Timely tips for cooking turkey

Published 10:17 am Monday, November 23, 2015

This Thursday, millions of Americans gather with loved ones to celebrate our national day of thanks, giving and, of course, feasting.

In the days leading up to the holiday, the homes that will play host for their family members often become a frenzy of activity. Be it cleaning up the domicile to present to guests, creating centerpieces and decorations for tables and purchasing the massive amount of food for Thursday’s feast, it’s quite a rush for many in the days leading up to the holiday.

And that’s without mentioning the preparation of the meal itself.

While dishes like sweet potato casserole, stuffing and cranberry sauce are considered beloved staples of the holiday, at the end of the day, what carries most Thanksgiving meals is a succulent, moist roasted turkey — which for most cooks is the hardest part of the meal to nail down.

While for many, cooking is considered an artform, it can also be described as a science. And by following these tips from the National Turkey Federation, people struggling to create perfect turkey can help ensure their bird is cooked to standards their guests deserve this Thursday.


Thawing a frozen turkey — plan on a week in the refrigerator

• Allow 24 hours thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of whole frozen turkey and other large turkey pieces. Place the bird, in the original wrapping, on a shallow baking sheet in the refrigerator.

• Tip from Professional Chefs: thaw the turkey upside-down so that the meat remains moist and juicy.

• Turkey is thawed when it reaches 38 degrees.


Roasting the perfect turkey

• If you stuff your bird, add stuffing immediately before placing in the oven. The center of the stuffing must register 160-165 degrees on a meat thermometer after cooking before removing the turkey from the oven.

• If you do not stuff your turkey, the addition of 2 cups of coarsely chopped celery, onion and carrots to the cavity will enhance the fragrance and add to the flavor of the pan juices.

• Select a shallow roasting pan that is at least 2 inches longer and wider than the turkey so oven air can flow completely around the turkey.

• Add half a cup of water to the bottom of the pan.

• Roast at 325 degrees in the oven until a meat thermometer indicates the internal temperature registers 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast.  Allow the turkey to rest for 20 to 25 minutes before carving.


Cooking takes longer 

under these circumstances

• A partially frozen bird requires longer cooking – check carefully that it is thoroughly cooked to 170 degree.

• The depth and size of roasting pans can alter heat circulation around the bird. A turkey or the roasting pan may be too large for the oven and could block heat circulation. Be sure to allow at least 2-inches of space around the oven walls so heat can circulate around the turkey.

• The use of an aluminum foil tent for the entire roasting time will slow down cooking.

• A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook.


 Cooking is faster 

under these circumstances

• Dark roasting pans result in faster cook times than shiny metal roasting pans.

• If the turkey is covered with the roasting pan lid, the cook time will be shorter.

• An oven cooking bag can accelerate cook time.


Storing your leftovers

• Extra turkey from the meal should be carved from the bone and the stuffing removed. Store in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze within two hours of cooking.

• Cooked, sliced turkey should be refrigerated within two hours and be kept cold at 40 degrees. When reheating, be sure the turkey reaches a temperature of 165 degrees.

Whether you follow these tips or go with whatever tried and true methods you’ve used in the past, we wish you luck with your Turkey cooking endeavors in the coming days.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.