Are you planning on preparing a Turkey for Thanksgiving? Planning ahead can make the traditional Thanksgiving meal safer and less stressful. Here are some tips from your local County Extension Office to help make this year’s holiday meal a success.
Before purchasing your turkey, make sure you have ample space in your refrigerator. Turkeys look smaller at the grocery store, so be careful not to underestimate the size of your bird. Think about using a cooler to thaw and store your turkey. The turkey should be kept on ice and should stay 40°F or below to prevent bacteria from growing. Storing the turkey in a cooler will free up space in your refrigerator and will help keep the raw turkey juices from contaminating other items in your refrigerator.
Thawing and handling
Never defrost turkey on the counter! Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only 1 to 2 days before the meal and keep it refrigerated or on ice. Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavities and keep bird and parts refrigerated at 40 °F or below until it is ready to be cooked.
Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey.
Cooking and stuffing
The single most important thing to know about cooking a turkey, no matter the cooking method, is that the turkey must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. An unstuffed turkey will generally take 14 to 20 minutes per pound to cook and a stuffed turkey will take additional time.
Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven at 325°F. Mix the wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using. Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake any extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 °F. (For optimum safety and more even cooking, it’s recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.)
Take the temperature! Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. If the turkey is done and the stuffing is not yet 165 °F, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking to temperature.
APPROXIMATE COOKING TIMES
|Size of Turkey||Cooking Time||Size of Turkey||Cooking Time|
|8 to 12 pounds||2 ¾ to 3 hours||8 to 12 pounds||3 to 3 ½ hours|
|12 to 14 pounds||3 to 3¾ hours||12 to 14 pounds||3 ½ to 4 hours|
|14 to 18 pounds||3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours||14 to 18 pounds||4 to 4 ¼ hours|
|18 to 20 pounds||4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours||18 to 20 pounds||4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours|
|20 to 24 pounds||4 ½ to 5 hours||20 to 24 pounds||4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours|
Safe carving and serving
It’s best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Use a clean cutting board that has a well to catch juices. Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity. Make sure your knife is sharp before you start carving. Do not leave any extra turkey, stuffing or other leftovers out for more than two hours.
Storing leftovers safely
Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones. Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within 3-4 days. Cooked turkey keeps for 3-4 months in the freezer. When using leftovers, reheat the foods thoroughly to 165 °F or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving.
For more information: you can reach USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at: 1-800-535-4555, Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm Eastern Time. It also will be open from 8 am to 2 pm ET on Thanksgiving Day. Additional food safety information is available on the Web at http://www.fsis.usda.gov You can also contact Angela Treadaway your Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation/Preparation from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at #205-410-3696.
Happy Holidays from your County Extension staff! We hope you have a safe and joyous season.
Turkey and Broccoli Quiche
2 (9 inch) ready-made piecrusts
1 cup low-fat or skim milk
¾ cup low-fat cheddar cheese
¾ cup cooked, chopped turkey
1 (10 ounce) package frozen, chopped broccoli
¼ cup carrots, shredded
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup teaspoon garlic salt
Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake piecrust according to package directions.
- In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Cook broccoli according to package directions. Pour off liquid. Let broccoli cool; squeeze broccoli to remove some more water. Make sure broccoli is well drained.
- Layer the turkey, vegetables and cheese into baked piecrust. Pour the egg mixture over the ingredients.
- Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until top is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
Makes 12 servings | calories 270 | total fat 16 g | saturated fat 6 g | protein 16 g | carbohydrates 17 g | fiber 2 g | sodium 450 mg
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!