November 2015
Homeplace & Community

Holiday Turkey Tips ...

From Thawing Through Leftovers

Are you planning on preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving? Planning ahead can make the traditional Thanksgiving meal safer and less stressful. Here are some tips from your local county Extension office to help make this year’s holiday meal a success.

Before purchasing your turkey, make sure you have ample space in your refrigerator. Turkeys look smaller at the grocery store, so be careful not to underestimate the size of your bird. Think about using a cooler to thaw and store your turkey. The turkey should be kept on ice and should stay 40 degrees or below to prevent bacteria from growing. Storing the turkey in a cooler will free up space in your refrigerator and will help keep the raw turkey juices from contaminating other items in your refrigerator.

Thawing and handling

Never defrost a turkey on the counter! Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4-5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only one to two days before the meal and keep it refrigerated or on ice. Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavity and keep bird and parts refrigerated at 40 degrees or below until it is ready to be cooked.

Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the bird.

Cooking and stuffing

The single most important thing to know about cooking a turkey, no matter the cooking method, is that it must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. An unstuffed turkey will generally take 14-20 minutes per pound to cook and a stuffed turkey will take additional time.

Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven at 325 degrees. Mix the wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using. Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake any extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. (For optimum safety and more even cooking, it’s recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.)

Take the temperature! Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer. If the turkey is done and the stuffing is not yet 165 degrees, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking to temperature.

Safe carving and serving

It’s best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Use a clean cutting board with a well to catch juices. Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity. Make sure your knife is sharp before you start carving.

Storing leftovers safely

Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones. Within two hours, store any extra turkey, stuffing or other leftovers in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within three to four days. Cooked turkey keeps for three to four months in the freezer. When using leftovers, reheat the foods thoroughly to 165 degrees or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving.

For more information on safe food handling and cooking, please contact your local Extension office.

Happy Holidays from your county Extension staff! We hope you have a safe and joyous season. Please try the Turkey and Broccoli Quiche recipe. Let us know what you think.

Turkey and Broccoli Quiche

2 (9-inch) ready-made pie crusts, baked by package directions

4 eggs

1 cup low-fat or skim milk

¾ teaspoon garlic salt

Pepper, to taste

1 (10-ounce) package frozen, chopped broccoli, cooked by

package directions

¾ cup cooked, chopped turkey

¼ cup carrots, shredded

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

¾ cup low-fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, garlic salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour extra liquid from broccoli and let broccoli cool; squeeze broccoli to remove some more water. Make sure broccoli is well-drained. Layer turkey, vegetables and cheese into each pie crust. Pour egg mixture over both. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until top is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings

calories 270 | total fat 16 g | saturated fat 6 g | protein 16 g | carbohydrates 17 g | fiber 2 g | sodium 450 mg

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.