Thanksgiving Turkey Preparation
As a Chef, Lifestyle Consultant and Master of Fitness Sciences I receive a great many food safety questions. Thanksgiving is the holiday that produces the most questions—typically, about how to best prepare and cook a turkey. These helpful tips can take the stress out of your holiday!
How do I prepare the turkey?
If you are using a frozen turkey, plan ahead. Your bird should be placed on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator with nothing below it. This will prevent other foods, especially ready to eat foods, from being contaminated. You need to place your turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours, per 5 pounds. For example, if your turkey weighs 20 pounds, it will need 96 hours (or 4 days) to thaw completely.
To stuff, or not to stuff?
My recommendation is that you cook the bird without stuffing it. If you stuff the turkey, you need to bring the turkey and the stuffing up to 165 degrees in order to prevent the growth of salmonella. Also, cooking a stuffed turkey causes inconsistencies. It will cause you to have wings and legs that are overcooked and breasts that could be undercooked.
How do I cook the turkey?
On average, your unstuffed turkey will take about 15 minutes per pound at 350 degrees. However, the ultimate test will be the meat thermometer. I highly recommend that EVERY kitchen have a meat thermometer. This is an essential tool for cooking safely. Your meat thermometer needs to reach 165 degrees at the thickest part of the bird. The thickest part of the bird is typically the middle of the thigh, however, test multiple spots in your bird.
After taking the turkey out of the oven, remember to let the bird rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. Be safe and make good food choices