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.