Tips to enjoying a tasty and safe Thanksgiving meal

Published 4:14 pm Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Day is less than two weeks away and as it approaches, cooking the traditional turkey dinner gives rise to anxieties and questions. Many across our county may be asking what type of turkey I should buy? Should I buy a fresh or frozen one? How do I store my turkey? How do I prepare my turkey?

These may be just some of the questions you may be asking. Well here are some tips that can take out some of the guess work.

If you choose to buy a frozen bird you may do so at any time, but make sure you have enough room to store it in your freezer. If you buy a fresh turkey, be sure you purchase it only one or two days before cooking. Do not buy a pre-stuffed fresh turkey.

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When thawing a frozen turkey you may do so in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. In the refrigerator, place the frozen bird in its original wrapper in the refrigerator (40°F or below). Allow approximately two hours per four-to-five pounds of turkey. For example, a 12-to-16 pound turkey will take three to four days to thaw in the refrigerator.

If thawing in cold water, you should submerge the turkey completely and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of turkey. Then cook immediately. For example, a 12-to-16 pound turkey will take six-to-eight hours to defrost using this method.

Microwave thawing is safe if the turkey is not too large. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size turkey that will fit into your oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level to use for thawing.

So, how large of a turkey should you purchase? If purchasing a whole bird you should buy one pound per person; a boneless breast of turkey ½ pound per person; breast of turkey ¾ pound per person and a pre-stuffed frozen turkey is 1 ¼ pounds per person, but keep frozen until ready to cook. These amounts should allow for ample leftovers.

To ensure that your turkey is done and is safe to eat, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. A whole turkey is safe for eating if cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout the bird. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

All turkey meat, including any that remains pink, is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165°F. The stuffing should reach 165°F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish. When the turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand 20 minutes. Remove stuffing, carve and serve.