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Turkey Day
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Whether it is your first time to host a holiday meal or you are a seasoned veteran, it never hurts to review the basics of cooking a turkey keeping food safety in mind. Many hostesses are busy getting a head count so that they can purchase the correct sized turkey. A rule of thumb is to purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person. This should allow enough for the feast and for leftovers too. Read on for answers to a few more of your turkey day questions.
Thawing the turkey correctly is very important. Keep in mind that a whole turkey takes about 24 hours per four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. For example: a 15 pound frozen bird will take 3 to 4 full days to thaw in the refrigerator. Ideally, purchase your frozen turkey as far in advance as necessary to safely thaw it in the refrigerator. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only 1 to 2 days before the meal and keep it refrigerated.
Remember safe food handling practices throughout the process. Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey. When thawing a bird in the refrigerator, leave it in its original packaging and place in a shallow pan to catch any drippings. If you thaw your turkey in a sink make sure you submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Thawing turkeys in this manner takes around 30 minutes per pound to thaw.
There are several methods for cooking your turkey. The single most important thing to know, no matter the cooking method, is that the turkey must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. A stuffed turkey will take additional time to cook. Much of the information I found this year recommends cooking your stuffing separately in a casserole dish. When checking the temperature of your turkey with a meat thermometer, do so in the thickest part of the thigh or the breast area. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. My personal preference is to cook the turkey to 170 – 180 degrees F. Oven temperature for cooking your turkey is recommended to be 325 degrees.
It is best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Do not leave any extra turkey, stuffing or other leftovers out for more than two hours. Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or 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 degrees F.
If you have any other food related questions that I can help you with feel free to give me a call.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at: (620)793-1910 or