Thanksgiving holds different meanings to different people. Some feel it is a day for being generous or giving thanks through unselfish deeds. Others feel it is a time to sit around with family sharing stories of the year. Still many others simply look forward to the day for football. No matter how you view Thanksgiving, one thing is sure: Filling up on turkey is an integral part of the holiday.
If turkey is the centerpiece of your celebration, then be sure to have enough turkey on hand to adequately feed all of your guests. Although they will be filling up on trimmings and side dishes as well, the first thing they will spear with a fork is a nice slice of juicy turkey.
There is some conventional wisdom with regards to how big a turkey to buy. Most chefs or home cooks say that having a pound to one-and-a-half pounds for each adult at the holiday table is adequate. Children likely will eat a half or quarter of that amount. If you want to ensure leftovers, then you can increase the size of the turkey slightly.
Therefore, if 10 adults and 5 children will be at Thanksgiving dinner, multiply 10 by 1.5. That equals 15. Multiply 5 x .5, which equals 2.5. Add the two totals together, and you’re left with 17.5 pounds. A turkey in that range should be adequate to feed guests. If your guests are known to be hearty eaters or if leftovers are essential, round up to a 20-pound bird.
Keep in mind it will be necessary to check the size of your oven prior to purchasing the turkey to ensure the bird will fit inside with a roasting pan. Otherwise, you may have to downsize on the turkey and cook more side dishes.
Once the size of the turkey is determined, it all comes down to the cooking. Naturally, the larger the bird, the longer the cooking time. Instead of leaving cooking to chance, or to the unpredictable pop-up plug included with the turkey, take the time to select a reliable meat thermometer. There are standard and digital models available. Some digital thermometers enable you to insert the prong in the turkey and then stretch a heat-proof wire to the digital unit, which remains outside of the oven. This way you can set a timer or set a cooking temperature. The thermometer will beep when the turkey is done. The USDA recommends poultry be cooked to 165 degrees. Be sure to check the temperature at the wing and the thickest part of the breast.
After cooking, let the turkey rest around 10 minutes after removing it from the oven. This will enable the juices to stay within the meat and keep it moist. And isn’t a moist turkey the ultimate goal? Then slice and serve to guests.