It's time to get to know that big bird
It's now eight days and counting till Thanksgiving and the meal of the year. If you're in charge of that all-important turkey feast, it's time to start making lists and checking them twice. The main event, of course, will be the big bird. Here's what you need to consider now, so you'll be prepared next week:
It takes a LONG time to thaw a turkey: Count backward and figure out how soon you've got to start thawing. Frozen turkeys should be thawed in the refrigerator, allowing one day for every 4 to 5 pounds. Thus a 20-pound turkey requires four to five days. Thaw breast-side up in the original wrapping.
The quick-thaw method involves soaking the turkey in cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes. It takes a minimum of 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. See www.butterball.com for detailed information on proper thawing and handling techniques.
Or you can skip all this and go with a more expensive fresh turkey. Buy a fresh turkey one to two days in advance.
Are you sure you have enough? Allow 1.5 pounds of turkey per person to provide generous servings and leftovers. Don't like doing math? The Butterball Web site offers a calculator that will figure out how much turkey and stuffing you'll need for any size gathering.
Find your meat thermometer: The only accurate way to determine when the turkey is fully cooked is to take its temperature. It should reach 180 degrees deep in the thigh and 160 degrees in the center of the stuffing.
Will it be roasted, smoked, grilled or fried? Although roasting remains the most popular method of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, deep-frying, smoking and even grilling have their proponents. Deep-frying involves only about an hour of cooking time with some preparation involving injection of seasonings into the bird or applying a dry rub. Turkey fryers are easy to find at reasonable cost.
Smoking, on the other hand, takes about eight hours of careful monitoring. The payoff is in flavor and tenderness. Keep in mind that you'll be restricted to about 15 pounds of bird. Beyond that, and bacterial contamination becomes an issue.
Grilling in a gas grill is also an option, but again, requires constant monitoring to maintain consistent temperature. See www.weber.com for tips.
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