Turkey Questions


Wild Turkey Image Gallery Turkey dinners go hand in hand with the holidays. Find tips on how to cook one like a pro. See more wild turkey pictures.
Matthew Moore

The holidays and turkeys go hand in hand, but the yuletide season can be stressful enough without the added worry about what to make for that special holiday meal.

The pages in this article will help you with all your turkey preparation needs from questions about deep frying to tips on storage and carving.

If turkey is your main dish, check out the following pages for different ways to cook turkey, suggestions for new holiday menus, and what to do with leftovers:

How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Don't want to keep the oven all day baking a turkey? Why don't you take it outside and deep fry the turkey instead?

How to Store Thanksgiving Turkey

Too much bird and not enough room in the stomach? Don't leave it out. Follow these tips on storing turkey.

What to Make for Thanksgiving Dinner

Looking to upgrade your Thanksgiving menu? Check out these sure-fire ways to spice up your menu.

Turkey Facts

Do you know how long it will take to defrost a turkey? How big of a turkey should you buy? For the answers to these and other turkey questions, visit this site for some facts about turkey.

How to Carve a Turkey

You've finished cooking the turkey. Now what? Cut to this site and learn how to carve that bird.

Keeping a Turkey at Room Temperature

Everyone has finished their first round. How long can you keep the turkey out for people to go for their second, third, or perhaps more, servings? Find out here.

Turkey Information

Here are some basics on choosing, preparing, and cooking turkey. Learn all about this festive bird.

Boneless Turkey Facts

No bones about it. Boneless turkey makes defrosting and cooking all that much simpler. Be in the know when it comes to boneless turkey.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Try frying turkey instead of baking it.
Try frying turkey instead of baking it.
©Janusz Hylinski

Tired of cooking the turkey in an oven? Here are some general instructions from the National Turkey Federation on how to deep fry a turkey:

  • Set up a fryer outside on a level dirt or grassy area. The fryer should consist of a 10- to 15-gallon pot with a basket and a burner powered by propane gas. Heat 5 gallons of peanut, canola, or sunflower oil in the pot for an 8- to 10-lb bird; more for a larger bird. Use enough to cover the bird with about 2 in. of oil.
  • Heat the oil to 350°F. This takes 45 minutes to one hour. Inject the turkey with a marinade, or rub the turkey under the skin with seasonings. Do not stuff the turkey.
  • Place the turkey in the basket, and lower it into the hot oil. Cook a whole turkey about 3 minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 180°F and in the breast 170°F. Cook turkey parts about 4 to 5 minutes per pound or until the meat comes to the correct temperature.
  • Remove turkey, drain well, and serve. Remember also to let the turkey cool a little bit before digging into it for carving and for eating. Most recipes will suggest letting the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes to half an hour before serving.

Some additional words of caution: Wear long-sleeved clothing, long pants, and protective eyewear. Pull your hair back. Keep people -- especially kids -- and pets away from the cooking area. Have a fire extinguisher and potholders at the ready. Never fry indoors, on a wooden deck, or on a concrete driveway or patio. Never leave the hot oil unattended. Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

 

How to Store Thanksgiving Turkey

Cooked turkey can last up to four months in the freezer.
Cooked turkey can last up to four months in the freezer.
©Katrina Outland

The National Turkey Federation recommends that you store raw turkey in its original wrapper in the freezer if the turkey is frozen and you don't plan to thaw it for a while.

However, to thaw a frozen turkey, keep the turkey in its wrapper and transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator until thawed; do not thaw at room temperature.

Raw turkey may be stored in the refrigerator for one or two days, and for up to 12 months in the freezer. Turkey breasts may be stored in the refrigerator for one or two days, but only up to three months in the freezer.

Cooked, leftover turkey should be carved from the bone, separated from the stuffing and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of cooking. Use the leftovers within three to four days if refrigerated, within three to four months if frozen.

Leftover turkey gravy, by the way, should be eaten within one to two days of cooking. Bring the gravy to a boil before serving again.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

What to Make for Thanksgiving Dinner

Spice up Thanksgiving dinner by adding a new dish -- hopefully one that doesn't retain the shape of its container.
Spice up Thanksgiving dinner by adding a new dish -- hopefully one that doesn't retain the shape of its container.
©David Lat

Want to upgrade your Thanksgiving menu? Here are ways to spice up dinner without getting the family in an uproar.

Step One: Add a Dish. If you want to make big changes, talk it over with your family before shopping. How much change are they able to tolerate? If the response is "forget about it," then you may have to start thinking deviously. (See Step 3 below.)

Otherwise, you could merely add a dish to the menu. A squash soup or pumpkin bisque is simple and quick to make, and will make you feel that you've updated the menu. Even a boxed cake mix decorated for the holiday can brighten your spirits and make you feel better about the fact that you cook the same thing year after year.

Step 2: Don't Mess with the Original. Provide the traditional dish plus another one that's more up your alley. It's more work, but don't try to get away with changing a traditional recipe and leaving your family high and dry at the table without the dish they expected. Offer something else they may find they like better; you can jettison the old recipe the following year.

If you take this route, don't mess with the big stuff; start with side dishes. The weaning process may be long and tedious, but rewards wait at the end.

Stuffing may be another story. Some families consider it the Holy Grail of the Thanksgiving meal, while others barely touch the stuff. If yours is in the latter category, feel free to substitute corn bread for bread, add some sausage or chopped oysters, or toss in some dried cranberries or raisins.

Step 3: Become devious. Just plain sneak stuff into the food and let the chips-and jaws- fall where they may.

Be warned, though, that sometimes these attempts can come back to bite you. You could end up with a new dish that you might consider just as tired as the one it replaced-and the family may be crazy about it.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

Turkey Facts

Self-basting turkeys are injected with butter or oil.
Self-basting turkeys are injected with butter or oil.
©David Lat

Need to brush up on tips and ideas for Thanksgiving? Serving up a turkey for Christmas dinner but not sure where to start? Here are a few facts and tips about turkey that are sure to get you going on your turkey-cooking endeavors:

Fryer-Roaster Turkeys: Fryer-roasters generally weigh 5 to 8 pounds and are no more than 4 months old. Young hens (females) and toms (male) are between 5 to 7 months old. Hens usually weigh between 8 to 16 pounds, while toms can weigh 20 pounds or more. Yearlings are 1 year old or older.

Thermometers: Some turkeys have implanted pop-up thermometers that indicate when the bird is done cooking. Others, labeled "self-basting," have been injected with butter or vegetable oil.

What Size Turkey: Allot about 1-1/2 pounds of turkey per guest; for instance, buy a 12-pound turkey for a party of 8. This includes more than enough for leftovers.

Defrosting: Frozen turkeys will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds to defrost in the refrigerator. An easier -- and less space-consuming -- way to defrost your bird is to place it in a large pot or sink and cover it with cold water. Keep the water cold by changing it every 2 hours or so. Thawing a turkey in this manner should take about 30 minutes per pound.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

How to Carve a Turkey

Let the turkey rest before carving.
Let the turkey rest before carving.
©Matthew Moore

Carving a turkey involves more than a sharp knife and large serving fork. Unless you plan on eating the entire bird yourself, you might want to brush up on your everyday knowledge of turkey-carving know-how. Check out these tips on how to carve perfect portions and scrumptious slices of turkey.

  • The Turkey Needs to Rest: Let the turkey rest at least 20 minutes before carving to help the turkey retain moisture and make the meat firmer and easier to slice.
  • Carve in the Kitchen: Do the carving in the kitchen, using a long sharp knife or an electric knife. Use a carving fork or other large fork (at least 8 in. long) to help steady the turkey while you carve. And keep a warm serving platter nearby so you can transfer and arrange the meat as you carve.
  • Legs First: Remove the legs first by pulling them away from the body and cutting through the joints that hold the thighs to the body. One cut through the joint will separate the leg from the thigh, then carve those pieces individually, making slices parallel to the bones. Watch out for the hard tendons in the drumsticks.
  • Wings or Breast Next: Some people prefer to remove the wings next, or you can wait until after you carve the breast. Simply pull the wings from the shoulder joints, and if necessary, cut through the joints with a knife to separate them from the body. The wings can go on the serving platter whole.
  • Carving White Meat: To carve the white meat, hold the breast firmly with your fork and cut a small slice parallel to the breastbone. Start with the most rounded area of the breast, about halfway down, and continue slicing diagonally through the meat as you work your way closer to the bones.
  • Slice and Repeat: Try to cut medium-thin, even slices, but as you get closer to the bones, there will be some irregular shapes and sizes. Once you finish one side of the breast, repeat the process on the other side.

Once you've carved your turkey to the bone, you can snag the wishbone and toss the carcass, or save the bones to make a turkey soup.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

Keeping a Turkey at Room Temperature

Freeze turkey to prevent bacteria growth.
Freeze turkey to prevent bacteria growth.
©Chepe Nicoli

Q. How long can the holiday turkey be left out at room temperature?

A. Any turkey remaining after the holiday meal should be stored within 2 hours of serving. Bacteria grow very rapidly at room temperature, and refrigeration won't kill microorganisms that have already grown.

Wrap the meat in plastic or foil, then seal it inside plastic bags. Cooked turkey can be stored 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and up to 4 months in the freezer.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

Turkey Information

Check the internal temperature of the turkey for doneness.
Check the internal temperature of the turkey for doneness.
©Photodisc

This year, take the stress out of Thanksgiving and enjoy a delicious moist turkey, following these useful steps.

  • Fresh vs. Frozen: This choice is really a matter of convenience. Frozen turkeys are generally less expensive than fresh, especially if you purchase them on sale at your local supermarket. If you have the freezer space, frozen turkeys will keep up to 12 months. For those short on time, a fresh turkey is the answer.
  • Thawing Techniques: The safest and best method for thawing a turkey is in the refrigerator. This method takes some planning on your part. It will take approximately 1 to 5 days to thaw a whole frozen turkey. Estimate at least 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of bird.
  • Safety First: When you have finished preparing the turkey, thoroughly wash your hands with hot soapy water and clean all surfaces that came in contact with the raw bird. Following these simple steps will help prevent the spread of salmonella, a harmful bacteria common to turkey and other types of poultry.
  • Cooking Basics: Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan on the lowest rack of a preheated 325°F oven. This will allow for good air circulation and more even cooking.

The best method to determine doneness is to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Internal temperature can easily be measured by using an oven-proof thermometer or an instant-read thermometer. These devices are available at your local grocery store.

An oven-proof thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the thigh before the turkey is placed in the oven. The turkey is cooked when the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180°F or the breast reaches 170°F. These temperatures are the level at which all harmful bacteria (including salmonella) are killed.

Although many turkeys come with pop-up timers, they are not reliable for determining doneness.

If you are stuffing the body cavity of the turkey, do so just before placing the turkey in the oven. Stuffing should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Roasting time also increases when cooking a stuffed turkey.

Let the turkey stand for 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the size) before carving; this will allow the juices to evenly distribute throughout the bird and make carving easier.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites:

Boneless Turkey Facts

Fresh turkeys can be time consuming. This year, try making a boneless turkey dinner instead.
Fresh turkeys can be time consuming. This year, try making a boneless turkey dinner instead.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For a change of pace this holiday season, why not try making boneless turkey breasts and tenderloins instead. It's also a great for added convenience if you're short on preparation time this year.

These boneless cuts offer the advantages of reduced (or no) thawing time, shorter cooking times and enough white meat for everyone.

In addition, white turkey meat has significantly less fat than a traditional dark meat portion. Count on about 1/3 pound per serving for most boneless cuts.

Tired of traditional turkey recipes? Get inspired for new spins on turkey with these sites: