I recently saw a cartoon in a paper where the Pilgrims and Indians were pushing Santa, the elves, and the reindeer back and holding a sign that said, "It's not Christmas yet! It's Thanksgiving!" It seems that each year, Thanksgiving is overlooked in many areas. As Christians, we treasure the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to express thanks for the blessings we have received. Every day is thanks-giving! The Pilgrims and Indians certainly recognized their bounty and paid appropriate tribute.
Many families will gather this week to celebrate family and blessings, and our office often receives inquiries about Thanksgiving meal preparation - turkey, in particular. Below are some tips on safe handling and preparation of the popular Thanksgiving turkey:
- · Purchasing the Turkey - Be prepared! Before purchasing your turkey, make ample space in your refrigerator, moving shelves if necessary. There is no quality difference between a fresh or frozen turkey although fresh turkeys have shorter shelf lives. By purchasing a frozen turkey, you can get the turkey in advance and take advantage of special sales. 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.
- · Thawing and Handling - Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey. Never defrost turkey on the counter! The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavities and keep bird and parts (if using) refrigerated at 40 °F or below until it is ready to be cooked.
- · Cooking Time and Temperature - 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. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Use the timetable below to estimate approximate cooking time:
Thermal/Conventional Oven Open Pan Method Timetable for Roasting a Turkey at 325 °F.
8 to 12 pounds - 2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds - 3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds - 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds - 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds - 4-1/2 to 5 hours
Convection Oven Open Pan Method Roasting Guidelines for a Fresh/Thawed Turkey at 300 °F.
14 to 18 pounds - 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
18 to 22 pounds - 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 hours
Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Use a clean cutting board that has a well to catch juices.
- · Storing leftovers safely - Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the 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 °F or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving.
For more information, visit www.fightbac.org or www.eatturkey.com (National Turkey Federation).
- § Thursday/Friday, November 22-23: Extension Office closed for Thanksgiving holidays
- § November 27, 28, 29: Sewing workshop, 9:00 a.m. to noon, Extension Office (Please call to sign up - 903-885-3443)
- § Monday, December 3: County-wide 4-H Christmas party, 6:00 p.m., Ag Workers' Building in Buford park
If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things you have that money can't buy!
Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed.
Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Agent
1200-B W. Houston
P.O. Box 518
Sulphur Springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 - phone
903-439-4909 - fax