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Archive for Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thawing turkey requires plenty of planning

November 24, 2004

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Q: Do you have recommendations for thawing a frozen turkey?

A: The easiest method requires some forethought. Place the turkey in its original wrap in a shallow pan with a lip (to catch juices if wrap leaks) on the lower shelf of refrigerator. Allow one day of thawing time for each four to five pounds of turkey. To use a cold-water bath, submerge frozen turkey in cold water in a large sink or tub. Replace water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw. A microwave oven can be used to thaw a smaller frozen turkey. Directions vary; follow manufacturer's recommendations. Using the microwave begins the cooking process. Continue cooking the turkey in the microwave or standard oven.

Q: Can I cook a frozen turkey?

A: According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, it is safe to cook a frozen turkey from the frozen state. Doing so will take at least 50 percent longer than cooking a fully thawed turkey; the giblet pack also will need to be removed during cooking time with tongs or a long-handled fork.

Q: Would you give me step-by-step directions on preparing a turkey?

A: Follow these steps:

  • Remove turkey from its wrappings and leg lock; pluck any remaining feathers.
  • Wash the turkey, including neck and body cavities, with cool running water; remove the giblet/liver pack and neck. Set it aside to be cooked separately.
  • Secure legs with cotton string or a turkey lacing kit with needlelike rods and string.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck wing tips under the shoulders, and add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the baking pan.
  • Set oven temperature at 325 degrees, and allow about 20 minutes per pound. For example, for a 10- to 12-pound turkey, unstuffed, allow 2 3/4 to 3 hours; if stuffed, allow 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
  • If the roasting pan does not have a lid, tent turkey with aluminum foil for the first 1 1/2 hours of cooking time to help heat circulate. Tenting a turkey can help keep it from drying out during cooking; tenting toward the end of cooking time can prevent overbrowning.
  • Check the turkey periodically. If it seems to be drying out, baste it with pan juices and cover or tent.
  • Use a food thermometer, rather than the pop-up timer provided. If cooking a whole turkey, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh, taking care to avoid touching a bone. If cooking a turkey breast, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. A whole turkey should be cooked when the thermometer registers 180 degrees; a breast at 170 degrees and stuffing baked in a casserole or turkey at 165 degrees.

Q: How should I store leftover turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy?

A: Remove turkey from the carcass within two hours after cooking. Place leftover turkey in shallow dishes or food storage containers, cover and chill in the refrigerator. Use the leftover turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes in three to four days, or wrap, label, date and freeze the leftovers for future meals. Use leftover gravy in one to two days, freeze or discard it.

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