Central Market No-Fail Turkey Guide

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The fear of rendering your family’s traditional bird inedible is almost too much to bear for some kitchen novices and even professional chefs. Follow these tips to avoid any turkey day missteps.

Central Market is here to help with solutions for your Turkey Day anxiety. This simple, yet comprehensive, turkey guide will put even the shakiest of Thanksgiving chefs at ease.
* Some information compiled from the USDA

Buying Tips
When buying a whole turkey, estimate approximately 1 lb., this translates to approximately ½ lb. of edible meat per person. If you are a fan of leftovers, then scale up from the recommended 1 lb. to 1½ lb.

To Brine or Not to Brine
Brining, similar to marinating, is a process of soaking meat in a salted solution long enough for the salt to penetrate into the flesh. This process accomplishes two things when done correctly: it gives you the ability to season your turkey all the way through due to osmosis and allows the turkey to more readily hold on to moisture during the cooking process, resulting in an overall juicier roast with more flavor. We have fully brined turkeys available in our Meat Market, but if DIY is your thing then below is a go-to brine recipe from Martha Stewart that we recommend.


  • 7 quarts (28 cups) water
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh whole turkey, patted dry, neck and giblets removed
  • 1 bottle dry Riesling
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • Bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag; if turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

Basic Roasting Guide
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place rack in the lowest position of the oven. Remove turkey from brine, if used, and pat dry with paper towels (a dry turkey creates a crispy turkey). Rub the skin down with olive oil and black pepper. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a large roasting pan with a rack. Loosely place a large aluminum foil tent over the bird, allowing air space between turkey and foil, and place in the oven. Roast for approximately 15-20 minutes a pound, see the chart below. Remove foil and roast uncovered for the last hour or until the inner thigh meat is 170 degrees.

Remove from the oven and let rest, covered on a carving block for 20-30 minutes. Use the drippings in the pan to make gravy.

Roasting Chart

  • 8-12 lbs: 2¾-3 hours
  • 12-14 lbs: 3-3¾ hours
  • 14-18 lbs: 3¾-4¼ hours
  • 18-20 lbs: 4¼-4½ hours
  • 20-24 lbs: 4½-5 hours

Thawing Birds
Buying a frozen turkey or specialty bird? Keep the bird in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. Your thawed bird can remain in the refrigerator for two to three days. Never thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature.  Estimated thawing times are below, based on weight.

Thawing in the Refrigerator (40 degrees or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs

  • 4-12 lbs: 1-3 days
  • 12-16 lbs: 3-4 days
  • 16-20 lbs: 4-5 days
  • 20-24 lbs: 5-6 days