Timing Whole Turkeys
Thawing: The best way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. A 12-pound turkey takes 2 1/2 to 3 days to thaw. If you run out of time, thaw the bird, wrapped in its original packaging, in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Figure 30 minutes per pound, or 6 hours for a 12-pound bird.
Salting or brining: This basic roast turkey recipe calls for salting the bird and storing it uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Other recipes (for example, Apple Cider–Brined Turkey with Savory Herb Gravy) may call for brining (soaking it in a saltwater solution). Both procedures provide juicy, flavorful results.
Get ready to roast: Preparation can take up to an hour. Allow 30 minutes if you’re brining or salting the turkey; you’ll need to rinse, pat dry, and remove the lumps of fat from the tail area of the bird before seasoning and refrigerating, then rinse and pat it dry again. Chopping aromatic vegetables to stuff into the body cavity and tying the legs can take another 30 minutes. If your turkey came with a metal clip attached to the legs, use that instead of kitchen string to hold the legs together.
Carving: Place the roasted turkey on a platter, tent it loosely with foil, and let it stand for 30 minutes. This lets juices redistribute in the meat so it’s moister and firmer when carved.