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Thanksgiving Holiday Roast Turkey  


Jump to:-  Turkey Preparation  | Stuffing Quantities | Turkey quantities & Cooking Times Roasting the Turkey  |  Before Serving the Turkey | Side Dishes | Side Recipes  |  Leftovers


 Olga Lyubkina -

See also:  Thanksgiving Main Page  |  History of Thanksgiving in the US  |  Special Days & Holidays

Cooking a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings for friends and family at  Thanksgiving can be daunting, especially if you've never done it before.  This guide has been written to ensure you serve a well cooked bird which is full of flavour to make the perfect celebratory meal.



Preparing a Turkey


If you have bought a frozen bird do make sure it is well defrosted first. Check by putting your hand inside the body cavity to see if there are any ice crystals left. Smaller turkeys (up to 7 kg) take about 24 hours to defrost in a cool place (around 18 °C), larger birds up to 48 hours.


If possible, remove it from the plastic packaging and re-wrap in aluminium foil as the plastic tends to make the bird "sweat".


Make sure you remove the giblets (if present) from the cavity and neck areas and wash the bird inside and out under cold running water. Pat dry with kitchen paper.


Stuff your turkey but don’t stuff the body cavity. Instead lift the neck flap and press your stuffing up against the wishbone, replacing the flap of skin and securing with metal skewers, wooden toothpicks or sewing up with a needle and thread.  Any remaining stuffing can be placed in a well greased shallow baking tin or made into balls then covered with foil and cooked separately.


For extra flavour place half an onion and/or half an orange in the body cavity (both with the skins still in tact) and pour some medium/sweet sherry all over the bird before placing in the oven. The resulting juices are a good addition to the gravy.


For a tasty and attractive finish, sprinkle the turkey with ground paprika and crushed thyme or dried mixed herbs before cooking and don't forget to season all over the bird with salt and pepper.


Before placing in the oven, smear the breasts with plenty of softened butter and protect with foil. Better still, cover the breasts and legs with LOTS of streaky bacon secured with wooden toothpicks then cover loosely with foil until the last  45 minutes of the cooking time.

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Stuffing Quantities


The amounts below are approximate and sufficient to stuff the neck end of the turkey with some left over for baking separately in a tin or making extra stuffing balls. If you prefer you can cook the whole amount outside of the turkey in a shallow tin or made into balls.


Number of servings

Amount of Stuffing

Serves 4   

480ml/ 16fl.oz./2 cups

Serves 6   

600ml/20fl.oz./ 2½ cups

Serves 8   

900ml/30fl.oz./3¾ cups

Serves 10 

1L/35fl.oz./4¼ cups

Serves 12 

1.2L/40fl.oz./5 cups

Serves 14 

1.4L/46fl.oz./5¾ cups



Turkey Quantities and Roasting Times


In general, allow 20-25 minutes per lb (50-55 minutes per kg) plus and extra 20 minutes at 180C, 350F, Gas Mark 4. Remember to include the weight of the stuffing when calculating the timing (see below for quantities).


Approximate cooking times (make adjustments to suit your own oven in particular for fan assisted ovens).  Serving sizes are approximate and sufficient to have leftovers

2.7kg/ 6 lb (serves 4+ )

2 hours 50 minutes  (plus 20 minutes resting)

4.5kg/ 10 lb (serves 6+ )

4 hours 30minutes  (plus 20 minutes resting)

5.4kg/ 12 lb (serves 8+ )

5 hours 20 minutes  (plus 20 minutes resting)

6.8kg/ 15 lb (serves 10+ )

6 hours 35 minutes  (plus 20 minutes resting)

8.1kg/ 18 lb (serves 12+ )

7 hours 50 minutes  (plus 20 minutes resting)

9.4kg/ 21 lb (serves 14+ )

9 hours   (plus 20 minutes resting)


Roasting the Turkey


The day before, decide the approximate time you wish to serve the meal then work out how long your sized turkey will take to cook using the chart below and start at the appropriate time.  E.g. You wish to serve the meal at 1.30pm  and your turkey with stuffing weighs 4.5kg/10lb  which will take 4 hours 30 minutes plus 20 minutes resting time,  so you need to put it in the oven at  8.40am.


First stuff your turkey as described above.


Some say to start it off breast side down which isn't a bad idea as the cooking juices flow downwards into the breast helping to keep it moist. If you are going to use this method, don't cover the breast with bacon or smear the breasts with butter at the start as it will just melt and run into the roasting tin. Just cover loosely with foil. It should be noted that very good results are still achieved just roasting the bird on its back for the entire cooking time.


If using the above method, half way through the cooking time, turn the bird onto its back, baste well with the cooking juices. You can now cover the breast with streaky bacon rashers if you like,  then re-cover loosely with foil before returning it to the oven.  If you have a large bird, you can baste it every 1-2 hours,  however if you use the foil method, basting 3-4 times during cooking is sufficient.


About 45 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil (and bacon if you used it), baste with the cooking juices and continue to roast. This will allow plenty of time for the bird to brown.


Check the meat is cooked by parting the skin between the leg and breast. If it is still a little pink then allow an extra 20 minutes on top of your calculated time. When pierced with a skewer at the thickest part of the thigh the juices should run clear not pink.


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Before Serving your Turkey

Transfer the bird to a large serving platter, making sure you drain any juices which will have collected inside the cavity.  You can add these juices to the gravy for extra flavour.


Leave the cooked turkey to stand in a warm place for about 20 minutes before carving.  This may seem a long time but trust us - just cover it loosely with a foil ‘tent’ to retain its heat. You'll be surprised how hot it will remain and this resting time makes carving a doddle. This extra time can be used to finish cooking all the accompaniments.

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Accompaniments and Side Dishes


Traditional accompaniments for a Thanksgiving roast turkey include  gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes,  corn on the cob, cornbread (southern) plus seasonal veg such as green beans.


Depending on how much time you'll have on the day, you may wish to prepare some of the trimmings such as the giblet stock for gravy and stuffing the day before. The cranberry sauce can be prepared 2-3 days ahead.  Our advice is to do as much as possible before the actual day and refrigerate it so you don't have to spend too much time preparing the bits and pieces on the day.


If you are serving the full compliment of accompaniments and vegetables as mentioned above you should allow:-


Mashed Potatoes - 1 medium potato per person

Corn on the Cob - 1 small per person

Green Beans, Peas or Broccoli   -  125g/+4oz per person

Gravy   - 180ml/6fl.oz. per person

Cranberry Sauce   - 30ml/1fl.oz. per person

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Accompaniment/ Side Dish Recipes


Stuffing  (4 recipes)
Cranberry Sauce
Giblet Gravy
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Seasonal Vegetables e.g. Corn on the Cob, Green Beans


Leftovers Turkey

Here are some recipes for leftover turkey.....if you have any !


Oriental Salad     CD  MC  15mins plus cooling

Turkey Hash     HT  MC  25mins

Turkey & Spinach Bake HT MC British 40mins

Turkey Biryani    HT  MC  40mins

Turkey, Almond and Cheese Bake    HT  MC   British  45mins

Turkey and Stuffing Bake    HT  MC  50mins

Turkey Cacciatora    HT  MC   Italian  50mins

Turkey and Ham Crumble    HT  MC  55mins

Leftover Turkey Pancakes    HT  MC  60mins

Leftovers Turkey Pie HT MC British 65mins

Cranberry, Almond Turkey Flan    HT  MC  British  75mins

Turkey Soup      HT  SP  140mins



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