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Published November 19 2012

Other helpful hints for preparing your feast

Even though Thanksgiving isn’t until Thursday, you might want to think about thawing your turkey out before then, with Wednesday being the best bet.

According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, a 4- to 12-pound turkey will need two to six hours to thaw in cold water, while a 12- to 16-pounder turkey will need six to eight hours to thaw.

Want your turkey to be done when everyone’s expecting it to be? Better get started.

If you want to baste the bird once it’s thawed, it’s best to use an oil-based, and not water-based, product, says Kim Brewster, a culinary arts instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead.

“Basting with a water-based product actually will create evaporation and dry the bird out,” says Brewster.

While roasting times vary depending on the size of your bird, Brewster says you can tell when the turkey is done if the temperature in the thighs reaches 165 degrees.

“People always thought you had to get the temp up to 180, 185 degrees, and the breast may get up to that first before the thigh gets done,” Brewster says.

Once you can tell the meat is ready to go, Brewster recommends letting the turkey sit out for 15 minutes or so to let the juices settle. Then you’re all set to dig in.

After the meal is finished and you have leftovers – and what good Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have leftovers – Brewster suggests getting it into the fridge as quickly as possible.

There are some schools of thought that say people should let the leftovers sit out and cool down before going in the fridge, but Brewster says that’s not right.

“Get the leftovers in the fridge and get them cold, for spoilage reasons,” he says, adding that leftovers should not be covered airtight, so as to let the container vent and allow the steam to escape.