Tips for Cooking Your Holiday Turkey
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving is a family tradition for many. I prefer the traditional baked bird, but many other options exist these days. You could choose to have your turkey baked, roasted, grilled, smoked, or fried to mention a few choices.
Before you cook your turkey, it should be stored in the refrigerator with a pan underneath to catch any drips. A frozen turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water according to USDA guidelines.
Regardless of how much a hurry you are in, never thaw a turkey on the counter. Room temperature allows the surface to thaw faster than the rest of the bird and produces a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
To thaw in the refrigerator, it will take 24 hours for every five pounds of meat, so allow adequate thawing time. A 15 pound turkey will take three to four days to thaw. Once thawed, it can be refrigerated for up to two days.
To thaw your turkey in cold water, submerge it in an airtight package for 30 minutes per pound. A 15 pound bird will thaw in about 8 hours. You must however, change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. This process takes dedication to assure safety.
Cooking your turkey
There are many choices to cook your bird and I am sure you have a preference. For those purists who chose to roast their turkey, you need to start with preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan, tuck the wings under the shoulders; add one-half cup of water or broth to the bottom of the pan. If the roasting pan doesn’t have a lid, tent heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for the first hour and a half to keep it moist.
Using a meat thermometer, check for doneness. Once the thermometer reaches 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the meat, it is done. Turkey meat, including parts which may remain pink, is safe to eat as long as it reaches 165 degrees. To remove pink appearance or rubbery texture, cook to 180 degrees. Always use a meat thermometer to test for doneness.
Cooking your turkey outside
If you choose to cook your turkey outside on a grill or smoker, be sure the bird weighs less than 16 pounds, if using a covered charcoal grill. Do not stuff the bird because when cooking the stuffed bird to 165 degrees, it will take longer than is considered safe.
If you are using a covered gas grill with a single burner, be sure to place a pan of water under the grate to create indirect heat. Then place the turkey in a roasting pan on top of the grill.
Some chose to fry their turkey, claiming it produces a moister bird and saves time. If you are not careful, it can be an accident waiting to happen. One common problem is overfilling the pot with oil. To avoid this, put your turkey in the fryer container. Add water until it reaches 1 to 2 inches above the turkey. Remove the turkey and measure the water level. Pour out the water and dry the pot completely. Then add oil to that level. This should give you an accurate reading on how much oil to use to avoid it spilling over the pan and onto the open flame below.
Take all necessary safety precautions to prevent anyone from getting burned by the hot oil. Be sure to heat the oil to 365 to 375 degrees. Next add your turkey and allow the oil to return to 365 to 375 degrees. Whole turkeys require about 3 minutes per pound to cook. Only completely thawed, unstuffed turkeys are safe to deep-fry.
Propane fryers should always be operated outdoors and away from buildings. And they should never be left unattended. Place the fryer on a flat surface, but not on a wooden deck or inside a garage. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
For your free copy of Talking Turkey which includes times, temperatures and recipes for leftovers, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair-FCS
Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair-FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
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