Good Housekeeping has been around a long time so I will happily take their advice this Thanksgiving on how to handle the turkey!
1. Should I buy a fresh or frozen turkey? Frozen turkeys are widely available and often on sale during the holidays. Some are prebasted to enhance juiciness. You can buy them well in advance of Thanksgiving, but you'll need to allow enough time for them to thaw.
Many people prefer fresh turkeys but they are usually more expensive, have a shorter shelf life, and you may need to special-order one. Don't buy one more than two days ahead.
2. What are other differences in types of turkeys that I should be aware of? Kosher turkeys are salted as part of the koshering process, so no additional salt is needed. This process makes the meat very tender and juicy, similar to the results you'd get from a brined bird.
Organic turkeys are raised and fed without the use of antibiotics, hormones or artificial flavors or colors It is against the law to use hormones on any turkey, so even your frozen nonbranded will be hormone free.
Free-range turkeys are raised and allowed free access to feed outdoors.
Prepackaged turkeys have water added to keep the meat moist.
3. How do I figure out what size bird I need? The rule is 1 pound of uncooked turkey per person. That gives you enough for everyone to have a generous serving, with leftovers for the weekend.
If you'll be cooking for a large crowd, consult our handy chart for the amounts you should buy.
4. What if most of my family wants white meat? Cook an additional turkey breast. If your family prefers dark meat, on the other hand, cook two small turkeys instead of one large one.
5. I bought two turkeys last year but used only one -- the other is in my freezer. Can I cook it this year? Properly wrapped poultry can be kept for up to one year if it is frozen below 0 degrees F. Keep whole uncooked turkeys in their original packaging when you freeze them.
6. How do I thaw a frozen turkey? The best way: Place frozen turkey (still in packaging) in a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds. A thawed bird can keep up to 4 days in the fridge.
Last-minute solution: Place a still-wrapped turkey in a large cooler or bowl and submerge in cold water. Allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound and change the water every 30 minutes. Cook turkey immediately.
7. How can I stuff the bird safely? The best way: Bake stuffing separately in a shallow casserole in the oven alongside the turkey. If you prefer to stuff the bird, follow these guidelines: o Make sure the turkey is fully thawed. o Mix ingredients just before using and pack stuffing loosely into cavity to allow room for expansion. o Roast turkey about 30 minutes longer than an unstuffed one. o Check that the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees F.
8. What's the best roasting method? o Place the turkey (breast side up) on a rack in a large roasting pan in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F. If you don't have a rack, place 2 or 3 large carrots crosswise underneath the bird to ensure good heat circulation. o For moist meat, cover with foil from the start -- but remove foil during the last hour of roasting for browner, crispier skin. o Basting with pan juices isn't necessary, but it will help with browning after the foil is removed. o Roast turkey 3 to 3 3/4 hours for a 12- to 14-pounder. (That's around 15 to 17 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird.) o Use an instant-read meat thermometer to test doneness. Turkey should be taken out of the oven when the thickest part of the thigh (next to but not touching the bone) reaches 175 degrees F and the breast reaches 165 degrees F. Keep in mind that temperature will rise 5 degrees to 10 degrees F upon standing. o If the turkey is fully cooked earlier than expected, wrap the entire bird and pan with foil and place a large bath towel on top to keep it hot and moist for 1 hour. Never leave at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
9. Everything I'm making will be done at different times. How can I get it all on the table at once? Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold: Bacteria growth increases when food is kept between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F for more than two hours. Figure out which cold dishes and desserts can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator. When possible, use shallow baking dishes for side dishes -- they can often fit on the lowest rack of the oven while the turkey is roasting. To keep food warm, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and wrap dishes with aluminum foil. The microwave can be used on less than full power to reheat smaller dishes that have been refrigerated.
10. We have a lot of leftovers this year. How long will they stay fresh? Cooked poultry should be kept refrigerated for a maximum of three to four days; stuffing and gravy are good for one to two days. Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Thank you Good Housekeeping! You are a life-saver!