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Hosting Tip #4: (Not) Burning FAQs

Posts Friday, October 9th

Before you do anything, take that turkey out of the freezer right now!

Okay, Heidi. Deep breaths.

Maybe you don’t have to do it right now, but by the time you get to our second FAQ, we hope you’ll consider it. Deal? Deal. 

Here are the answers to all your questions—hopefully before you’ve even had them—to help make sure your turkey is in top form for Thanksgiving Day. 



1. What size bird should I order? 

Too big? Or not too big? That is the question. An easy way to guesstimate is to figure about 1½ lbs of turkey per guest. With all the other dishes, most people don’t usually eat 1½ lbs (besides, nobody’s eating the bones, either—except your distant cousin Rex, maybe) so you’re likely to have leftovers. But if you really love leftovers… tack a few pounds onto your bird. We won’t tell.

2. Why is my turkey so COLD?

When you order a fresh, or even frozen, turkey, you’re going to have to get it to the right temperature before you start cooking it. (Unless you like your turkey dry, but we’ve never met an honest man who doesn’t love a moist bird.) If your turkey is too cold and you need to roast it right away here’s how to get it up to temperature. 

  • Submerge your bagged bird in cold water, changing out the water every 30 minutes until it feels soft. This process can take anywhere from 2-8 hours depending upon the size of your bird. Remember, even if the bird feels soft on the outer layer it might still be frozen inside.
  • Just before roasting, remove the turkey from its bag and rinse it thoroughly with cold water—both inside and out. 
  • A good, careful rinse will bring your bird up to the right temperature for the best possible roast. (Music to your mouth, right?)

If your turkey is still frozen, we’re sorry, but we can’t help you there. Google it. We don’t mess around with that nonsense. 

3. How do I know my turkey is fully cooked?

Carefully remove the roasting pan (it’s hot, remember?) from the oven and set it on the stovetop or counter. Make sure to close the oven door behind you so all of the heat doesn’t escape! I repeat: close the damn door, or you’ll prolong your cooking time. 

Using an accurate thermometer (thanks, Heidi, for letting me know I’d need one weeks ago!), find the crease where the turkey’s leg attaches to its breast (anatomy is weird, right?) and plunge your thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. If you feel the thermometer hit a bone, back off—that bone’s going to throw your reading off. Hold the thermometer still until the numbers stop increasing. 

If it’s not ready, put it back in the oven. The USDA considers a turkey safe at 165°F, but the bird will continue to cook as it rests. That’s why we suggest you pull it out a little early so as to not over-roast it. The key is to see your thermometer hit the 165° before you carve it. 

4. What if I undercook the bird?

First step: Don’t panic. Second step: Cut off the breasts and legs, put your bird on a rimmed baking sheet and pop it back in the oven. This keeps some of the best parts from drying out, while ensuring there’s a whole lot more goodness yet to come.


5. What if I overcook the bird?

One word, two syllables: Gravy. 

If that’s not enough, here are two more syllables: lots of gravy. 

If you’ve got leftovers (chances are 50/50), make a turkey salad with plenty of mayo for moisture. 


6. To stuff or not to stuff – that is the question:

Ask the internet, and you’ll find everybody’s got a different opinion. I can’t speak for them, but I can tell you that the Diestel family—we’re stuffers. We’re no scientists, but I’ll say that we’re (living) proof you can stuff your turkey and be just fine. And not just fine, but damn satisfied. Want to stuff? Stuff! And quick, close out of that WebMD window before you give yourself psychosis.


Have a Quick & Easy Turkey Recipe of Your Own?

Throw it on Instagram and tag @diestelfamilyranch. We’d love to see what you’ve got.