2-hour Turkey FAQ

  1. Do I really need to clean my oven before making the recipe? What happens if I don’t?
  2. Why shouldn’t I stuff the turkey before cooking?
  3. Doesn’t the turkey need to be basted while cooking?
  4. How do I truss the turkey (that is, tie the legs together)?
  5. Are foil pans strong enough to hold the turkey? Should I double it up?
  6. Using an oven thermometer seems unnecessary. Isn’t my oven temperature gauge accurate enough?
  7. It seems like cooking at this high temperature will burn the turkey very easily.
  8. What if I want the skin to be tender instead of brown and crisp? Can I still use this recipe?
  9. I’ve never seen a recipe that recommends that the thermometer touch the bone—usually they call for inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast not touching the bone. Which is correct?
  10. Many turkey-cooking recipes say to cook the meat to 180°; this recipe says that the turkey is done at 160°. Will the meat really be done at this lower temperature?
  11. Can I use more seasonings on the turkey (herbs, onion, garlic, etc.)?
  12. I like to brine my turkey before cooking. Is that possible with this recipe?
  13. Can I use my own cooking pan for this recipe, instead of the recommended foil pan?
  14. When I insert the meat thermometer close to the center of the breast to the bone, the probe sticks out quite a ways from the turkey. Is this a problem?
  15. The recipe calls for me to take the legs off the turkey once it’s done and cook them separately a little longer. Am I supposed to present a legless turkey at the table?
  16. My turkey cooked unevenly. I took it out right after the meat thermometer registered 160°, but the meat was underdone in some parts. Why did this happen? And what should I do?
  17. The juices from the turkey are very pink. I know that the recipe says the juices may be “rosy,” but is this really normal? Is it safe?
  18. The outer parts of the turkey were moist and tender, but as I got closer to the bone, the meat was undercooked and visibly rare. How can I best avoid this happening at the dinner table?
  19. There was a lot of juice left in the main cavity of the turkey. Is this okay?
  20. There’s an unusual amount of smoke coming out of my oven. What should I do?
  21. My oven has trouble maintaining a consistent temperature. Will this prevent me from using this recipe?
  22. Do I need to make any adjustments if I’m using a gas oven versus electric?
  23. I sometimes get anxious and end up opening the oven door often when I’m cooking things in the oven. Will this change the results of this recipe?
  24. Why do many older recipes call for significantly longer cooking times? Are you saying they’re wrong?
  25. A family member of mine has an aversion to olive oil. Can I use another kind?
  26. Do I really need to let the meat rest for 30 to 45 minutes?
  27. I purchased the foil pan that you've recommended. Unfortunately, it’s too big for my oven; the wire handles won’t let the door close. What should I do?


  1. Do I really need to clean my oven before making the recipe? What happens if I don’t?
    Cleaning your oven will remove any burned-on residue that may smoke while the turkey is cooking.

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  2. Why shouldn’t I stuff the turkey before cooking?
    For this recipe, the body cavity must be empty so that the high heat can penetrate from all directions. Also, stuffing inside the bird is unlikely to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature in the 2-hour cooking time.

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  3. Doesn’t the turkey need to be basted while cooking?
    No. It is possible to baste the turkey, but the skin will not be as crisp. As you open and close the oven door to baste, the temperature will drop and the turkey may take longer to cook.

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  4. How do I truss the turkey (that is, tie the legs together)?
    Don’t truss the turkey when using this high-heat recipe. Tying the legs together prevents the turkey from fully cooking, particularly in the body cavity and thigh joints.

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  5. Are foil pans strong enough to hold the turkey? Should I double it up?
    When using a foil pan, you can set it in a larger shallow-rimmed baking pan. This support is especially important if the bird is larger than 12 pounds.

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  6. Using an oven thermometer seems unnecessary. Isn’t my oven temperature gauge accurate enough?
    Ovens vary in their heating method and temperature accuracy. Typically, the oven heat cycles on and off throughout a cooking cycle to maintain the desired temperature. So the actual temperature in the oven is not constant; in fact, it can vary significantly. A thermometer can help you adjust the temperature setting with respect to your oven’s heating method. Older ovens are more likely to read an inaccurate temperature.

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  7. It seems like cooking at this high temperature will burn the turkey very easily.
    At 475°, the turkey is not likely to burn (assuming your oven is reasonably accurate). The bone ends of the drumstick may get a little dark; we recommend that you cap them with foil.

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  8. What if I want the skin to be tender instead of brown and crisp? Can I still use this recipe?
    If you don't want crisp skin, you can baste the turkey with a nonfat seasoning such as fruit juice or wine.

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  9. I’ve never seen a recipe that recommends that the thermometer touch the bone—usually they call for inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast not touching the bone. Which is correct?
    The most accurate place to measure the meat temperature is at the bone, where the meat is coldest. The bone is the slowest part of the turkey to heat, and it is the easiest place to find when inserting a thermometer (it can be difficult to find the center of the breast). When the temperature at the bone is 160°, the temperature of the breast meat is 170°—perfectly cooked.

    Insert the thermometer at an angle so you can see it when you open the oven door. Make sure that the thermometer faces the back wall of the oven for the first half of cooking, so when you turn the bird around mid-way through the cooking time, the thermometer is easy to see. An important caution: The thermometer itself should not touch any part of the oven.

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  10. Many turkey-cooking recipes say to cook the meat to 180°; this recipe says that the turkey is done at 160°. Will the meat really be done at this lower temperature?
    When perfectly cooked, a turkey will read different temperatures throughout the body: at the breast bone, it will be 160°; in the center of the breast, 170°; and at the thigh joint, 175° to 180°. Where you take the temperature reading is crucial. Unfortunately, many recipes aren’t specific enough about this step.

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  11. Can I use more seasonings on the turkey (herbs, onion, garlic, etc.)?
    You can season your turkey as liberally as you like; however, small bits of herbs tend to get very dark on the skin. To avoid this, you can put these flavorings under the neck skin before cooking, then sprinkle the turkey with more seasonings once it begins to brown.

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  12. I like to brine my turkey before cooking. Is that possible with this recipe?
    Brining will make a turkey cooked at 475° even juicier.

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  13. Can I use my own cooking pan for this recipe, instead of the recommended foil pan?
    You can use any roasting pan (plus a rack) that meets the specified dimensions. Do not use a pan deeper than 3 inches—the heat won’t circulate adequately under the bird.

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  14. When I insert the meat thermometer close to the center of the breast to the bone, the probe sticks out quite a ways from the turkey. Is this a problem?
    As long as the thermometer doesn't touch any part of the oven, there is no problem. Just make sure the thermometer hits the bone through the thickest part of the breast. If you slide the thermometer in at an angle, this may help you read the dial more easily.

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  15. The recipe calls for me to take the legs off the turkey once it’s done and cook them separately a little longer. Am I supposed to present a legless turkey at the table?
    You can still present the whole turkey on the table. If, when you carve off the legs, the thigh joints are a little pink, move the legs to a small pan (have one ready at the table) and put them back in the oven. The pink will fade during the time you are carving the breast. The pink joints are safe to eat, but need a little more heat and air in order for the coloring to fade.

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  16. My turkey cooked unevenly. I took it out right after the meat thermometer registered 160°, but the meat was underdone in some parts. Why did this happen? And what should I do?
    Check to see if the oven door is shutting properly. If the pan is a little too big, the door will not properly close and the turkey will cook unevenly. When you carve the bird, put any portions that aren't done on a baking sheet and return them to a 375° to 475° oven; the color will fade and the meat will be done within a few minutes.

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  17. The juices from the turkey are very pink. I know that the recipe says the juices may be “rosy,” but is this really normal? Is it safe?
    Judging the doneness of a turkey by the color of its carving juices is an old wives’ tale. Even overcooked turkeys can have juices that range from red to pink. It's the temperature of the meat that indicates doneness, not the color of the juices.

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  18. The outer parts of the turkey were moist and tender, but as I got closer to the bone, the meat was undercooked and visibly rare. How can I best avoid this happening at the dinner table?
    A common cause of this problem is an inaccurate meat thermometer. If this happens, carve off the breast halves close to the bone and follow the directions in question 15. For even faster cooking, cut the meat into slices and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

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  19. There was a lot of juice left in the main cavity of the turkey. Is this okay?
    A perfectly cooked turkey may have a lot of juices or a little; the quantity varies greatly. Be sure to tip the cooked bird and drain all this liquid into the drippings; they add flavor to the gravy.

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  20. There’s an unusual amount of smoke coming out of my oven. What should I do?
    First, check to make sure that no part of the turkey is sticking over the pan rim; if it is, push it back in place. Also make sure that the pan itself doesn't have a hole that fat is dripping through; if it does, slide the pan onto a larger, shallow-rimmed pan. To get rid of smoking fat, wipe it off the oven bottom with a pad made of folded damp paper towels, pushing them over the oven bottom with a long-handled spatula. Another reason for smoke is that your oven may be averaging hotter than 475°; if so, reduce the temperature setting by about 25°.

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  21. My oven has trouble maintaining a consistent temperature. Will this prevent me from using this recipe?
    No, but it means the turkey may cook faster or slower than the chart indicates, so keep a close watch on its temperature.

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  22. Do I need to make any adjustments if I’m using a gas oven versus electric?
    We tested in gas and electric ovens and found no difference in how the turkeys cooked. However, we did find that convection heat produces a lot of smoke and splattering, so we don’t recommend using it.

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  23. I sometimes get anxious and end up opening the oven door often when I’m cooking things in the oven. Will this change the results of this recipe?
    If you open the oven frequently, the inside temperature will drop, and your turkey will probably cook more slowly than the chart indicates.

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  24. Why do many older recipes call for significantly longer cooking times? Are you saying they’re wrong?
    Longer cooking times are unnecessary for today’s turkeys, which are younger and more tender than the older recipe charts assume. They don't need to be cooked for hours, even when cooked at lower heat.

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  25. A family member of mine has an aversion to olive oil. Can I use another kind?
    You can use vegetable oil, rice bran oil, grapeseed oil—any oil that doesn't burn at a high temperature. Do not use butter, which burns readily at high temperatures.

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  26. Do I really need to let the meat rest for 30 to 45 minutes?
    You should let the turkey rest at least 15 minutes after cooking if you want juicy slices. Skipping this step makes the juices drain more rapidly and will result in drier meat. Plus, you can use this time to heat your side in the same oven you used for the turkey.

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  27. I purchased the foil pan that you've recommended. Unfortunately, it’s too big for my oven; the wire handles won’t let the door close. What should I do?
    If the oven won't close, the turkey won't cook evenly. Try a smaller metal pan that does fit in your oven, but be sure no part of the turkey extends beyond the pan rim. If the wing tips do, contain any possible drips with a foil collar (see recipe directions).

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