There are few food items that are more closely associated with the holidays than a stuffed turkey. The delicious aroma wafting out of the kitchen draws people straight to the table. But too often the experience is spoiled by a tough, dry, overcooked bird. One of the reasons for this problem has to do with confusion about just how long a turkey should cook to be safe.
In the past, people believed that in order for a turkey to be safe to eat, it had to reach an internal temperature of 185 degrees. However, the government agencies that were recommending this threw in such a big safety factor that it was actually higher than it needed to be. In 1995 the USDA changed the recommended temperature to 180 degrees.
Unfortunately, many people are still using the older recommendation, either because the old cookbook on the shelf says so or because they just haven't heard about the change. This new temperature recommendation makes a considerable difference in how long the turkey should stay in the oven. A stuffed 25-pound turkey that would have stayed in the oven for seven hours might now only need to be in there for five and a half hours.
Equipment Impact on Cooking Time
Another factor that can affect cooking times is the type of pan you use. A dark or heavy pan absorbs heat and heats the turkey faster than a shiny pan will. Also, using aluminum foil can greatly increase the cooking time.
There is also the oven itself. Some small ovens do not evenly heat the turkey because the pan blocks air convection. If you have a small oven and a large pan, you will need to turn the turkey several times while cooking it, which will of course increase the cooking time.
Temperature Rather Than Time
The most important point to understand when you are cooking up that holiday feast is that what matters when cooking a stuffed turkey is not the time it takes to cook it, but the temperature it reaches. Regardless of the size of the bird, you want the inserted thermometer you are using to show 180 degrees for the meat and 165 for the stuffing. Then you can have a delicious and safe meal.