Poultry, About Roasting

Choosing poultry: Purchase free-range chickens when possible. Not only are they more delicate and flavorful, but they were bred and raised under conditions that are more natural and humane—making them less likely to present a health risk. And please, instead of throwing the poultry carcass in the garbage after carving, throw it into a pot with some aromatic vegetables, a few whole black peppercorns, the giblets (if they weren’t used for the gravy) and cold water to cover. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to simmer. There—you’ve just replenished your stock supply!

To check poultry for doneness: Occasionally (using an oven mitt), grasp and rotate the boney tip of the drumstick. When it wiggles freely without tugging back at the joint, that’s a good indication of readiness. Or, insert the sharp tip of a needle in the thickest part of the thigh while positioning a spoon just underneath the puncture. If the exuded juices are tinged with red (or even pink), the bird needs more time in the oven. If, however, the juices run clear yellow, it’s ready.

To skin or not to skin poultry: There’s no need to skin poultry before roasting. Contrary to popular belief, removing the skin before roasting does nothing to reduce fat. The skin serves to lubricate and self-baste the flesh as it roasts and helps to ensure supple tender meat. To reduce the fat content of cooked poultry (or to flavor the flesh directly in order to remove the cooked skin from your portion), simply loosen the skin from the flesh by inserting the fingers of one hand under the skin covering the breast, being careful not to tear skin. Make a mixture of olive oil and a liberal amount of seasonings (see my Poultry Seasoning Mix) and rub this under the skin, flavoring the flesh. Rub the outside of the bird as directed and, remove the skin from your portion after carving.

General Timing Guidelines for Roast Turkey
(see my recipe for Perfect Roast Turkey)

  • For a 12-pound bird: 15 to 20 minutes per pound.
  • For a larger turkey (16 pounds and over): 13 to 15 minutes per pound. For a larger bird, turn after the specified time and keep turning after every 45 minutes having the bird breast side up for the last 30 minutes of roasting. Baste frequently with pan drippings to keep moist.
  • Regardless of the size: An internal temperature of 170°F should be reached before removing turkey from the oven (180°F after settling).

For a stuffed bird: Once the stuffing is stored in the cavity of raw poultry, it must reach 165°F before being consumed.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when preparing stuffing for poultry:

  • Prepare stuffing but stuff the bird only just before placing it into the oven. To help eliminate the risk of bacterial growth, never stuff poultry in advance of roasting. You should stuff, truss and roast.
  • Don’t overstuff the cavity since the mixture will expand in the oven and, if packed too tightly, the stuffing will be heavy and overly dense. To estimate accurately the amount of stuffing that will fit comfortably within the cavity, figure on 1/2 cup of stuffing for each pound of turkey. And make sure to allow for a longer roasting time since stuffed poultry takes longer to reach the desired internal temperature of 170°F for the breast meat, 180°F for the thigh and 160°F for the stuffing. (Insert an instant reading thermometer directly into stuffing to check the temperature.)
  • If you have more stuffing than can fit into the cavity, spoon any remaining mixture into a buttered baking dish. Dot top with butter, season with salt and pepper and cover dish with greased aluminum foil. Bake at 375°F until piping hot, about 45 minutes. Uncover for the last 15 minutes or so, to crisp the top.
  • Make sure to remove any leftover stuffing from within the cooked turkey carcass before refrigerating to eliminate the possibility of bacterial contamination to the stuffing.

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