Q: Haven't some of the recommendations on cooking turkey changed?
A: Yes, they have. Two recommendations for cooking turkey have changed from last year. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has eliminated the recommendation for washing raw meat and poultry, including raw turkey, before placing it in the oven. It also adjusted the cooked temperature to 165 degrees for all poultry products.
Rinsing the raw turkey in cool running water was recommended previously. 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. Heat during the roasting process will kill any bacteria, if present.
The new recommendation of 165 degrees standardizes the recommendations for cooking poultry. Previously, the USDA recommended different temperatures for poultry parts, such as breasts, thighs, and wings. The only sure way to tell if meat and poultry are cooked to recommended temperatures is by using a food thermometer. Thermometers are available at hardware, kitchenware, discount and department stores, and at many supermarkets.
Q: How much turkey should I buy?
A: The general rule in buying a bone-in turkey is to allow 1 pound per person. If additional white meat is preferred, consider buying a larger turkey or an additional turkey breast.
Q: Is there a best way to thaw a frozen turkey?
A: To thaw, place a frozen turkey (in its store wrap) in a shallow pan or on a baking sheet (with a lip to catch drips) in the refrigerator. Allow one day of thawing time for each 4-5 pounds of turkey.
Q: Is there a faster way to thaw a frozen turkey?
A: Consumers who may have forgotten to put the turkey in the refrigerator to thaw can use a cold-water method: Submerge the turkey (in its store wrap) in cold water in a clean, large sink or bathtub. Allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound. Drain and replace cold water every 30 minutes during the thawing process.
Follow manufacturer's instructions to thaw a smaller frozen turkey or turkey breast in a microwave oven. Thawing meat and poultry products in a microwave oven begins the cooking process, which needs to be continued immediately.
Q: What's in the bag in the neck and/or cavity?
A: Turkey parts, such as the neck or giblets, a word that describes the heart, liver and gizzard (edible parts of the turkey), are typically packaged in a paper bag and placed in the neck or body cavity. The bag should be removed before cooking. The neck can be cooked alongside the turkey. The giblets should be cooked separately and may be used in dressing or gravy.
If you forget to remove the parts before cooking, it is possible to save them. Most giblets are wrapped in an oven-safe paper and will be safe to use. If they are wrapped in plastic, the plastic may melt into the turkey and leave an off odor. If so, the giblets should not be used.
Q: Is it possible to cook a turkey from a frozen state?
A: Yes, but according to the USDA Food Safety, cooking a turkey (in the oven) from a frozen state will take at least 50 percent longer than cooking a fully thawed turkey. The giblet pack will need to be removed (with tongs or a long-handled fork) during cooking time. The USDA does not recommend smoking, grilling, deep fat frying or microwaving a whole frozen turkey.
Q: Should I leave the hock lock on the turkey during cooking?
A: The hock lock secures the turkey legs after processing. It can be left on, but removing it allows more even roasting.
Q: Is it possible to roast a turkey without a roaster?
A: Roasting a turkey requires a large, shallow pan (2 inches deep, for example) that is larger than the turkey (to catch turkey juices). Using a V-rack, which can be purchased with a pan or separately, will lift the turkey up from the bottom of the pan and allow air to circulate in the cooking process. Place the turkey in the pan breast-side up; tuck wing tips under the shoulders.
An aluminum foil tent can be used in place of a lid during the first 90 minutes of roasting time to help the heat circulate and, toward the end of cooking, to protect the turkey from overbrowning or drying out. Adding a half-cup of water to the bottom of the pan also will help keep the turkey from drying out.
Q: What is the recommended roasting time/temperature?
A: Set the oven at 325 degrees and allow 20 minutes per pound. Add 45 minutes for a stuffed turkey and about 15-20 minutes for a turkey to set up after it reaches 165 degrees to make carving easier. (Keep the turkey covered during holding time.) Roasting is a slow process, so it's not necessary to preheat the oven.
Q: How should I use a thermometer?
A: With a whole turkey, insert the thermometer probe into the innermost part of the thigh and wing as well as the thickest part of the breast, but not touching the bone. With a turkey breast, insert the probe in the thickest part of the breast, with care not to touch the bone. Follow manufacturer instructions for the thermometer.
Q: Will a pop-up timer do?
A: Pop-up timers packaged with a turkey have a short probe that isn't usually deep enough to get an accurate temperature reading. It should only be used as an indicator.
Q: Is there an easy way to carve a turkey?
A: Carving a turkey in the kitchen can be easier - and less intimidating - than carving the turkey at the dinner table. To begin, cut off the legs, wings and thighs at the joints. To remove the breast meat one side at a time, cut the meat away from the breast bone and then make a horizontal cut (similar to a quarter-cut on a circle) so meat can be sliced easily.
Q: If pumpkin pie should be refrigerated, then why are some pumpkin pies sold at supermarkets not refrigerated?
A: Commercial pies that are not refrigerated typically are made from a commercial recipe in which the ingredients are shelf-stable. Refrigerating the pies at home is still recommended.