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Preparing the turkey for the holiday meal can be stressful!
Nashville, Ark. – As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, you have probably given
some thought to what you will prepare, how you will prepare it, who is coming and
the list goes on and on. Regardless of whether this is your first Thanksgiving or
the fiftieth, preparing the holiday bird can be stressful. It doesn’t have to be that
way. Here are few steps to follow to ensure you have a delicious Thanksgiving meal
for you, your family and your friends.
There are some things to consider when purchasing the turkey. Most of
the turkeys we have available come to us frozen, so let’s address that option. Now
is the time to purchase the turkey. You will need to allow several days for the turkey
to thaw in your refrigerator, so make sure you have enough room in the fridge to thaw
it properly. Be sure to plan ahead – it takes approximately 3 days for a 20 pound
turkey to fully defrost in the refrigerator. Place the turkey on the bottom shelf
with a pan under it to catch any liquids that will pool as the turkey thaws. Avoid
thawing in the kitchen sink or on the counter. Bacteria which are present in the turkey
will grow at an alarming rate.
Determining how long to cook your bird can also be difficult. Plan on
20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree F oven for a defrosted turkey. That means if
your turkey is 20 pounds, you will need to allow about 4 ½ hours to cook.
Although many people picture the ideal turkey with the stuffing inside,
a turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Consider adding flavor
by loosely filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables – carrots, celery, onion or
garlic – or by carefully tucking fresh herbs underneath the breast skin. Rosemary
or thyme are great herbs to use. For the stuffing lovers, cook the dressing in a casserole
dish on the side.
Before you begin roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with vegetable
or olive oil, season with salt and pepper and tightly cover the breast with aluminum
foil to prevent over-browning. Once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation
to open the oven door. When the oven temperature fluctuates, you’re only increasing
the likelihood of a dry bird. About 45 minutes before the turkey is done, remove the
foil from the breast to allow it to brown.
Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey
and assure a moist bird. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal
temperature of 165 degrees F throughout the bird. Check the temperature in the innermost
part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All turkey meat, including
any that remains pink, is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165 degrees
F. The stuffing should reach 165 degrees F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a
When the turkey has reached the correct temperature and you are ready
to remove it from the oven, let it stand sitting out for 20 minutes. Then you can
remove the stuffing and carve. This should give you plenty of time to make gravy,
and finish up any side dishes.
Once you have enjoyed your meal, don’t forget to store your leftovers
properly. Cut your turkey into small pieces; refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately
in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing
with 3-4 days; gravy within 1-2 days; or freeze these foods. Reheat any leftovers
thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees F or until hot and steaming.
Preparing your holiday bird can be an enjoyable, stress-free task if you
heed some of the tips mentioned above. Talking Turkey is a free handout available that provides information such as what size turkey to
purchase, thawing methods, cooking times for both stuffed and unstuffed birds according
to the size of your turkey, and more.
If you would like to receive this information, contact the Howard County
Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second
floor of the courthouse. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University
of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. You can also download this handout on turkey preparation.
I hope each of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!
Being creative with the leftovers can sometimes be a challenge. Remember
you can use cooked turkey in place of cooked chicken in recipes. Here is a quick way
to use leftover turkey.
3 cups vegetables (use leftover carrots, green beans, corn, etc.)
2 cups shredded cooked turkey
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ cup water or milk
1 cup all-purpose baking mix
½ cup low-fat milk
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 240 calories, 8g fat, 14g protein, 29g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 860mg
sodium. Excellent source of vitamin A, Good source of iron and vitamin C.
By Jean Ince County Extension Agent - Staff ChairThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince County Extension Agent - Staff ChairU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852 (870) 845-7517 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.