Central Market No-Fail Turkey Guide

The fear of rendering your family’s traditional bird inedible is almost too much to bear for some kitchen novices. Even professionals can be put off not only by the size of the bird, but also, the pressure of the event and the way in which it seems to unveil itself. One misstep and, well, it’s a mess and so are you.

Central Market is here to help with solutions for your Turkey Day anxiety. This simple, yet comprehensive, turkey guide will put even the shakiest of Thanksgiving chefs at ease. 
* Some information compiled from the USDA

Buying Tips
When buying a whole turkey, estimate approximately 1 lb., this translates to  approximately ½ lb. of edible meat per person. If you are a fan of leftovers, then scale up from the recommended 1 lb. to 1½ lb.

This year we have fresh Mary's Free-Range All-Natural Turkeys, as well as Mary's Free-Range Certified Organic Fresh Turkeys, and in limited quantities Mary's Free-Range Heritage Turkeys. All are available in-store and can be reserved through our Holiday Hotline and online. If you are considering a heritage turkey, you will definitely want to pre-order this bird.

To Brine or Not to Brine
Brining, similar to marinating, is a process of soaking meat in a salted solution long enough for the salt to penetrate into the flesh. This process accomplishes two things when done correctly: it gives you the ability to season your turkey all the way through due to osmosis, and allows the turkey to more readily hold on to moisture during the cooking process, resulting in an overall juicier roast with more flavor. We have fully brined turkeys available in our Meat Market, but if DIY is your SOP then below is a go-to brine recipe from Martha Stewart that we recommend.

  • 7 quarts (28 cups) water
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh whole turkey, patted dry, neck and giblets removed
  • 1 bottle dry Riesling
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • Bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag; if turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

Basic Roasting Guide
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place rack in the lowest position of the oven. Remove turkey from brine, if used, and pat dry with paper towels (a dry turkey creates a crispy turkey). Rub the skin down with olive oil and black pepper. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a large roasting pan with a rack. Loosely place a large aluminum foil tent over the bird, allowing air space between turkey and foil, and place in the oven. Roast for approximately 15-20 minutes a pound, see chart below. Remove foil and roast uncovered for the last hour or until the inner thigh meat is 170 degrees. 

Remove from the oven and let rest, covered on a carving block for 20-30 minutes. Use the drippings in the pan to make gravy.

Roasting Chart
  • 8-12 lbs: 2¾-3 hours
  • 12-14 lbs: 3-3¾ hours
  • 14-18 lbs: 3¾-4¼ hours
  • 18-20 lbs: 4¼-4½ hours
  • 20-24 lbs: 4½-5 hours
Thawing Specialty Birds
We have a myriad of delicious specialty turkeys and other birds available this year including: Greenberg Hickory Smoked Turkeys, La Boucherie Turk-Duc-Ken, Mr. Billy's Cajun Fried Turkey, CaponGoose, and Pheasant. All of which will need to be thawed. Keep the bird in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. Your thawed bird can remain in the refrigerator for two to three days. Never thaw frozen turkey at room temperature.  Estimated thawing times are below, based on weight.

Thawing in the Refrigerator (40 degrees or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs
  • 4-12 lbs: 1-3 days
  • 12-16 lbs: 3-4 days
  • 16-20 lbs: 4-5 days
  • 20-24 lbs: 5-6 days
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7 Comment(s):

sam wrote on 11/24/2014 6:13:49 PM

i am having a very small group...i got a 4" mary's breast and 3 legs. how long do i roast the legs, and how long the breast? should i brine? should i roast together? thanks, sam

christian louboutin discount wrote on 4/15/2013 7:15:54 AM

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Don wrote on 11/14/2012 3:06:36 PM


Global Administrator wrote on 11/12/2012 9:01:28 AM

Randy - information about upcoming cooking classes is available by store from our cooking school page on the website http://www.centralmarket.com/cooking-school.aspx and you can order Central Market Gift Cards from our shop online page http://www.centralmarket.com/shop-online.aspx and follow the link to a page on the HEB website http://www.heb.com/gift-card/gift-cards.jsp

randy underwood wrote on 11/11/2012 8:31:20 AM

would like to inquire of future cooking classes and gift gift certificates for xmas

Global Administrator wrote on 11/8/2012 10:19:50 AM

For the recipe above 12-24 hours is great. The best thing to keep in mind is the more concentrated the brine, the shorter the time your turkey should brine. You could also brine a turkey for a few days if you brought down the amount of salt in our recipe to 3/4 cup.

Carolyn wrote on 11/8/2012 6:34:49 AM

How long do you brine the turkey?

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