Nice Bird

The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Lisa Fabian

How can you make sure your bird is moist, delicious, and worry-free? Follow these tips:

  • You'll need about one pound of turkey per guest. Add up how many pounds you need for your guest list--and then tack on an extra few pounds if you love leftovers!
  • If you buy a fresh (not frozen) bird, store it in the fridge on a tray that can collect any leaking juices.
  • If you buy a frozen turkey, keep it in its original packaging and thaw it in the fridge. It usually takes 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of bird. You can also thaw the turkey in its wrapper submerged in cold water in a clean sink, advises the Mayo Clinic. For this method, plan for a half-hour per pound, and change the water every 30 minutes.  
  • It takes about four-and-a-half hours to roast a 20-pound turkey at 325deg. Use a food thermometer to check for a minimum internal temperature of 165deg.
  • Brush the turkey skin with melted butter or oil before roasting. This adds flavor and helps with browning.
  • If you decide to baste, do so only up until the last hour of roast time, otherwise crisp skin can turn soft. 


"Let's Talk Turkey--A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey," USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service,

"Turkey Roasting Instructions . . ."