Buying the Turkey
Read the label to know what you are buying. “Young turkey” means the bird is four to six months old at slaughtering. “Turkey fryer” means the bird is under four months of age.
Toms are male turkeys. Hens are female turkeys. Toms are normally larger in size. They can weigh from 20 to over 30 pounds. Hens, on the other hand, are smaller birds. They normally weigh between 10 and 12 pounds.
Frozen or Fresh?
Fresh birds are usually of a better quality; however, if the birds were properly frozen, they will maintain good quality for a long period of time.If you are buying a fresh bird, you should buy your turkey one or two days before cooking. This way, you insure that the fresh quality you paid for will be there when you cook the bird.
Frozen turkeys should be properly handled to insure the quality of the birds. Buy your frozen bird early to allow enough time for thawing before cooking.
For servings, assume one pound of uncooked turkey per person. However, a few extra pounds will provide enough for healthy appetites, as well as a little left over for “after holiday” snacks.
Whenever possible, avoid buying a stuffed turkey. Buy the bird and stuff it yourself, right before cooking.
XXXXX3 Ways to Thaw a Frozen Turkey Safely:
Thawing the Bird
You can safely thaw a frozen turkey in three different ways: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
Thawing in the refrigerator: The time required for thawing a turkey in the refrigerator depends on the weight of the turkey. For example, a 12-pound turkey will take up to two days to be completely thawed; a 16-pound turkey will take three days; and a 20-pound turkey will take four days. A good guideline is 24 hours/five pounds of frozen turkey.
Thawing in cold water: Put the bird in a waterproof bag. Check the original packaging material for cuts to insure that no water will get through if you are using this as your thawing bag. Allow six hours for a 12-pound turkey; nine hours for a 16-pound turkey; and 12 hours for a 20-pound turkey. Change the water every 30 minutes.
Thawing in a microwave: Frozen turkey can also be thawed in the microwave. Follow the directions of your microwave model. Use the DEFROST cycle if it is available. Normally, it takes four to seven minutes per pound to thaw a turkey. The bird should be defrosted unwrapped; use a turntable if available, or turn the turkey periodically during defrosting. Cook immediately after thawing.
Never thaw the turkey on the counter at room temperature
Thawing takes place from the outside in. At room temperature, this allows the bacteria on the surface of the bird to grow during the thawing process.
Stuffing the Bird
It is safer to cook the stuffing outside the bird. However, if you want to roast a stuffed bird, the bird should be stuffed right before cooking. You can prepare the ingredients for the stuffing and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook the bird. Then mix the ingredients right before stuffing the bird; do not stuff the bird and store it before cooking. Regardless of how you cook the stuffing, it should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F.
Roasting the Bird
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxA step-by-step guide to roasting your holiday turkey:
Factors that can affect the ultimate cooking time.
Roasting times are based on turkeys just removed from the refrigerator, roughly 40F (5C). Thaw unstuffed, frozen turkeys completely. If there is still a little frost or ice in the cavity, rinse with cool water, then dry thoroughly.
A dark roasting pan absorbs more heat and therefore cooks a turkey faster than a shiny pan does. Likewise, aluminum foil deflects heat and can slow cooking quite dramatically. If you use foil, do so for only a portion of the cooking time.
A large roasting pan touching the oven wall blocks heat waves. Turn the pan several times during roasting to compensate for factors that may cause variations in cooking temperatures within your oven.
Don’t use a lid. It raises the temperature inside the roasting pan, so cooking happens faster than desirable. You’ll end up with a bird that’s tough and cooked an hour early. Lids also hold in moisture, so a turkey stews in its juices rather than roasting by dry heat. A crisp, golden skin only happens when the surface reaches 300F to 400F (149C to 205C), much higher than the temperatures reached in the turkey’s moist interior.
While the recommended temperature for cooking turkey is 325F (163C), ovens are often inaccurate…another reason one turkey takes longer than another.
So when is a turkey cooked? Eliminate the guesswork by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone (if the thigh is 165F, the breast meat is likely to be about 10F hotter.). Take into account that the temperature will rise another few degrees after the turkey is removed from the oven. A 20-minute “standing time” allows the juices to settle, making the meat easier to carve and more succulent when eaten.
Cooking a Turkey in a Microwave Oven
Follow the directions of your own microwave oven. Usually, cooking time is about a third of the time needed in a conventional oven. Start with a HIGH temperature for 20 minutes, then MEDIUM temperature for seven to 10 minutes per pound. Use your microwave probe or food thermometer to ensure that the turkey is at least 165F.
Serving the Bird
Whether you cook the turkey in the oven or in the microwave, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving. But do not leave the turkey at room temperature for a longer time before serving. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible (within two hours) and do not store leftovers for a long time. The quality deteriorates fast, even in the refrigerator. Enjoy your turkey and have a happy and safe holiday!
Somme information from:
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #4213
Prepared by Mahmoud El-Begearmi, Extension specialist, nutrition and food safety
Revised by Beth Calder, Extension Food Scientist Specialist/assistant professor and assistant professor of food sciences
~Place the bird breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan.
~Insert a meat thermometer in the meaty part of the thigh. It will help you tell when the turkey is done.
~Cover loosely with aluminum foil, with the shiny side in.
~Cook at 325F for the time shown in the table. It is not recommended that you start roasting on one day and complete cooking on another. You can baste your turkey during roasting using butter or drippings from the bird.
~Uncover the bird 20 to 30 minutes before the cooking time is up. Birds are completely cooked when the internal meat temperature reaches 165�F. (If you use roasting bags, more time is needed to reach an internal temperature of 165F.)
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