
8 to 12 pound turkey: 3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pound turkey: 3-1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pound turkey: 4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pound turkey: 4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pound turkey: 4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours
Do not tightly pack the cavity of a turkey. This prevents the turkey and stuffing from reaching a safe temperature. Instead of putting bread stuffing inside the turkey, lightly stuff the cavity with fresh herbs or a mix of chopped apples, onions and celery. Adding these items to the cavity of the turkey will add flavor to the meat.