To help you get through the big day, we’ve compiled a quick reference guide; all the how-to questions are answered. Keep it handy.
If you’re preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving, you should have it either in the brine or the cool fridge by now. But there’s a lot more to do before that bird hits the platter. To help you get through the big day, we’ve compiled a quick reference guide; all the how-to questions are answered. Keep it handy.
How much turkey?
For turkeys under 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per serving (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine because they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio. But if your goal is to have ample leftovers, aim for 1 ½ pounds per person, whatever the turkey’s size.
Turkey roasting times
Use a food thermometer to ensure that turkey and stuffing are cooked to a safe internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
Approximate roasting times for a fresh or thawed turkey, cooked in a preheated 325-degree oven:
8 to 12 pounds: 2 ¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 ¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds: 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 ½ to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3 ½ hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 ½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 4 to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours
Roasting a turkey
Set oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees. Place turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, it is recommended you cook stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
If you choose to stuff the turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate. Chill all wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.). Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately.
Use an instant thermometer inserted at the innermost part of the thigh (without touching bone) to determine when your turkey is done. The meat needs to hit 165 degrees for safe eating.
How to carve a turkey
Before carving, let the cooked turkey rest for at least 15 minutes after it has been removed from the oven to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the bird. A moist turkey is easier to carve. If the bird has not rested, the first few slices will be dry and then carving will turn to shredding.
1. Begin carving by loosening the leg and thigh. Once removed, cut down the “V” of where the leg and thigh meet. The leg makes a nice centerpiece for your platter.
2. Cut the thigh into even pieces and place on platter.
3. Remove wing. Plate it or set aside.
4. Now for the breast. Brace your fork and slice horizontally until knife reaches breastbone. Begin slicing the breast by carving downward, ending at your horizontal cut.
5. Repeat the carving process on the other side.
6. Arrange turkey on platter and add fresh garnishes of your choice.
Grilling a turkey
During grilling, a turkey cooks by indirect heat in an outdoor, covered gas or charcoal grill. Place a pan of water beneath the grilling surface to catch the fat and juices that drip as the turkey cooks. Cook about 15 to 18 minutes per pound.
Sixteen pounds or smaller is the recommended size for a turkey for safe grilling. A larger turkey stays in the “danger zone,” which is between 40 and 140 degrees, too long.
Do not stuff the turkey. Because cooking temperature is low, it can take too long for the stuffing to reach 165 degrees. Plus, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.
Holiday Hot Lines
--Crisco Pie Hotline: (877) 367-7438
--Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: (800) BUTTERBALL or www.butterball.com
--Empire Kosher Poultry customer hot line: (717) 436-7055 or www.empirekosher.com/index.htm
-- Fleischmann’s Yeast Baker’s Help Line: (800) 777-4959 or www.breadworld.com/help.aspx
--Foster Farms Turkey Helpline: (800) 255-7227 or www.fosterfarms.com/cooking/index.asp
--General Mills: (800) 248-7310
--King Arthur Flour Co.’s Bakers Hotline: (802) 649-3717 or e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
--Nestle Toll House baking information line: (800) 637-8537 or www.verybestbaking.com
--Ocean Spray Cranberries consumer help line: (800) 662-3263 or www.oceanspray.com
--Perdue consumer help line: (800) 4PERDUE or www.perdue.com/tips/index.html
--Reynolds Turkey Tips hotline (800) 745-4000 or www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldskitchens/en/product_how_to.asp
--U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: (888) 674-6854 or http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Safety_Education/index.asp
How long do leftovers last?
Cooked turkey, meat and meat dishes: 3-4 days
Cooked poultry dishes: 3-4 days
Cooked vegetables: 3-4 days
Cranberry sauce, jellied or whole: 2 weeks
Gravy and meat broth: 1-2 days
Deli meat: 2-3 days
Pasta and potato salads: 2-3 days
Pumpkin, cream and fruit pies: 2-3 days
Soups and stews: 3-4 days
Stuffing and casseroles: 3-4 days
Discard food that requires refrigeration if it is left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate them in covered, shallow containers for quicker cooling. If you can’t eat the turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy within recommended storage times, freeze for later use.
— University of Minnesota, Ocean Spray Cranberries and American Dietetic Association
Brined and Roasted Whole Turkey
Brining locks in poultry’s natural juices, making it more moist and flavorful.
2 cups kosher salt
2 cups sugar
2 to 3 gallons cool water
1 (12- to 15- pound) fresh, whole, bone-in, skin-on turkey, rinsed and patted dry
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (5 tablespoons softened; 3 tablespoons melted)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup white wine, chicken broth or water
To brine: Combine kosher salt and sugar in cool water in a large, clean stockpot until completely dissolved. Place the whole turkey in the brine until completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 5 hours. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse inside and out under cool running water for several minutes to remove all traces of salt; pat dry with paper towel.
To roast: Mix softened butter with the pepper. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan. Rub the seasoned butter under skin. Brush skin with the melted butter.
Pour the liquid (wine, broth or water) over the pan bottom to prevent drippings from burning. Roast turkey at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, baste and then rotate the roasting pan. Continue roasting until the skin turns golden brown, an additional 25 minutes; baste again.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue to roast, basting and rotating the pan once about halfway through cooking, until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees for turkey breast meat and 180 degrees for turkey thigh meat. Remove the turkey from the oven. Let stand 20 minutes before carving.
Note: Do not brine turkey if it includes “basting” liquids that contain salt.
If you bought a turkey with a pop-up timer, leave it in place. If removed, the timer will leave a gaping hole for juices to escape.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
-- Morton Salt
Basic Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain.
In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk over low heat until butter is melted. Using a potato masher or electric beater, slowly blend milk mixture into potatoes until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 servings.
Quick Turkey Gravy
4 cups chicken stock
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Sherry, port or Madeira (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper
Remove rack from roasting pan. If juices in pan have evaporated, leaving only fat and browned bits on the bottom of the pan, carefully pour out the fat and discard it, retaining all browned bits. If there is juice, tilt the pan and skim as much fat as possible off the juice with a spoon. Set the pan over two burners on medium heat.
Pour in chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer, all the while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Reduce heat and cook slowly for 5 minutes.
Mix the ¼ cup water and cornstarch to a smooth paste. Whisking constantly, gradually pour the cornstarch mixture into the simmering broth, then cook for 1 minute. Season to taste with the alcohol, if using, and salt and pepper.
Pour into gravy boat and serve with the turkey. Double recipe for a crowd.
Makes 4 cups, about 12 servings.
-- Irma S. Rombauer, from “The Joy of Cooking”
Homemade Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.
Makes 2 ¼ cups.
-- Ocean Spray Cranberries
Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
Bake in preheated 425-degree oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.
Note: 1 ¾ teaspoons pumpkin spice may be substituted for the cinnamon, ginger and cloves; however, the taste will be slightly different. Do not freeze, as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.
Makes 8 servings.
-- Libby’s Pumpkin