Every year I tell everyone not to overcook his or her turkey and to purchase a meat thermometer AND USE IT! The objective, of course, is to have moist and juicy breast meat with succulent thighs! The turkey is the main attraction after all.
Start with a completely defrosted bird or better yet purchase an organic fresh turkey. If your turkey is frozen, however, allow 24 hours in the fridge for every 5 pounds. This is the safest way to defrost your turkey.
The turkeys of today tend to be young, moist and tender and take much less time to cook than tougher turkeys that I grew up on. If a turkey is dry, then it has been cooked too long. The breast meat is what tends to suffer the most.
A stuffed turkey may cook at the same rate as an unstuffed one, but be prepared to allow 30 to 50 minutes more. Most turkeys take about the same time to roast in regular ovens, but a convection oven does a much better job of browning the turkey all over.
When removing the turkey legs, if you find that the meat around the thigh joint is still too pink, then cut off the drumsticks from the thighs and put the thighs into a shallow pan, place in a 450 degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes until no longer pink.
Always use a meat thermometer to gauge doneness. For a stuffed turkey, use the meat thermometer to check the temperature of the stuffing. The center of the stuffing inside the turkey must reach a temperature of 165 degrees. For an unstuffed turkey, place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, taking care that it does not touch any bone. Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Don’t forget to let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to re-absorb into the flesh. You do not want the moisture to drain out.
This chart will help you determine approximately how long to roast a stuffed or unstuffed turkey.
Roasting times are for a preheated 325 degrees oven:
Approximate Roasting Times For Stuffed Turkey
Turkey Weight: 6 to 8 Pounds 3 to 3 1/2 Hours
Turkey Weight: 8 to 12 Pounds 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 Hours
Turkey Weight: 12 to 16 Pounds 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 Hours
Turkey Weight: 16 to 20 Pounds 5 1/2 to 6 Hours
Turkey Weight: 20 to 24 Pounds 6 to 6 1/2 Hours
Approximate Roasting Times For Unstuffed Turkey
Turkey Weight: 6 to 8 Pounds 2 ½ to 3 Hours
Turkey Weight: 8 to 12 Pounds 3 to 4 Hours
Turkey Weight: 12 to 16 Pounds 4 to 5 Hours
Turkey Weight: 16 to 20 Pounds 5 to 5 1/2 Hours
Turkey Weight: 20 to 24 Pounds 5 1/2 to 6 Hours