• Determine the number of customers to be served and calculate the amount of turkey needed. Charts in the Purchasing Turkey chapter offer guidelines.
  • Schedule thawing so that product reaches 38ºF no more than 4 to 6 hours before cooking. Times given in the following Cooking Methods sections are for thawed turkey, parts and products (unless specifically noted as frozen).
  • Determine total cooking time using charts in this chapter. Decide when cooking must begin in order to have whole body turkey and large parts or pieces of turkey completely cooked 30 to 45 minutes before serving. Smaller pieces of turkey should be ready just a few minutes before serving as they cool quickly.
  • Be sure to preheat cooking appliance to desired temperature.
  • Monitor internal temperature of turkey, following the guidelines in the Measuring Temperature section of this chapter.

To rinse or not to rinse the whole bird

Today's whole body turkeys are oven-ready because of sanitary processing and storage methods used by turkey processors.

However, USDA does recommend turkeys used in the Child Feeding Programs be cleaned, following these guidelines:

  • Remove neck from body cavity and giblets from neck cavity.
  • Remove any pin feathers or pieces of lung or windpipe.
  • Sanitize sink and drain board or draining area.
  • Rinse turkey inside and out under cold, running water. Rinse only. Do not leave turkey in water.
  • Drain on sanitized surface.
  • Use turkey immediately or cover and refrigerate.
  • Do not re-use any plastic bags or boxes that have been used to store poultry.

Stuffing whole body turkeys

Extra care should be taken when stuffing the turkey. Consider the following:
  • Improper handling and inadequate cooking of stuffed birds can increase the possibility of food poisoning.
  • Safe handling techniques require removal of all stuffing from the turkey cavity if the turkey is to be refrigerated.
  • Cooking the stuffing separately reduces labor.
  • The amount of stuffing required is usually more than the turkey can hold.
  • Stuffing is easier to portion from pans than from a turkey.
  • Roasting time is less and yield is higher for unstuffed turkeys.

Cooking Methods
Boning a Whole Turkey
Basics of Cooking
Seasonal Versatility
Measuring Temperature
Cooking Whole Turkey
Cooking Small Parts
Turkey Stock
Heating & Holding

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