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Turkey questions and answers
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An offer to host a holiday meal need not add unnecessary stress to your life. From purchasing the turkey to handling the leftovers, there are some good rules to follow. If you have additional questions that I may not have included please call me at the Extension Office.
Q: How much turkey should I buy?
A: The general rule in buying a bone-in turkey is to allow one pound per person. If additional white meat is preferred, consider buying a larger turkey or an additional turkey breast.
Q: Is there a best way to thaw a frozen turkey?
A: To thaw, place a frozen turkey (in its store wrap) in a shallow pan or on a baking sheet (with a lip to catch drips) in the refrigerator. Allow one day of thawing time for each 4-5 pounds of turkey.
Q: What is the recommended roasting time and temperature?
A: Set the oven at 325 F. Allow 20 minutes per pound. Add 45 minutes for a stuffed turkey and about 15-20 minutes for a turkey to set up after it is tested done (165 degrees) to make carving easier. Keep the turkey covered during holding time. Roasting is a slow process, so it is not necessary to preheat the oven.
Q: Should all meat be removed from the carcass before the meal?
A: Removing meat from the carcass immediately after the meal is recommended. Wrap and refrigerate the carcass (if it will be used for soup stock) separately from the meat, which should be stored in a shallow pan and covered. Placing leftovers in a shallow pan allows fast, uniform cooling. Covering leftovers prevents flavor migration and reduces the risk of cross contamination.
Q: How quickly should leftovers be used?
A: Three days is the general rule. If leftovers will not be used within three days, they should be wrapped, labeled, and dated before being frozen for a future meal. If well wrapped, cooked turkey generally freezes well for 3 to 4 months.
Q: Should leftovers be reheated?
A: Turkey may be eaten cold or hot. Reheating leftovers such as turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy or a cooked vegetable casserole to 165 degrees is recommended. My personal suggestion is only reheat what you will eat at one meal. You do not need to reheat the entire dish - only what you will eat.
Q: Should leftover pies be refrigerated?
A: A pumpkin pie, which is a custard-style pie containing eggs, should be covered and refrigerated. Leftover fruit pie, which typically is prepared without eggs, can be covered and stored on the counter. For best quality, refrigerate.
Q: If pumpkin pie should be refrigerated, then why are some pumpkin pies being sold at supermarkets not refrigerated?
A: Commercial pies that are not refrigerated typically are made from a commercial recipe in which the ingredients are shelf-stable. Refrigerating the pies at home is still a good idea.
Q: Do you have any tips for getting everything ready on time?
A: Plan ahead and divide menu items into three categories: Make ahead; stove top; and side dishes such as salad, relish tray or vegetable casserole that others bring. Sharing meal preparations not only reduces holiday meal costs for the host, but also shares the pleasure of preparing a meal for family and friends.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family!
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