How Long to Cook a 21 Pound Turkey
Preparing the Turkey for Roasting
Before roasting a 21-pound turkey, it’s important to properly prepare it. The first step is to remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of the turkey. These can be used to make turkey stock or gravy if desired. Next, rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
To ensure that the turkey cooks evenly, it’s important to truss it. Trussing is the process of tying the legs and wings of the turkey close to the body using kitchen twine. This helps prevent the turkey from drying out and ensures that it cooks evenly.
If desired, you can also season the turkey with herbs and spices before roasting. Popular seasonings for turkey include thyme, sage, rosemary, and garlic. Rub the seasoning mixture over the entire surface of the turkey, including under the skin and in the cavity.
Finally, place the prepared turkey in a roasting pan and brush it with melted butter or oil to help it brown and crisp up during cooking. Now that the turkey is prepared, it’s time to roast it in the oven according to the appropriate cooking time.
Roasting the Turkey in the Oven
Roasting a 21-pound turkey in the oven requires some time and attention to ensure that it cooks properly. The general rule of thumb is to cook the turkey at 325°F (165°C) for 15 minutes per pound. So, for a 21-pound turkey, the estimated cooking time is around 5 hours and 15 minutes.
However, this cooking time can vary depending on factors such as the type of oven, whether the turkey is stuffed or unstuffed, and whether the turkey is fresh or frozen. To be sure that the turkey is cooked thoroughly, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat.
When roasting the turkey, it’s important to baste it with pan juices or melted butter every 30 minutes to keep it moist and flavorful. If the turkey starts to brown too quickly, cover it loosely with foil to prevent it from burning.
Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to settle and makes carving easier. By following these steps, you can ensure that your 21-pound turkey is perfectly cooked and ready to serve.
Using a Meat Thermometer to Check Doneness
Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine if a 21-pound turkey is cooked thoroughly. A meat thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the turkey, typically the thigh, without touching the bone. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C) for the turkey to be considered safe to eat.
There are two types of meat thermometers that can be used: an instant-read thermometer and a leave-in thermometer. An instant-read thermometer is inserted into the turkey during the last few minutes of cooking to check the internal temperature quickly. A leave-in thermometer is inserted at the beginning of the cooking process and remains in the turkey throughout cooking, allowing you to monitor the temperature without having to open the oven door.
It’s important to note that relying on the color of the turkey skin or juices is not a reliable way to determine doneness. The turkey may appear to be fully cooked on the outside, but the internal temperature may not have reached a safe level.
By using a meat thermometer, you can ensure that your 21-pound turkey is cooked thoroughly and is safe to eat.
Resting and Carving the Turkey
Resting the turkey after roasting is an important step to ensure that the meat is tender and juicy. Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and prevents them from running out when the turkey is carved.
To carve a 21-pound turkey, begin by removing the legs and thighs. Cut through the skin and meat until you reach the joint, then use a knife or kitchen shears to separate the joint. Next, remove the wings in the same manner.
To carve the breast meat, begin by cutting along the breastbone to release the meat from the bone. Then, slice the meat against the grain into thin slices.
It’s important to use a sharp knife for carving to prevent the meat from tearing and to make the process easier. If you’re not comfortable carving the turkey yourself, consider asking a more experienced cook or a professional to do it for you.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your 21-pound turkey is properly rested and carved, ready to be served to your guests.
Factors that Affect Cooking Time
Several factors can affect the cooking time of a 21-pound turkey. Some of these factors include:
Fresh or Frozen: A frozen turkey will take longer to cook than a fresh turkey. Be sure to allow enough time to thaw the turkey completely before cooking.
Stuffed or Unstuffed: A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook than an unstuffed turkey, as the stuffing can insulate the turkey and slow down the cooking process. It’s important to make sure that the stuffing reaches a safe temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving.
Oven Type: The type of oven you have can affect the cooking time of the turkey. A convection oven may cook the turkey faster than a conventional oven, so adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Altitude: The altitude at which you are cooking can also affect the cooking time of the turkey. At higher altitudes, the air pressure is lower, which can cause the turkey to cook more slowly.
Size and Shape of Turkey: A 21-pound turkey that is more compact will cook more quickly than one that is stretched out with wings and legs spread wide.
By taking these factors into account, you can adjust the cooking time and ensure that your 21-pound turkey is perfectly cooked and ready to serve.