Archive for Tuesday, November 25, 1997

A BY SUSAN J. KRUMM

November 25, 1997

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We were given a wild turkey to cook for Thanksgiving. How do we prepare it for cooking?

Here are some tips for preparing wild turkeys:

  • To reduce the gamey flavor, soak the turkey from one hour to overnight in the refrigerator using either a tablespoon salt in a quart of cold water or a cup of vinegar in a quart of cold water.

Use enough water to cover the bird and discard after soaking.

  • To absorb the wild flavor while cooking, put large chunks of apple, potato, carrot or onion in the cavity during roasting. Discard after cooking is finished.
  • Skin the turkey if the skin smells fishy, but remember that the skin helps to keep the bird tender.
  • Cook with an eye on keeping the bird moist. In general, wild game is more lean than commercially raised. Three ways to attain moisture are to:

1) Cover the breast and thighs with 1/4-inch strips of pork fat or bacon. Remove the strips 15 minutes before the bird is done to brown and make the skin crisp.

2) Wrap bird completely in foil, and remove foil just at the end of cooking to brown. Do not remove the foil too soon or the bird will dry out. This method gives the bird a steamed flavor.

3) Rub the skin with oil or cover with an oil-soaked cheesecloth. Be sure it does not dry during cooking. If the bird is skinned, do not remove the cheesecloth during cooking because it will cause the bird to dry out.

How do I roast the turkey?

Whether your turkey is a wild or commercial bird, always roast the turkey at Even though some may tell you that the turkey turns out really tender when cooked in a low-temperature oven all night, you are allowing the bird to be in the "temperature danger zone" for a long period of time. This creates conditions that allow microorganisms to thrive and multiply at a fast rate.

Be sure that the turkey is completely thawed before roasting. Place the turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2 hours, then remove for browning. Or a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey has reached the desired golden brown.

For safety and doneness, the internal temperature of the turkey should be checked with a meat or instant-read thermometer. The temperature must reach If a meat or instant-read thermometer is not available, pierce an unstuffed turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear with no trace of pink. Do not stuff the turkey if you don't have a thermometer. Instead, cook the stuffing in a casserole.

Let the bird stand for 20 minutes before carving.

How long will it take to roast a turkey?

Turkeys are cooking faster than before, but timing's not everything. Many variables can affect the roasting time of a whole turkey.

  • A partially frozen bird requires longer cooking.
  • Dark roasting pans cook faster than shiny metals.
  • The depth and size of the pan can reduce heat circulation to all areas of the bird.
  • The use of the roasting pan's lid speeds cooking.
  • An oven cooking bag can accelerate cooking time.
  • A stuffed bird takes longer to cook.
  • The oven may heat food unevenly.
  • Calibration of the oven's thermostat may be inaccurate.
  • The rack position can affect even cooking and heat circulation.
  • A turkey or its pan may be too large for the oven, blocking heat circulation.

Here are approximate cooking times that may help you in planning:

Unstuffed

4-6 pound breast: 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours

6-8 pound breast: 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours

8-12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours

12-14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours

14-18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours

18-20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours

20-24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed

8-12 pounds: 3 to 3 1/2 hours

12-14 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 hours

14-18 pounds: 4 to 4 1/4 hours

18-20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours

20-24 pounds: 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

What's the best way to thaw my turkey?

Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during "the big thaw." While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. However, as soon as it begins to defrost, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.

A package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter more than two hours is not at a safe temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in "the danger zone" between Immediately after grocery store checkout, take the frozen turkey home and store it in the freezer -- or refrigerator, if you want to begin defrosting it. Frozen turkeys should not be left on the back porch, in the car trunk, in the basement or any place where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored or assured.

There are only three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave.

Refrigerator thawing

Plan ahead: Allow approximately 24 hours for each 5 pounds in a refrigerator others. A turkey placed in the coldest part will require longer defrosting time. Frozen turkeys in refrigerators with glass shelves may require longer defrosting time than in refrigerators with wire shelves.

Here are refrigerator thawing times for a whole turkey:

8-12 pounds: one to two days

12-16 pounds: two to three days

16-20 pounds: three to four days

20-24 pounds: four to five days

Cold water thawing

Allow about 30 minutes per pound. First be sure the food is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Tissues can also absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.

Immerse the turkey in cold tap water. Check the water frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.

A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be refrozen.

Here are cold water thawing times:

8-12 pounds: four to six hours

12-16 pounds: six to eight hours

16-20 pounds: eight to 10 hours

20-24 pounds: 10 to 12 hours

Microwave thawing

Follow the microwave oven manufacturer's instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed.

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