15 Rules for Thawing and Roasting Your Thanksgiving Turkey

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For most of us, turkey is a Thanksgiving essential, even more definitive of the holiday than cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. Some of us insist on fresh birds, perhaps bought at a farmers market or directly from a farm; some order heritage turkeys from specialty websites; some probably even shoot their own wild turkeys (though their meat tends to be stringy and gamy).  

Just over half of American cooks, however, take home their bird straight from the supermarket  freezer case — even though it’s not one of the 18 foods you should always buy frozen.

Buying a frozen turkey, of course, means that one of the first and most important tasks to be faced when preparing Thanksgiving dinner is defrosting the bird. Omni Calculator, a Polish startup that builds online computing instruments, has created a useful tool to make the task easier — a turkey thawing calculator.

 There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator (the ideal method, for a number of reasons), in a cold water bath (fine but impractical), or in a microwave (a little tricky but fast and safe).

 Users of a thawing calculator input the weight of the turkey and their preferred method of thawing, and the calculator reveals the time required to get the bird ready for the oven and offers notes on the science behind its computations as well as practical advice for each technique.

 If there are only three ways to thaw a turkey there are, on the other hand, numerous ways to cook one — among them traditional oven roasting, roasting in a cooking bag or aluminum foil, deep-frying, grilling, smoking, even zapping in the microwave. Online calculators can also help in determining ideal cooking times for birds of varying sizes. This will help you sidestep rookie mistakes to avoid when roasting a turkey.

 According to a University of Illinois Extension study, the average weight of a Thanksgiving turkey in the U.S. is 15 pounds. The specific times given below are for a turkey of that weight. With many places mandating or recommending limits to the size of family gatherings in this coronavirus era, however, many cooks this year will likely be thawing and roasting smaller birds than usual, so these calculators may prove particularly useful.