Lets talk about turkey

Frozen turkey

This seems like a fairly simple subject, but as we progress through the month of November, our calls about turkey change. When people are shopping for turkey, they want to know about servings per pound of turkey. We tell them to plan on about one pound of turkey per person. Plan on more if you want to have some leftovers.

Other callers want to know about buying a fresh turkey or thawing a frozen turkey. We tell callers to plan to use the fresh turkey within two days after purchase. Fresh poultry is very perishable. Frozen turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator, if possible. Allow twenty four hours for every four to five pounds of turkey you have purchased. If you are thawing in a spare refrigerator, like the one I use in my basement that doesn’t get opened very often, plan on the four pounds. If you thaw in a refrigerator that gets opened regularly, you should be able to thaw five pounds every twenty four hours.

If you forget to thaw the turkey, no need to panic. You can thaw a turkey in cold water in the sink. Leave the turkey inside the bag it came in and immerse it in a sinkful of cold water. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey. A 12 pound turkey should take about 6 hours to thaw. Keep in mind that if you thaw your turkey in the sink, you should change the water every 30 minutes. The thawing turkey will make the cold water much colder. Plan to cook the turkey as soon as it is thawed.

If you don’t have the time to thaw the turkey entirely before cooking, you should know that you can safely cook a turkey from the frozen state. Plan to take the turkey out after a few hours of cooking to remove the neck and giblets and then return it to the oven. You should allow an extra 50% cooking time with a frozen bird. So, a cook time of 2 hours would become 3 hours with a frozen turkey.

The safest way to cook a turkey is unstuffed. That allows the turkey to cook quickly, evenly, and thoroughly. Even if your turkey has the red pop-up indicator, you should use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thigh and breast meat. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, past the dimple in the stem. Be sure not to touch the bone with the tip of the thermometer. The bones conduct heat faster than the meat and might indicate that the bird is at a higher temperature than the 165 degrees Fahrenheit minimum.

If your family must have stuffing cooked inside the turkey, remember these tips. Prepare the stuffing and place it inside the turkey just before placing the bird in the oven. Fill the cavity of the bird loosely with stuffing. Check the temperature of the stuffing as you are checking the temperature of the thigh and breast meat. Stuffing, too, should be at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember to store leftovers in the refrigerator within 2 hours. Slicing all the meat off of the turkey carcass will allow you to store it in a smaller space in the refrigerator.

If you have more questions about Thanksgiving turkey, ask us at AnswerLine. You can call us at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota or 515-296-5883 from anywhere else. During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, we will be open from 9-4. We work through the noon hour so you can reach us then if that is your only opportunity. Email us at answer@iastate.edu or comment on our Facebook page. We love to help and Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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