Cooking an unstuffed turkey not only will save you time but also will be much safer to eat than a stuffed turkey. When hot air is allowed to circulate in the empty cavity of a turkey, the cooking time is greatly reduced. When you stuff a turkey, you also risk the chance of overcooking the turkey and undercooking the stuffing because the stuffing has to reach 165 degrees before serving to reduce the chance of any food-borne illnesses.
Defrosting an Unstuffed Turkey
If your turkey is frozen, it is best to defrost it before cooking. If your refrigerator is set to 4.44 degrees C or lower, it will take about two hours for every 1.81kg. of turkey to defrost completely. For most family-size turkeys, you can plan for this defrosting period to take three to five days. Place a large tray under the defrosting turkey to catch the melting ice. You also can defrost a turkey in cold water. Let the turkey rest in cold water for 30 minutes per pound. For example, a 4- to 6-lb. unstuffed turkey would take two to six hours to defrost in cold water. Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that the water is cold enough.
Preheating the Oven
It is important to preheat the oven before putting in the turkey because bacteria can breed in a low-temperature oven. Wait until the oven has reached the recommended temperature to put in your unstuffed turkey. Most turkey experts, such as the staff at Butterball, recommend roasting an unstuffed turkey at 325 degrees. (This slow-and-low roasting method ensures moist turkey meat.) Use a large roasting pan to catch the turkey juices.
Seasoning an Unstuffed Turkey
Because you won't have stuffing in the turkey, it is important to season the turkey. Rinse your turkey inside and out with fresh water and dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper the inside of your turkey. You can even place a couple of sprigs of rosemary, thyme and/or parsley inside the cavity of your turkey. Rub butter all over the outside skin and generously sprinkle salt and pepper on the skin so it will crisp in the oven.
Cooking an Unstuffed Turkey
Follow the timetable below for safe cooking of an unstuffed turkey. Always make sure to test your cooked turkey's temperature. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh or breast; it should read 165 degrees. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes before carving. You may want to tent the turkey with tinfoil to keep it warm. 1.81 to 3.63kg. (breast), 1½ to 3¼ hours 8 to 12 lbs., 2¾ to 3 hours 12 to 14 lbs., 3 to 3¾ hours 14 to 18 lbs., 3¾ to 4¼ hours 18 to 20 lbs., 4¼ to 4½ hours 20 to 24 lbs., 4½ to 5 hours
Cooking an Unstuffed Turkey in the Microwave
Microwaves can cook a turkey unevenly, so a cooking bag is recommended to help seal in the heat. Place your turkey in the cooking bag and microwave it for nine to 10 minutes per pound. Rotate your bird every couple of minutes to encourage even cooking. There are other challenges involved in microwaving your unstuffed turkey. In addition to the risk of undercooking it, the meat will not be as tender and the skin will not brown in a microwave.
Cooking and Storing Tips
Make sure to remove the giblet package before roasting your turkey. Place an ovenproof thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh of your turkey before putting it in the oven so you can read the turkey's temperature without opening the oven door. Place half an orange inside the cavity for a hint of citrus flavour. Cover the wings or breast with foil if they start to get too brown from roasting. When you open the oven door, you lower the cooking temperature of the oven. Keep leftover turkey no more than three or four days.
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