Carving and Serving the Thanksgiving Turkey
By Wendy Kalen
HOW BIG OF A TURKEY SHOULD I BUY?
General Rule of Thumb:
* Figure about 1 pound uncooked per person.
If there are big eaters and you want leftovers.
* Figure 1 ½ pounds uncooked per person.
* For Turkeys under 12 pounds estimate on the higher side.
* For turkeys over 12 pounds estimate on the lower side, since there is more meat to bone.
HOW LONG CAN UNCOOKED TURKEY BE STORED?
* Fresh turkey will keep 2-4 days in the refrigerator.
* Frozen turkey will keep up to a year in the freezer.
WHAT KIND OF TURKEYS ARE THERE?
SHOULD I RINSE THE TURKEY?
This is a point that professionals debate. If you want to rinse the turkey:
* Remove cellophane wrapper.
* Remove giblets and any other innards from the cavity and refrigerate.
* Rinse , inside and out, in cold water in the sink.
* Let excess water drain out of it.
* Dry thoroughly inside and out.
* Clean out sink with warm water, soap, and a little bleach.
Why some people do not rinse the turkey:
* The thought is that less handling results in a safer turkey.
HOW DO I DEFROST A TURKEY?
In the refrigerator:
* Do not take out of wrapper.
* Allow one day for each 4 pounds of turkey.
* Put it on a platter on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to catch any drips.
In the sink:
* Do not take out of wrapper.
* Put it breast-side down in a large bowl of cold.
* Change the water every 30 minutes.
* Allow about 30 minutes per pound for it to defrost.
SHOULD I COOK THE STUFFING IN THE BIRD?
* The USDA suggests cooking the stuffing outside of the turkey.
* Stuffing cooked in the bird is generally moister than that cooked in a casserole.
* Stuffing cooked in the turkey may have more calories than that cooked in a casserole.
GENERAL RULES OF THUMB FOR STUFFING TURKEYS:
For each pound of turkey, approximately ¾ cups of stuffing should be used.
* If you choose to stuff the bird, stuffing should be put in the bird just before roasting.
* Stuff the bird loosely to ensure proper cooking.
* Stuff both the main and back-end cavities.
* Close back cavity by pulling flap over and securing with short skewer.
* Close large cavity with leg clamp that may have come with the turkey or by tying end of the drumsticks with kitchen twine.
WHAT KIND OF PAN SHOULD BE USED?
* Some people believe that shiny pans are better for making gravy.
* A heavy weight pan with good heat conduction.
* A shallow depth pan.
* A pan that allows for proper air circulation:
* A pan with a rack.
* One that fits the turkey – like Goldilock’s favorite bed: not too big, not too small, but just right.
* A broiler pan with a wire rack can be used as an alternative.
TIMES FOR COOKING TURKEY?
* Approximately 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F
* Approximately 18-24 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F
Weight (lbs.) Unstuffed (hours) Stuffed (hours)
8 to 12: 3 to 3 ½
12 to 14: 3 ¼ to 4 ½
10 to 18: 3 to 3 ½ 3 ¾ to 4 ½
14 to 18: 4 to 5
18 to 22: 3 ½ to 4 4 ½ to 5
18 to 20: 4 ½ to 5 ½
22 to 24: 4 to 4 ½ 5 to 5 ½
20 to 24: 4 ¾ to 5 ¾
24 to 30: 4 ½ to 5 5 ½ to 6 ¼
* Add ½ hour of time for the turkey to rest after it is done.
* A turkey will stay hot about 1 hour after it is out of the oven.
* If the breast is browning too fast, cover it loosely with foil.
MEAT THERMOMETER INFORMATION:
The USDA highly recommends using a meat thermometer.
Checking thermometer for accuracy:
* Place at least 2 inches of the thermometer stem in boiling water.
* It should read 212 degrees F.
* If the thermometer reads less than 212 degrees F, add the difference to the thermometer’s reading when using.
* If the thermometer reads more than 212 degrees F, subtract the difference to the thermometer reading when using.
WHY COOKING TIMES VARY:
* Ovens vary.
* Birds have different shapes so the breast of an industrially raised turkey is larger than an organic bird.
* Turkey may not be totally defrosted in the middle.
* Roasting pan is too small.
* Roasting pan doesn’t allow for proper air circulation.
SHOULD I BASTE THE TURKEY?
* If the turkey is prebasted it is not necessary.
* If the turkey is not prebasted it is up for discussion.
WHEN IS THE TURKEY DONE?
* 180 degrees in the inner, thickest part of the thigh and should not touch the bone.
* 170 degrees in the breast.
* If the bird is stuffed, the stuffing’s temperature should be 165 degrees F.
* 165 degrees F at minimum.
* Juices run clear.
* If you put the juices on a white plate it is easy to see if there is any pink in the juice.
* The leg joints should move easily.
* As the turkey sits before carving its temperature will rise about 5 degrees.
HOW DO I GET THE BIRD OUT OF THE PAN?
* If the bird is stuffed, remove the stuffing.
* Stick one long wood or metal object, such as a spoon or carving fork, into the cavity, and a second one into the smaller cavity and lift onto carving surface.
* Cover the bird loosely with foil.
PAN GRAVY RECIPE:
* Remove turkey from the pan.
* Pour the liquid from the pan into a tall heat-resistant measuring cup.
* For each person plan ¼ – ½ cup gravy.
* Add enough water (and wine if you like) to the liquid for the amount of gravy needed.
* Add 1 tablespoon of flour for each cup of liquid to the pan to make a gravy of medium consistency.
* Over medium-low heat slowly pour liquid back in the pan and scrape off the stuff from the bottom of the pan and whisk about 2 minutes.
* Bring the gravy to a boil and simmer for a minute per cup of liquid.
* Season to taste with salt and pepper.
HOW DO I CARVE A TURKEY?
There are two schools of thought about carving turkey – the kitchen way and the at-the-table method. They both work equally well; each has their plusses and minuses. It is a matter of person preference.
Start Carving the Same Way for Both Methods
* Use sharp carving or electric knife.
* Remove the wishbone to make carving easier.
* Remove the legs.
* Grasp the end of the leg and pull away from the body.
* Slice between the leg and thigh to expose the bone joints.
* Cut through the joints to remove the leg and thigh.
* Cut between the leg and thigh joint to disconnect.
* Hold leg vertically on cutting board and cut slices parallel to the bone.
* Remove the wings.
* Cut off the breast by cutting parallel to the breast bone. Remove it as one piece of meat.
* Slice across the breast, the short way.
* The meat is cut against the grain and will stay together better.
* The slices are smaller and fit on a full plate more easily.
* Cut horizontally at the bottom of the breast to the bone.
* Cut slices of turkey starting at the top of the breast, down to the cut.
* Plus: This is the classic concept of how to carve a turkey.
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Hours in November
Phone Number: 1-800-535-4555