Seeing as it’s that time of year—here in the U.S. at least—when turkey is the staple food for celebrations, I figured it’s the perfect time to post this. For decades it’s given us crispy-skinned, moist turkey every time 😎
Back in the 1960s, Aunt Polly, a Kentucky-raised in-law witnessed us Italian New Yorkers roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. My grandmother, at frequent intervals, rose through the night to keep the basting process going. Aunt Polly said, “I’m sorry to say this, but you people do not know how to cook turkey.” And so, thankfully from that day on, instead of continually rising ‘til dawn, our family rose to the dawn of a “New” Age of Roasting Turkey!
As far as roasting time, for whatever reason, we didn’t record more concrete times*, but my mother’s been using, as a very loose guide, a chart (below) from an amazing, old cookbook: Mary Margaret McBride: Encyclopedia of Cooking. This chart is actually intended for roasting a turkey wrapped in foil, which is not the same as this method. Also, for your convenience, you can print this if you like.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 1 whole turkey, cleaned & un-stuffed**
- 1 covered roasting pan
- a roasting rack or similar utensil/s***
- oven thermometer
- lifting forks
Place a roasting rack in the bottom of the roasting pan to slightly elevate the turkey to keep it from sitting in the drippings. If the turkey is small enough and the pan large enough, you can use a rack. If not, you can use something like metal lifts** by strategically placing them by piercing the bottom side of the meat.
Since it is not an exact science and the chart is based on a different method, here’s an example of how to judge timing:
According to this chart, a turkey approx. 20-22 lbs. would take a minimum of 3 ¼ hours to cook wrapped in foil. In the roasting pan it cooks MUCH more quickly. For a turkey this size, Mom starts checking for “done-ness” about 2 hours in, (which is about 2/3 the cooking time listed in this chart), because it can be done or near done at this point. Calculate cooking times for other poundage similarly, then update the chart with your own findings.
* I apologize for this, but in many ways, we are a “pinch of this” and a “handful of that” type bunch, and some treasured recipes have died with their experts for having not been recorded *sigh*
** Along with the fact that an un-stuffed turkey cooks much faster, it has been discovered that cooking stuffing in the turkey cavity is unhealthy due to bacteria. The stuffing can simply be baked in a baking dish.
*** We don’t know what these are called, so I searched online using every possible word or description I could come up with and found NOthing. I don’t know if they even make them anymore, but they’re what we have and of course, can be used to support any piece of meat.
So, I hope you find this useful. I know it changed the face of Thanksgiving cooking around here! I’d love to hear how you spend this holiday or any favorite dishes that are part of your tradition 🙂
Though I believe we should be living gratefully every day, it’s nice to have a day we do it collectively 🙂
Have a Happy & Safe Thanksgiving, everyone.