A perfect roast turkey is a beautiful centerpiece at Thanksgiving. But be careful how you prepare it.
After thawing and removing the gizzards, do not wash your turkey. You’re likely to spread bacteria across countertops, your hands, and the sink, where you may be washing vegetables later. Any germs on the bird will be killed when you roast it.
As for the stuffing, break with tradition and don’t put it inside the turkey. The chances of contamination aren’t worth the extra moisture. You could also overcook your turkey, because you have to heat the stuffing to 165 degrees to be safe.
Save time by making good store-bought stuffing separately. Consumer Reports’ expert tasters recommend Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing. Add celery, onion, and some turkey drippings, and your guests probably won’t know the difference.
A sweep of vegetable oil or cooking spray over the turkey will ensure a browned skin. But once it’s in the oven, don’t baste the bird. Basting flavors the skin but it doesn’t penetrate the meat. And every time you open the oven door you lose heat, which means your turkey has to stay in the oven longer and can dry out.
To be safe, turkey has to cook through to 165 degrees. Don’t rely on pop-up thermometers. Consumer Reports found that most of the ones tested were not accurate, either popping too early or too late. Instead consider an instant-read digital thermometer. Consumer Reports recommends the Polder Stable Read THM-379 for $20. Take the temperature from the thickest part of a thigh or the breast of the turkey.
About 80 percent of turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving are frozen first. Don’t put them on the counter to thaw. They should be defrosted in the refrigerator, allowing a day of thawing for every 4 or 5 pounds.