Thanksgiving is an
American holiday classic, seemingly untouched by time. While we may not
go "over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house," Thanksgiving
is still the occasion to gather with family and friends to give thanks
for our freedoms and the bounty of American life. We have been reminded
that the ideals of democracy and freedom celebrated at the first Thanksgiving
feast are the basis of a strong and enduring foundation for our great
Since that first American
Thanksgiving, pilgrims gathered for a feast celebrated with turkey and
it has been a centerpiece of the Thanksgiving celebrations ever since.
When you serve turkey at Thanksgiving, you are sustaining an American
tradition passed on through the ages. By preparing a traditional Thanksgiving
feast, you preserve the holiday tradition for future generations.
If you are an experienced
professional at preparing the classic Thanksgiving feast, you know it
is surprisingly easy for the wonderful results. The meal preparation requires
advance planning and organization. To an inexperienced cook, the thought
of being in charge of the entire Thanksgiving meal can be intimidating.
Younger home chefs may not have had the opportunity to perfect their cooking
One way to assist the inexperienced
cooks is to invite them to join you as you prepare the traditional family
feast. They will gain valuable experience and skills plus loving memories
of the occasion.
We offer several turkey preparation
How much turkey should
Allow 1 pound of
uncooked turkey per person from an 8 to 12 pound turkey. Larger birds
have a larger proportion of meat to bones, so 3/4 pound per person should
be sufficient with leftovers for the beloved turkey sandwich or soup.
By purchasing a larger
turkey than needed for the holiday feast, you can transform holiday extras
into timesaving meals. Freeze the extra cooked turkey and you'll have
your own "ready-to-prepare" healthy food for quick and easy post-holiday
meals. The National Turkey Federation database offers dozens of recipes
for cooked turkey. Check the variety of cooked turkey recipes for entrees,
salads, appetizers, sandwiches and soups at www.eatturkey.com.
How should the turkey be thawed?
Frozen turkey, like all protein
foods, should be thawed in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
When foods are thawed at room temperature, surface bacteria can rapidly
multiply to dangerous levels at temperatures of 40 degrees F and above.
For safety and superior quality, leave turkey in the
original packaging and place in a shallow pan. Thaw, in the refrigerator,
using the simple formula: whole turkeys thaw at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds
per 24 hours. Example: A 15-pound frozen bird will take 3 to 4 full
days to thaw
in the refrigerator.
Speed thawing: keep turkey
in the original tightly sealed bag and place in a clean and sanitized
sink or foodservice safe pan. Submerge in cold water and change the cold
water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound
Refrigerate (at 40 degrees F or below) or cook the turkey when it
is thawed. Do not refreeze uncooked, defrosted turkey.
What are the key pointers for stuffing a turkey?
Stuffing should be prepared
and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it is placed in the oven
for roasting. If preparing the stuffing ahead-of-time, wet and dry ingredients
should be refrigerated separately and combined right before stuffing the
Stuff the turkey loosely,
about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
est the internal temperature
of the stuffing as well as the turkey. The internal temperature in the
center of the stuffing should register 160 to 165 degrees F.
When is the turkey done?
Since turkey is low in fat and high in protein, the meat is sensitive
to extreme heat and prolonged cooking. Loosely place an aluminum foil
tent over the turkey breast during the first 1 to 1 1/2 hours of roasting,
then remove to allow the turkey to brown.
A turkey should be cooked
just until it is done. The best way to determine the level of doneness
is with a food thermometer. Use these tests to determine doneness and
to keep the turkey juicy.
For whole turkey, place the
food thermometer in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the
bone. The internal temperature of the turkey should measure 180 degrees
F in the thigh and 170 degrees F in the breast.
Juices should run
clear and the drumsticks should be soft and move easily at the joint.