It's that time of year, soon millions of Americans will cook a Thanksgiving Turkey for their family dinner. But are you ready? Mary Clingman, Director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, has a few tips.
1. Don't wash your turkey (and certainly, don't use a drop of soap or the like). The cooking will make it safe to eat. If you would like to rinse it off, no problem. Just pat it dry in the sink so raw juices go down the drain.
2. Don't worry about basting your bird, but you can do it if you like. If you decide to bast your turkey, be prepared to cook it for longer since you'll need to open the oven door multiple times, which also cools the bird each time it's taken out.
3. For a picture perfect bird, spray the outside of it with cooking spray or evenly spread a thin layer of oil on the outside with your hands. "That's going to make the turkey look nice and evenly golden brown," Clingman says.
4. There is no perfect formula on how long to cook your turkey, according to weight, since you also need to account for a number of variables including the oven's temperature, type of pan, and turkey's temperature when it goes in the oven (is it frozen, thoroughly thawed, or partially?). The sure-fire way to cook it is to use an accurate meat thermometer.
5. Not sure if you'd should bake or fry your turkey? Both are great options, Clingman says. Frying does require help and you can't make gravy with drippings like you can with baking it, but will taste delicious.
6. To stuff or not to stuff? Both options are tasty and safe, Clingman says, just make sure to follow some safety rules. First, stuff the turkey before you put it in the oven. Put your thermometer in the center of the stuffing and when the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the entire turkey and stuffing is finished cooking. Be sure to keep in mind that stuffing a turkey adds about 30 to 45 minutes to the cooking time.
7. Not sure how long to thaw your turkey? It's about one day for every four pounds. In fact, Clingman calls the Thursday before Thanksgiving, National Thaw Day. If you have about a week before Thanksgiving, you can put the bird on a tray and into your refrigerator. If you don't have that much time, put it in cold water to thaw which will take about 30 minutes per pound. "Put it back in your refrigerator and within a day or two, it's going to be totally thawed," she says.
8. Breast down or up? The best choice is to cook the bird right-side up and to make sure it doesn't sit in a lukewarm oven (such as 250 degrees Fahrenheit) for hours and hours (such as overnight). As long as the bird isn't overcooked, all of the meat will be juicy and safe to eat. The magic really is in cooking it with a good meat thermometer to make sure it reaches the right temperature.
In a jam and need to talk with someone now? Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372).