by Julia Wilson:
It’s nearly Thanksgiving, and soon delicious, juicy turkeys will take center stage at many of our holiday meals. It’s so important that these birds are properly cooked and prepared, because we don’t want anyone to get sick from a foodborne illness. Here are some turkey FAQ’s.
Q.) How long do I cook a turkey?
A.) Here are approximate cooking times at 325°F in the oven.
Q.) How do I know if my turkey is done?
A.) Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast using a food thermometer. The temperature should be 165°F. The small pop-up temperature gauges found in many turkeys are not temperature specific and are not as accurate as food thermometers. Stop by the Extension Office for a free food thermometer.
Q.) How much turkey do I need?
A.) You should plan on one pound per person.
Q. How do I thaw a turkey in the refrigerator?
A. When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, make sure you allow enough time. You will need about 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of turkey in a refrigerator set at 40°F. Place the bird in a large pan to collect any juices that may drip and contaminate other foods. A turkey thawed in the refrigerator can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking. If necessary, the bird can be frozen again without cooking, but there will be some loss in quality.
Q.) How do I thaw my turkey in water?
A.) The cold water method is simply thawing the turkey in a sink of cold water, where the water is changed every 30 minutes. Do not use warm or hot water with this method as this will put the turkey in the “danger zone” for longer than is recommended. You should allow about 30 minutes for each pound of turkey. Be sure to use cold water and make sure the bird is wrapped securely in a leak proof bag in order to prevent cross contamination and a watery bird.. A turkey thawed using the cold water method must be cooked immediately.
Q.) Can I thaw my turkey in the microwave?
A.) When thawing in the microwave, follow the microwave owner’s manual for defrosting a turkey. They should have recommendations for the cook level and time according to the size of the bird. Most microwaves cannot accommodate a turkey larger than 12 to 14 pounds. Plan on cooking the turkey immediately after thawing as some areas of the bird warm up quickly and begin to cook during the microwave 3 thaw. Turkey should not be held for later cooking after thawing in the microwave as this increases the chance for bacterial growth.
Q.) Can I cook a frozen turkey?
A.) Yes you can cook a frozen turkey. A turkey that is completely frozen will take 50 percent longer to cook than a turkey that has been thawed. Start the process by preheating the oven to 325°F. Remove the turkey from its packaging and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Don’t try to remove the bag of giblets. You won’t be able to yet. Place the turkey in the oven and let it cook undisturbed for 2 hours. After 2 hours, take the temperature using a food thermometer at the legs and thigh. The temperature should be around 90 to 95°F. At this time, you can season the bird and apply butter or oil to the outside. The breast and cavity of the bird is still partially frozen at this point, so you may not be able to remove the bag of giblets. If you can, go ahead. If not, don’t worry about it just yet. Put the bird back in the oven for another hour and then check it again. After 3 hours in the oven you should be able to remove the bag of giblets. Check to see if the bag holding the giblets is paper or plastic. If the bag is paper, there is no safety concern if the giblets continue to cook inside the bird, but if you can, go ahead and remove the giblets and cook them separately. If the bag is plastic, you need to remove it. If any of the plastic has started to melt, you will need to throw away the bag of giblets as well as the turkey. Harmful chemicals can be released into the turkey as the bag melts making the turkey unsafe to eat. Once the giblets have been removed, brush the outside of the turkey with butter or oil or baste with pan drippings before placing back in the oven. At this point the turkey should cook for another 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on its size. Start checking the temperature after 4 ½ hours. The turkey needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F at the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. Once it’s done, don’t forget to let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
For additional food safety information, contact the Edmonson County Extension office or check out these publications
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