If you need an average-size turkey to feed your crew, a 16-pound bird should do the trick. Assume one pound of turkey meat per person to determine how many you can feed. If you've never cooked a turkey before, the task may seem daunting. With a cooking bag and a meat thermometer, you should be able to produce a no-fail turkey. Once you get the first turkey under your cooking belt, the rest will seem as easy as pie.
Thawing the Turkey
Properly thawing the turkey is as important as the cooking process. If either is done incorrectly, you run the chance of introducing bacteria to the turkey meat and causing food poisoning. Plan ahead when thawing your turkey, as the process takes time. Of course, if you plan to roast and serve a fresh turkey, which is not frozen, you won't have to worry about thawing.
The preferred method of thawing is to let the turkey thaw naturally inside of its packaging while in the refrigerator. Figure that it will take up to one day in the refrigerator for every 1.81 Kilogram of meat. Therefore, a frozen 16-pound turkey should take approximately 4 days to completely thaw. You can also thaw the still-wrapped turkey by placing it inside of a sink filled with cold water, breast-side down. Drain and change the warmed water with fresh cold water periodically throughout the thawing process. Using this sink method, it will take 30 minutes to thaw each pound of turkey. Thawing a 16-pound bird with this method should take approximately eight hours.
Preparing the Turkey
Once your turkey has thawed, discard all packaging and remove any parts from inside of its body cavity and neck area. Wash the turkey inside and out. You can fill the inside cavity of the turkey with several stalks of celery and a chopped onion, if desired. This will add more flavours to the meat and also help season the stock, or pan drippings. Add seasonings to the outside and inside of the turkey. You can use salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, sage or any other spice you prefer. Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the skin by the thigh and breast on each side of the turkey. Insert three tablespoons of butter into each slit. Spray the cooking bag with cooking spray; place the turkey inside and seal the bag. Make three small slits on top of the bag to vent steam. Place the bagged turkey in a large cooking dish.
Cooking the Turkey
Preheat your oven to 177 degrees C. Place the prepared turkey inside. A 16-pound turkey, with the onions and celery stuffed inside of the cavity, should take approximately 2.5 to 3 hours to cook. Figure 15 minutes per pound of cooking time for an unstuffed bird and 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird. An unstuffed 16-pound turkey should take approximately 2 to 2.5 hours to cook when using a baking bag. Always be sure the turkey is thoroughly cooked by checking its doneness with a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the upper portion of the thigh, right above the bone, with the thermometer facing the body of the turkey. Be sure the meat thermometer does not touch the bone. Once the thermometer reads 82.2 degrees C, your turkey is done. Remove from oven and allow the turkey to sit, or rest, for approximately 20 minutes before you slice it. This will allow the juices to settle and will make carving easier and the meat juicier.