• Unrivaled selection of OVER 200,000 PRODUCTS
  • 30 YEARS EXPERIENCEin the food service industry

How To Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

While most people work hard to make Thanksgiving dinner turn out perfectly, when you run a food service business it is a necessity. You cannot serve Thanksgiving dinner to your customers and expect them to pay if you do not have the perfect meal to offer. Obviously, this will begin with your turkey. Traditionally speaking, Thanksgiving requires a turkey dinner and your customers are likely to expect one that is cooked properly and tastes delicious. That makes it imperative that your kitchen staff know how to prepare that turkey before the big day arrives. Preparation begins long before the bird goes into the oven. Your staff will need to know how to thaw a turkey, how to clean a turkey, and how to store a turkey, so that it is ready for its big debut.

How To Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Thawing

Turkeys are not like many other types of meat and cannot be left in the open air to thaw. Instead they need to be thawed either in the refrigerator or in a container of cold water. Your ideal choice would be to place the turkey into the refrigerator and allow five hours per pound for thawing. It is possible that it could take more or less time depending on the bird, but the general rule is five hours. If you opt for cold water, be sure to cover the bird completely with cold water and change the water every hour. You will need to allow one hour per pound for thawing.


Cleaning the turkey is a key component of preparation. Keeping the bird itself and the surrounding area clean are vital to the safety of your customers. This means that your staff be aware of the proper procedures for cleaning a turkey. First they must take the plastic off and remove the neck and giblets from inside the turkey. Then it is important to rinse the bird inside and out thoroughly in order to clean off potential bacteria and germs. Whenever your staff is working with the turkey, they should keep the raw meat and juices away from other foods; clean off surfaces; sanitize utensils; and wash their own hands regularly.


You will probably need to store the thawed bird prior to cooking it on Thanksgiving Day. It can be stored in the refrigerator with the giblets removed for two days. :Any longer than that and you would require a fresh turkey. If the turkey is frozen, it can be kept for up to one year. Your staff should never refreeze a thawed turkey unless it has been cooked first.


Cooking the turkey is going to be the most important task. Customers expect their meal to be perfect on this special day. The temperature of the oven should be 325º so that the bird does not become overcooked and dry. Always place the turkey breast up in a shallow pan and place a meat thermometer in the inner thigh. Never cover the turkey tightly and, if possible, try to roast it uncovered. Basting is fine if needed, but it should not be done more than once per hour. Opening and closing the oven door can interfere with cooking. Your staff should expect to roast the turkey for twenty minutes per pound, or until the thermometer reads 170º. Once the turkey is done you will want it to sit for approximately twenty minutes before carving. This allows the juices to spread so that meat is more tender, juicier and tastier.

Found this article helpful? Read more relevant articles and how-to's in the food service industry.