Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking Tips: Make Enough Turkey, Thaw in Time, Protect from Bacteria

Don’t get stuck with too little turkey, an undercooked turkey, or, worse yet, forgetting to thaw the turkey in time for the Thanksgiving meal.

Here are tips to make sure that your Thanksgiving dinner goes without a hitch:

Buy Enough Turkey

Make sure that you allow one pound uncooked turkey per person to allow enough for the Thanksgiving meal, and for leftovers sandwiches or other meals after Thanksgiving.

Thaw the Turkey in Time for Cooking.

Turkeys take a long time to thaw, so make sure you allow enough time before Thanksgiving to completely thaw the bird. For refrigerator thawing, allow 24 hours for each five pounds of turkey. So, a 14 pound turkey should be in the refrigerator three to four days before the holiday; a 20 pounder should be out of the freezer and in the refrigerator four to five days before Thanksgiving.

In order to keep your refrigerator tidy during the thawing process place the turkey (still in the store wrapper) in a shallow pan in the lower shelf.

If the turkey is still slightly frozen the morning of Thanksgiving, prepare the kitchen sink for thawing: clean the sink thoroughly and fill with cold water. Place the turkey in the water and change the water every 30 minutes until it is thawed. You can also add some salt to the water. Make sure you remove the “innards” of giblets, neck and gizzards that are packed inside the cavity of the turkey before you start to cook.

Don’t thaw the turkey at room temperature on the kitchen counter…it can cause bacteria to grow on the meat.

Cook Stuffing Outside the Cavity of the Turkey.

Food safety experts say that the cavity of a turkey is the perfect place for bacteria to thrive and multiply – and not a good place to cook the turkey stuffing. Instead, bake the stuffing in a separate casserole dish to prevent bacteria from forming – which can result in illness for your guests.

Allow Enough Roasting Time for the Turkey

Roast the turkey at 325 degrees (or high roast the turkey ). If roasting at lower temperatures, allow 20 to 25 minutes per pound, plus allow another 20 minutes for the turkey to stand (covered in foil) before carving. Don’t cook at super-low temperatures overnight because this can cause bacterial growth. Ignore the pop-up timers packaged with the turkey since the probe is too short and will not gauge the “doneness” deep inside the turkey; instead, purchase a food thermometer and place it at an angle near the leg (but not touching the bone). The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

Keep All Foods at Proper Temperature to Avoid Spoilage.

During Thanksgiving dinner it is easy to forget how long foods are being kept at room temperature. Clear foods away after the meal is over and refrigerate any leftovers promptly.

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