Q: What happens if I forget to thaw the turkey?
A: Smaller turkeys can be thawed in a microwave oven. Make sure your microwave oven is large enough to hold the turkey especially if the oven has a rotating tray. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the size of turkey that will fit into your oven. Be sure to remove metal closures, such as the "hock lock," that holds legs together. Caution: Microwave defrosting is irregular, creating hot spots, which may encourage bacterial growth. Cook the turkey immediately after defrosting. Do not store in the refrigerator for cooking later.
A larger, still-frozen turkey can be thawed using the cold-water method. Do not use warm or hot water. Submerge the still-frozen turkey in its wrapper in cold water in the kitchen sink or a large tub. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. Allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw a turkey in a cold water bath, or about six to eight hours to thaw a 12-to 16-pound turkey.
Never thaw turkeys or other meat or poultry products at room temperature on the counter, in the basement, garage or on the back porch.
Q: Can I bake the stuffing in the turkey?
A: You can stuff the turkey only if you stuff it loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. Here are some tips if you plan to stuff the turkey:
¢ Never stuff the turkey in advance in an effort to save time.
¢ Once you have decided on a stuffing recipe, mix ingredients quickly and lightly stuff the washed cavity just before placing the bird in the oven.
¢ Chopping vegetable ingredients and bread preparation can be done in advance, but liquids and/or moist ingredients should not be added to dry ingredients until just before stuffing the turkey.
¢ Allow 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
¢ Stuffing needs room to expand during cooking, do not over-stuff.
¢ The stuffing recipe may be more than your turkey can hold. Place extra stuffing in a greased pan or casserole dish and bake separately.
¢ Stuffing contains potentially hazardous ingredients, such as broth, eggs and meat, etc. That means these ingredients could cause illness if not properly cooked and stored.
¢ Stuffing must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees to be safe.
¢ Stuffing should be removed from the cavity of the bird to a separate dish before carving the turkey.
¢ Do not leave stuffing and other leftovers out for more than 2 hours. Refrigerate leftovers immediately following the meal.
¢ Store leftover stuffing in the refrigerator and use within 1 to 2 days.
¢ Reheat leftover stuffing to 165 degrees before serving.
Q: Is using a pop-up timer included with the turkey enough to use?
A: Pop-up timers included with many turkeys are not sufficient for determining turkey doneness. A pop-up timer only checks the temperature in one area. The depth of the probe on pop-up timers also is not adequate for larger birds. It should only be used as an indicator for doneness.
It is recommended that a food thermometer be used to test the turkey in several places, including the innermost part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing.
Food thermometers can be purchased at hardware, discount department, and kitchenware stores and in many larger supermarkets. A dependable thermometer can be purchased for $10 or less. Buying a thermometer is a sound investment in food safety. Here's the facts on purchasing and using a food thermometer:
¢ An instant read thermometer can be digital or dial gauge and it comes in a storage case. Read the information on the package. Instant read thermometers have plastic heads and cannot go into the oven while the turkey is cooking. However, it will register the temperature of food within 15 seconds when the metal tip is inserted up to the dimple on the stem, thus the name "instant read." Always clean the tip before returning it to the case.
¢ Standard meat thermometers are metal and designed to withstand oven temperatures. The sensing area is from the tip to a half-inch past the dimple. This area registers the temperature of the food. Examine the thermometer and familiarize yourself with the dial settings.
¢ Positioning the thermometer in the turkey is not difficult. Always place the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh because the dark meat of turkey thigh takes longer to cook than any other part.
¢ Place the thermometer tip in the thick part of the thigh away from the bone. The thigh area closest to the body of the turkey is the thickest part. While you are washing the untrussed turkey, look for a spot to position the thermometer.
¢ Gently spin the head or dial of the meat thermometer around so you can easily see the reading without removing the turkey from the oven. As the turkey roasts, the thermometer may move out of position, don't worry, simply reposition the thermometer. The turkey is done when the temperature reads 180 degrees.
¢ Check the accuracy of the thermometer by placing it in a large container with crushed ice. Add clean tap water until the container is full. Put the thermometer stem or probe into the ice water so that the sensing area is completely submerged. Wait 30 seconds after the needle stops moving. Hold the adjusting nut securely with a wrench or other tool and rotate the head of the thermometer until it reads 32 degrees.
Q: How long will it take to roast a turkey?
A: At 325 degrees, which is recommended for slow-roasting a turkey, allow 15 to 20 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. Add an additional 15 to 30 minutes to the estimated roasting time for a stuffed turkey. Allow the cooked turkey to sit for at least 20 minutes before carving. During this time juices will be redistributed and the turkey will be easier to carve.
Remember also, that many factors can affect the roasting time of a whole turkey.