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TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving is a family tradition for many. I prefer the traditional
baked bird, but many other options exist these days. You could choose to have your
turkey baked, roasted, grilled, smoked, or fried to mention a few choices.
Before you cook your turkey, it should be stored in the refrigerator with a pan underneath
to catch any drips. A frozen turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold
water according to USDA guidelines.
Regardless of how much a hurry you are in, never thaw a turkey on the counter. Room
temperature allows the surface to thaw faster than the rest of the bird and produces
a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
To thaw in the refrigerator, it will take 24 hours for every five pounds of meat,
so allow adequate thawing time. A 15 pound turkey will take three to four days to
thaw. Once thawed, it can be refrigerated for up to two days.
To thaw your turkey in cold water, submerge it in an airtight package for 30 minutes
per pound. A 15 pound bird will thaw in about 8 hours. You must however, change the
water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. This process takes dedication to assure safety.
There are many choices to cook your bird and I am sure you have a preference. For
those purists who chose to roast their turkey, you need to start with preheating the
oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan, tuck the wings under
the shoulders; add one-half cup of water or broth to the bottom of the pan. If the
roasting pan doesn’t have a lid, tent heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for
the first hour and a half to keep it moist.
Using a meat thermometer, check for doneness. Once the thermometer reaches 165 degrees
when inserted into the thickest part of the meat, it is done. Turkey meat, including
parts which may remain pink, is safe to eat as long as it reaches 165 degrees. To
remove pink appearance or rubbery texture, cook to 180 degrees. Always use a meat
thermometer to test for doneness.
If you choose to cook your turkey outside on a grill or smoker, be sure the bird weighs
less than 16 pounds, if using a covered charcoal grill. Do not stuff the bird because
when cooking the stuffed bird to 165 degrees, it will take longer than is considered
If you are using a covered gas grill with a single burner, be sure to place a pan
of water under the grate to create indirect heat. Then place the turkey in a roasting
pan on top of the grill.
Some chose to fry their turkey, claiming it produces a moister bird and saves time.
If you are not careful, it can be an accident waiting to happen. One common problem
is overfilling the pot with oil. To avoid this, put your turkey in the fryer container.
Add water until it reaches 1 to 2 inches above the turkey. Remove the turkey and measure
the water level. Pour out the water and dry the pot completely. Then add oil to that
level. This should give you an accurate reading on how much oil to use to avoid it
spilling over the pan and onto the open flame below.
Take all necessary safety precautions to prevent anyone from getting burned by the
hot oil. Be sure to heat the oil to 365 to 375 degrees. Next add your turkey and allow
the oil to return to 365 to 375 degrees. Whole turkeys require about 3 minutes per
pound to cook. Only completely thawed, unstuffed turkeys are safe to deep-fry.
For your free copy of Talking Turkey which includes times, temperatures and recipes for leftovers, contact the Miller County
Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse.
We're online at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley,
on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.uada.edu/Miller.
By Carla Haley-Hadley County Extension Agent - Staff Chair-FCS
Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley County Extension Agent - Staff Chair-FCSU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854 (870) 779-3609 email@example.com
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 Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of 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.