Food Facts: Turkey 101

Everyday Food, November 2008

Thawing
Place the turkey (in its original packaging), breast side up, on a rimmed baking sheet; refrigerate. Plan ahead to allow one full day of thawing for every four to five pounds of turkey.

Prepping
Set the turkey on a clean work surface kept clear of other foods. Remove the neck, liver, and giblets from the cavity, and rinse the inside and outside of the turkey with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. After working with raw poultry, always wash hands, utensils, and work surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water.

Stuffing
If stuffing the turkey, do so just before roasting to prevent unwanted bacterial growth. Because the stuffing will expand as it bakes, fill the turkey's cavity loosely; this also allows the stuffing to cook more evenly and keeps it from becoming too dense. To test doneness before serving, insert an instant-read thermometer in the center of the stuffing to make sure it reaches 165 degrees. Cook any extra stuffing in a baking dish at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the ingredients and amount.

Roasting
Always roast the bird on a rack set in a shallow roasting pan so the oven heat circulates and helps the turkey to brown. After the first hour, baste the turkey often with pan drippings to keep the meat moist and give the skin an even color. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh, avoiding the bone, registers 165 degrees. Let the turkey rest, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for at least 30 minutes before carving so the juices can reabsorb. If the turkey is stuffed, remove the stuffing before carving.

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