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Originally published November 8, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 10, 2006 at 11:50 AM

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Turkey basics from USDA

Find thawing times, cooking times and a list of ingredients for basic stuffing below. ...

Find thawing times, cooking times and a list of ingredients for basic stuffing below.

Frozen turkey thawing timetable
Weight In refrigerator In cold water
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days 10 to 12 hours

Cold water method: Keep the turkey in a food grade wrapper that will not allow water to leak through the wrapper. The turkey must be submerged in cold water and the cold water changed every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of turkey. Cook immediately.

More tips for planning your feast

Don't miss Holiday Cuisine 2006: His-and-hers turkeys, plus ideas for other main dishes, sides, appetizers desserts and holiday wines.

Refrigerator method: Allow approximately 24 hours in the refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below for every 5 pounds of whole turkey weight. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place on a tray in the refrigerator so juices don't leak onto other foods.

Approximate roasting times for turkey
Ready-to-cook: Approximate cooking time in 325-degree oven. For optimum results use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Begin testing for the doneness you desire before you think the turkey will be done.
Stuffed Cooking time
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours
Unstuffed Cooking time
8 to 12 pounds 2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours

Note: Roasting time can only be approximate. Cooking times can be affected by many factors, including: temperature of the bird when it goes in the oven, depth of the roasting pan and whether the turkey is shielded with foil. If you're using the open-pan method (placing the turkey in a shallow pan or on a rack in a pan and tenting the breast with aluminum foil), set the oven at 325 degrees F. Remove the foil about an hour before the turkey should be done so it browns. A whole turkey is safe cooked to minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F throughout the bird as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures. Turkey breasts must reach 165 degrees. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature in the center of the stuffing must reach 165 degrees.

Basic stuffing ingredients
Poultry weight 6 lbs. 10 lbs. 12 lbs. 20 lbs.
Butter 1/3 cup ½ cup 2/3 cup 1 cup
Chopped onion 2/3 cup 1 cup 1-1/3 cup 2 cups
Chopped celery 2/3 cup 1 cup 1-1/3 cup 2 cups
Soft bread crumbs ½ inch square 9 cups 15 cups 18 cups 30 cups
Salt ½ tsp. 1 tsp. 1½ tsp. 2 tsp.
Pepper 1/8 tsp. ¼ tsp. ½ tsp. 1 tsp.
Poultry seasoning 2 tsp. 1 tbls. 1-1/3 tbls. 2 tbls.
Liquid 2/3 cups 1 cup 1-1/3 cups 2 cups

To prepare stuffing, melt butter in skillet, add onion and celery, and sauté for 15 minutes. Combine bread cubes, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning with sautéed mixture. Add liquid (water or broth) and mix thoroughly. Stuff turkey and roast immediately.

Note: These amounts are generous. If all stuffing does not fit in the bird, refrigerate extra stuffing in a casserole dish. Bake, covered, the same day as it was prepared for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Do not pack stuffing too tightly in the turkey.

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