Turkey is the meal of choice on Thanksgiving. And while you can find a turkey at nearly every grocery store in the country, that doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to roast a turkey—and do it safely—once they have that big bird home. Here are several tips to remember on Thanksgiving day when it’s time to talk (and eat) turkey!
If you’re buying a fresh turkey, it’s important to take extra precautions handling and preparing the turkey to minimize the risk of harmful bacteria. In fact, the USDA recommends avoiding pre-stuffed fresh turkeys for that very reason. Don’t buy the fresh turkey any more than 48 hours before you intend to cook it.
Frozen turkeys are the most convenient to prepare. They can be kept frozen indefinitely (think of it as suspended animation if you will). Once it comes to thawing your frozen turkey, you’ve got three options: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
In the fridge, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds to thaw. Thawing in cold water is a much quicker process; allow roughly 30 minutes per pound of turkey. If using cold water, you’ll need to change the water every 30 minutes and make sure the turkey is well wrapped so no water gets through to the bird. In the fridge, keep a pan beneath the turkey to catch any juices that may leak! If you’re nuking your bird this Thanksgiving, your best bet is to consult your microwave oven owner’s manual, which you probably tossed a long time ago. Once it’s thawed, you’ll want to cook it immediately.
So what does one do with those giblets? Remove them from the turkey cavity and cook them separately. That’s what!
The timetables for roasting a turkey can vary whether you’re cooking an unstuffed or stuffed turkey and of course, depending on the weight of the bird. You’re definitely going to need a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. Check out the USDA’s guidelines on recommended cooking times to make sure you don’t ruin the turkey.
It is safe to cook a turkey from a frozen state, but it’ll take you 50% longer, which may be fine by you, especially if you prefer to skip the thawing phase. Definitely, most definitely, wash your hands, the utensils you’re using and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and raw turkey juices. Are you sufficiently frightened by the thought of bacteria ruining your Thanksgiving meal? Don’t worry about it as long as you’re following all the rules.