The temperatures outside may be in the 30s and 40s, but anyone cooking a Thanksgiving turkey needs to think about 165 degrees.
That’s the minimum temperature the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the turkey reach to prevent foodborne illness and to destroy bacteria. The temperature should be checked with a food thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and thigh and also the stuffing, if inserted in the cavity.
The USDA recommends roasting a turkey at no lower than 325 degrees, although oven preheating is not necessary. It also recommends completely thawing the turkey before cooking.
Common sense tells you the larger the bird, the longer the cooking time. While a 4- to 6-pound breast may take between 90 minutes and 2¼ hours, an unstuffed 14-to 18-pound turkey may take 3¾ to 4¼ hours. Do note that stuffed turkeys take longer to cook.
Some other notes from the USDA:
- Your oven may heat foods unevenly, and your oven temperature gauge may be inaccurate.
- Dark roasting pans produce faster results than shiny metals.
- For optimal food safety, cook the stuffing separately in a casserole.
- Using a roasting pan lid speeds cooking.
- The oven rack’s position can impact how evenly the turkey cooks and overall heat circulation.
For cooking tips and other advice, visit the USDA website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/turkey-basics-safe-cooking/CT_Index