Thanksgiving is only days away. For those who will be cooking the turkey, it's time to be making some plans.
If the turkey is frozen, there are several ways to thaw it. Thawing on the kitchen counter is not one of them.
To thaw in the refrigerator, allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place on a tray or pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one to two days. Be sure to plan ahead, as a 20 to 24 pound turkey will take five to six days to thaw.
A second way to thaw is in cold water, allowing 30 minutes per pound. Make sure water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed and do not refreeze. If you have a large bird, your sink may not be deep enough to safely use this method.
A third way is in the microwave. Again, the bird may be too large to use this method. Remove all outside wrapping and place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices. Use a defrost cycle. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing. Do not refrigerate or refreeze the turkey after thawing in the microwave as some parts of the bird may have begun to cook during the thawing process.
It is safe to roast a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet packages during the cooking time. Remove carefully with tong or a fork. Do not smoke, grill, deep fat fry, or microwave a frozen turkey.
For oven roasting, use a temperature no lower than 325 degrees F. For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, cook stuffing outside the bird in a casserole dish.
Do not use brown paper bags from the grocery or other stores for cooking. They are not sanitary, may cause a fire, and may emit toxic fumes. Intense heat may cause a bag to ignite, causing a fire in the oven. The ink, glue and recycled materials in paper bags may emit toxic fumes when they are exposed to heat. Instead, use commercial oven cooking bags.
A whole turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Stuffing, inside or outside of the bird, should also be cooked to 165 degrees. Do not rely on the pop-up timer alone to decide if the bird is done.
Rinsing the raw turkey or any other meat with cool water before cooking is no longer recommended. Eliminating this step reduces the risk of cross-contamination from rinse water being splashed around the sink and on the adjoining counter or other foods. The heat during the roasting process will kill any bacteria present. Remember to always use soap and warm water to wash hands, utensils, the sink and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices.
After the meal, cut the left-over turkey into small pieces and refrigerate it and other perishable foods within two hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within three or four days or freeze for later use. Reheat to a temperature of 165 degree F or until hot and steaming.