This month has allowed me many family events. Birthdays, anniversaries, a wedding reception, and, of course, the upcoming feast with family and friends. Planning the meal, shopping, decorating, cleaning, traveling, and the food preparation are all extra tasks for the event.
Before we talk more about those may I encourage us all to pause and give thanks for the many blessings that we have. For some the list may be longer than others’, but when we develop an attitude of gratitude it changes our perspective on daily life.
Start with the little things, the things we take for granted, then ask your children around the dinner table or when you are driving: “what are you thankful for?” and “why are you thankful for it?” Research indicates that when we share with others, we can change our focus and have a better understanding of our lives. This conversation can also help children have a better grasp of the good things in life and motivation to help others that are less fortunate.
So, on to the meal ahead. Here’s a few tips from “USDA Turkey Tips” that you may find helpful:
- If you haven’t started to thaw your bird, please put it in the refrigerator. It takes about 1 day for every 5 pounds. If it’s not fully thawed you can either continue to thaw in cold water in the sink (and clean thoroughly afterwards), or it may be placed in the oven still partially frozen, but it will take more time. Allow up to 50% more time depending on the state of the bird. You need to purchase a bird large enough to provide about 1 pound per person.
- DO NOT stuff the bird the night before. The preferred guidelines are NOT to cook the stuffing in the bird, but separately due to the amount of time it takes to get the center of the stuffing hot (above 140 degrees). If you insist, stuff the bird right before baking.
- Make sure to clean the sink, counter, utensils, and anything else that comes in contact with the raw turkey and its juices with soap and water to prevent cross contamination.
- Use either oven cooking bags or tented foil to keep moisture in and less spattering in the oven. Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan to partially steam the bird.
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- Roast your turkey in an oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees. We want to make sure the internal temperature rises about 140 degrees as quickly as possible.
- A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.
- If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is still recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.
- For ease of carving, and to maintain the moisture in the turkey, allow it to stand for 20 minutes to allow the juices to set.
- Refrigerate left overs as quickly as possible to enjoy them for up to 3 days. If they are left out longer than 2 hours, they could be unsafe so plan to put food away before dessert and family conversation.
- Divide leftovers into small containers no more than 2-3 inches deep. If freezing leftovers, use within 2-6 months for best quality.
Blessings to all of you from all of us at the Wayne County Extension Office.