Holiday Turkey Roasting Procedures

Tradition and memories are key ingredients to the annual holiday dinner. The sterling silver is polished, the fine china used to set the table, and the table centerpiece made to reflect the special occasion. The aromas drifting from the kitchen bring back memories of the days of celebrations with family and friends. Our senses are awakened by these holiday dinners that feature the fragrances of roasted turkey and other holiday foods. Turkey and all the trimmings are the traditional choices for both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the majority of American homes.

The National Turkey Federation puts a new twist on the traditional roasted turkey with a classic, special-occasion recipe Herb Roasted Turkey with a Citrus Glaze. Fresh sage and marjoram are placed under the loosened turkey skin and the resulting penetration of flavors is worthy of a new holiday recipe tradition. Both sage and marjoram have long been paired with poultry and are time honored flavor combinations. Citrus flavors are quite complementary to the taste of turkey; continental cuisine typically calls for placing lemon halves in the cavity of roasted birds. Fresh lemon and lime juices are combined with dry white wine and brown sugar to create the citrus glaze brushed on the turkey. Since the citrus glaze is made with sugar, the browning process will occur quickly. Near the end of the roasting time, loosely cover the turkey with lightweight foil to ensure a golden brown turkey. The turkey platter is decorated with lemon and lime roses along with sprigs of fresh herbs. This recipe produces a flavorful turkey and if a stuffing is desired, a traditional bread stuffing would be most complementary.

Whether you try a new recipe or use a traditional turkey recipe, the questions frequently asked are, "How should I roast the turkey?" "Should the turkey be covered with foil?" "What is the correct temperature to roast a turkey?" "Should I use a cooking bag?" The National Turkey Federation recommends turkey be roasted by the Open Pan method in a preheated 325 degree F oven until the internal temperature, as registered on a meat thermometer, reaches 180 degrees F in the thigh or 170 degrees F in the breast. The open pan dry heat cooking method is the easiest and most reliable of all cooking methods and results in a juicy, tender, flavorful golden brown turkey. In addition the National Turkey Federation makes the following recommendations when cooking turkey:

  1. Do not roast the turkey in a oven temperature lower than 325 degrees F. Poultry should be roasted at 325 degrees F or higher to avoid potential food safety problems.
  2. Do not roast the turkey in a brown paper grocery bag. Present day grocery bags may be made of recycled materials and are not considered safe for food preparation.
  3. Do use a meat thermometer to determine the correct degree of doneness.

The following chart highlights the qualities of the finished turkey produced by various cooking methods.

QUALITIES OF TURKEYS ACCORDING TO COOKING METHODS
  Heat Method Oven Temperature Appearance Flavor Results Suitable for Stuffing
Open Pan Conventional Oven Dry heat method 325 degrees F results in minimum bird shrinkage and oven clean-up Golden brown color; crisp skin; juicy Full roasted flavor; pan drippings are most concentrated to produce a great gravy; tender Yes
Wrapped in Foil High Temperature Moist heat method with turkey enclosed in foil 450 degrees F May have bare bones on drumsticks; split skin; uneven browning; foil must be opened to produce a golden brown color May have stewed or steamed flavor; a dry texture is possible No
Oven Cooking Bag Moist heat method with turkey enclosed in the cooking bag 350 degrees F May have bare bones on drumsticks; split skin; uneven color and browning; skin may be torn if it sticks to the bag May have stewed or steamed flavor; a dry texture is possible Yes
Charcoal Covered Grill Dry heat method Try to maintain temperature between 325-350 degrees F Varies with outside temperature, humidity and briquettes; extra briquettes must be added each hour. Red-brown skin color; crisp skin; the charcoal combustion may result in a rosy band of meat just under the skin and slightly pink meat. Mild to moderate smoky flavor; tender No