Turkey Do's And Don'ts

Turkey Do's And Don'ts
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Turkey Do's And Don'tsWe all have our favorite methods of seasoning and roasting the holiday turkey.  While every cook has their different variations, there are some things that should be done consistently to assure our family's health.

Over the years the experts have changed a few things, so it's always good to be updated on the current safety rules.

Preparation: Thawing a turkey is the first step, and it's the step that if done wrong can result in food poisoning. Here are a few essential tips on properly preparing your turkey for cooking.

1. Wash down the sink and countertop you will be working on while preparing the turkey. This should be done before and after handling the turkey. Remove any canisters or other items that might be close enough to be splashed or touched by you or the poultry.

2. Any utensils that are used to prepare the turkey should be washed in hot, soapy water before using on other food. It's easy to prepare more than one dish at a time, and use the same knives, forks etc. Instead, toss them in a sink or bowl of soapy water before using again.

3. Frozen turkey should remain in the freezer until 3-4 days before when they are needed. At this point, they can be stored in the refrigerator to thaw. Never leave a turkey out of the freezer or refrigerator for longer than 2 hours. Turkeys can be thawed in cold water when they are covered in plastic, but for large birds this can take up to 8 hours and the water must be replaced every 30 minutes. It's safer and easier to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator.

Roasting: While there are other methods of cooking a holiday turkey, the majority of us still roast our bird, so I will stick with this traditional method for this article. Again, everyone should know a few things in regards to roasting. In general, most turkeys will take between 3 and 5 hours to roast, depending on the size. Keep that in mind while planning for your dinner.

1. Try to thaw the turkey completely before roasting. If it is partially frozen, it will take a bit longer to roast. If the turkey has a bag with the neck and giblets inside the cavity, that should be removed before roasting. Often you can place the turkey in the sink and run cold water into the cavity to loosen the bag if it is still partially frozen.

2. Turkey should never be roasted at a temperature lower than 325 degrees F. and it should be tested with a meat thermometer to determine if it's done. The thermometer should read 165 degrees F. at a minimum-- many cooks prefer 180 F., which is fine, as long as every part of the turkey registers at least 165 F.

3. Stuffing ingredients should never be raw (such as raw oysters or sausage), but should be cooked before adding to the stuffing. If the stuffing is packed in the turkey cavity, it should be done loosely. When taking the temperature of the turkey to determine if it's done be sure to test the middle of the dressing too.

Once the turkey is thawed and prepared, it should be placed in a roasting pan. Mine is a simple black enamel pan with a lid that I have had for years. Place the turkey breast side up (with the wings pointed upward). I add about a cup of water to the pan before roasting. The simplest seasoning is simply salt and ground black pepper sprinkled over the entire turkey and inside the cavity. Cover with the lid, and roast at 350 degrees F. for the time indicated on the packaging of the turkey.

There are many other ways to season a turkey before roasting, but below are a rub and a baste that work well with any size bird. If you have fresh herbs substitute those in the recipes, using twice as much as the dried.


Herb Rub

-4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

-1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

-1 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

-4-5 fresh sage leaves, or 1/2 tsp. ground sage

-3/4 cup melted butter, margarine or oil


Mince all of the above and combine with the oil or butter in a bowl. Place the mixture under the skin, and smooth part of it over the top of the turkey skin before roasting. 


Turkey Baste

-2 cups chicken or turkey broth

-1 tsp. dried basil

-1 tsp. dried thyme

-1 tsp. dried oregano

-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

-1 tsp. salt


Mix the ingredients in a small bowl. Baste the turkey generously as it roasts. The baste will need to be mixed before each basting, and it's a good idea to place it in the refrigerator between times.

Once the turkey tests done remove from the oven and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes before removing the dressing if it was used, and before carving.

There are many ways to season and roast a turkey from the simplicity of salt and pepper to the complexity of layered herbs and spices.  As long as your bird is handled and thawed safely and roasted to the proper temperature, you’ll be able to enjoy the taste of roasted turkey at your holiday table.  A holiday meal is special because it’s prepared with love, whether it’s a simple meal or a gourmet feast.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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