It's basic turkey-talk time
ALL RIGHT, it's time to really talk turkey. No time left to fuss around with recipes and menu ideas. This is what you need to know to get the main dish to the table tomorrow:
Is it still frozen solid? When are you going to learn -- turkeys take days to thaw properly. But all is not lost. You need to resort to quick-thawing. Submerge the turkey in a sink of cold water. Leave the plastic wrapping on, and change the water every 30 minutes. This will take about 30 minutes per pound. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.
Ready? Get set ... Remove the plastic wrapping from the turkey. Reach inside both ends of the turkey and pull out the package of giblets and the neck. Give the turkey a good rinse inside and out with cool water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Lightly season the cavity with salt, if desired. Brush the turkey with oil.
Stuffing? Don't do this until just before the turkey goes into the oven. Plan on about 1/2 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. It should be loosely packed, otherwise it will be like one solid loaf of bread. Stuff both the neck and the body, then use skewers to hold the neck skin in place. Extra stuffing can be cooked in a baking pan after the turkey is done.
Place turkey on roasting pan and cover loosely with foil. There are lots of ways to roast, but the simplest for a beginner is at 325 degrees. About 30 minutes before the turkey is done, remove the foil to allow it to brown. Don't baste.
When is it done? The temperature in the thigh should be 180 degrees. The center of the stuffing should be 165 degrees. Roasting time will be roughly three hours for a 12-pound turkey, four hours and 15 minutes for an 18-pounder, five hours for a 24-pound giant. Stuffed turkeys will take about 15 minutes longer.
The leftovers: Everything on your buffet should be put away two hours after you set it out to avoid food poisoning. Carve the turkey completely and refrigerate the leftovers.
Many cooks will immediately put the carcass in a pot, cover with water and simmer to make soup -- this way they don't have to store the big, bulky skeleton.
Carving the bird
First, let your turkey rest at least 15 minutes after roasting to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the bird. Otherwise, the first few slices will be dry and then carving will turn to shredding.
While waiting, prepare your tools: Sharpen the carving knife and get out a carving fork, kitchen shears and spoon to scoop out the stuffing. Put a towel under the cutting board to keep it from slipping and to absorb juices.
For traditional carving:
1. Insert carving fork into the meaty part of the drumstick. Place knife between drumstick and thigh, and cut through skin to joint.
2. Place knife between thigh and body and cut through skin to joint. Remove entire leg section by pulling outward and using the point of the knife to disjoint it. Then, separate the thigh from the drumstick.
3. Disjoint wing and separate from body in the same manner.
4. Make a horizontal base cut across the bottom of the breast.
5. Starting parallel to the breastbone, slice diagonally through the meat, down to the horizontal base cut. Lift off each slice. Continue slicing the breast by beginning at a higher point each time until the chest bone is reached.
1. Anchor the turkey firmly on the cutting board with your carving fork. Cut along the bone and around the contour of the body next to the ribs.
2. Remove the breast and carve it into thin, even slices, cutting against the grain.
3. Remove drumsticks, thighs and wings.
4. Slice dark meat from drumsticks and thighs, cutting even slices parallel to the bone.
Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: (800) 288-8372. Open Thanksgiving Day until 2 p.m.
Foster Farms Turkey Helpline, (800) 255-7227. Open 24 hours a day through Nov. 28.
» Foster Farms: www.fosterfarms.com
» California Poultry Federation: www.cpif.org
» Butterball Turkeys: www.butterball.com
» Weber Grills: www.weber.com
» National Turkey Federation: www.eatturkey.com
» Reynolds Kitchens: www.reynoldskitchens.com