Choosing and Preparing Your Thanksgiving Turkey

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Turkey’s
By: Susan Fox

If you’re like me, you have been lamenting about what kind of turkey to buy this year. With all the different choices out there maybe this little guide will help you choose which is best for your family.

Frozen- Commercial turkey’s that have been chilled below 0 degrees F. These turkeys are flash frozen and can be fresher than fresh unfrozen turkeys. These are usually the most economical. They are often injected with a solution that may contain butter or fat, chicken broth, water or stock and seasonings. They have usually been given antibiotics and growth hormones.
Fresh-These turkeys have never been chilled below 26 degrees F. Be sure to check their “use by” or “sell by” dates.
USDA Organic- certified to have no hormones or antibiotics, raised on land that has been pesticide free for at least 3 years.

Natural- This means no artificial ingredients or colorings or preservatives have been added. It does not however mean that it has not been given antibiotics.

Kosher- This means they have been grain fed and have not been given antibiotics. They have been allowed to roam freely. They have been soaked in a bringing solution which adds flavor and weight.

Hen Turkeys- Are generally usually weighs between 8-16 lbs.
Tom Turkey- Are generally male and usually weigh between 18-32 lbs.

Free Range- To be labeled free range the turkeys must have access to the outdoors for a certain amount of time each day. This does not guarantee that they are organic or have not received antibiotics or hormones.

Young Turkey- A turkey of either sex that is less than 8 mo. old. Most turkeys reach market maturity at 4-5 months of age. Often considered to be more tender.

Basted or Self Basted- Turkeys that have been injected with a solution that may contain butter or fat, chicken broth, water or stock and seasonings.
Premium Brand Turkeys- Producers of these turkeys claim superiority because of the use of high quality feeds.

Heirloom or Heritage Turkeys: The latest trend in Turkeys. Also called “standard turkeys.” They are more costly and time consuming to raise. They are allowed to mature longer and are said to taste much better.

If you are interested in finding out where to purchase organic or free range turkeys locally check out the Eat-Well Guide Website. They also have information on organic farming.
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The following information was found at Whats Cooking America

How Much to Buy
• One (1) pound of raw turkey per person which includes a moderate amount for leftovers.

• 1 1/2 pounds per person, if you have hearty eaters or want ample leftover.

• 3/4 pound of whole turkey per person for no leftovers.

• Uncooked, boneless turkey roast – at least 1/3 pound per person.

• Uncooked, bone-in turkey breast – 3/4 pound per person.

How To Defrost or Thaw Turkey:
Turkey should be thawed it its original plastic wrapper. Place it on a try or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. Every five (5) pounds of turkey will require 24 hours of thaw time in the refrigerator (i.e., a 15-pound bird will take three (3) full days).

Start defrosting the frozen turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator, in the back. – NEVER DEFROST TURKEY AT ROOM TEMPERATURE, since bacteria multiplies and breeds at room temperature.

Following information on thawing turkeys from the National Turkey Federation:

Refrigerator Turkey Thawing Time (40 degrees F.)
Turkey Weight Days to Allow for Thawing Turkey
4 to 8 pounds 1 to 2 days
8 to 12 pounds 2 to 2.5 days
12 to 16 pounds 2.5 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

How To Stuff Turkey:
Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely
Prepare stuffing safely. Mix and stuff the turkey just before roasting it. If more convenient, the wet and dry ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and chilled. Do not stuff the turkey ahead of time. The turkey insulates the stuffing from the refrigerator’s cold and can keep the stuffing in a dangerous temperature range (40 degrees to 140 degrees F.) that allows bacteria to multiply.
Be sure the turkey is completely thawed.

Remove the plastic wrapper from the turkey. Don’t forget to remove the paper wrapped packet of giblets and the neck found in the body and nice cavities.

Blot turkey inside and out with paper towels.

Stuff the bird properly. The turkey should be stuffed loosely about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. This will help allow the stuffing to reach the proper 165° F. internal temperature whether the stuffing is in the bird or in a casserole. Use a meat thermometer to be sure. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.

Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.

Optional steps:
• Tuck wing tips back under shoulders of bird (called “akimbo”).
• Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan.
• In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil may be place loosely over the breast of the turkey for the first 1 to 1-1/2 hours, and then removed for browning. Or, a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey has reached the desired golden brown.
How To Roast the Stuffed Turkey:
Cook at the proper temperature. The stuffed turkey should be placed immediately in a preheated oven set no lower than 325° F. Cooking overnight in a “slow” oven is not recommended since food borne bacteria can form under these conditions.

For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked with a meat thermometer. The meat thermometer must be placed properly in the thigh joint. Safe cooking relies on the use of a meat thermometer. The USDA has come up with a one-temperature-suits-all for poultry safety: 165° F.

• Several types of thermometers are available on the market: regular, oven-proof; instant read and digital; pop-up timers; and microwave-safe thermometers.

• Make sure the thermometer you buy or use is designed for meat and poultry. At the beginning or toward the end of the roasting time an oven-proof thermometer may be placed in the thigh joint of the turkey to check the internal temperature at intervals during the cooking time. Or an instant-read may be used periodically to check the internal temperature during cooking.

• After each use of your meat thermometer, wash the stem section of the thermometer thoroughly in hot, soapy water.

• If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is also recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wine, and the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer.

The temperature must reach a minimum of 165° F. in the thigh before removing from the oven. The center of the stuffing should reach 165° F. after stand time.

Juices should be clear. In the absence of a meat thermometer, pierce the turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear with no trace of pink. NOTE: The old-fashioned way of wiggling the leg to see if it’s loose will give you an indication that the turkey is ready, but unfortunately, by the time the leg is truly loose, the turkey is sadly overcooked. The only reliable test for doneness is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone.

Once you remove the turkey from the oven, tent it with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes, so the meat can firm up and hold the juices, making it easier to car

Turkey Cooking Times:
The new roasting times are based on the recommendations above and on a 325 degree F. oven temperature. These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed meat thermometer.
Approximate Turkey Cooking Times:

4 to 8 pounds………….1-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds…………….2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds……………3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds……………3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds……………4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds……………4-1/2 to 5 hours

8 to 12 pounds…………….3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds……………3-1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds……………4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds……………4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds……………4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours

NOTE: It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state, but the cooking time will take at least 50% longer the the above recommended time for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet packages before your start the cooking.

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