Immersing the turkey in cold water is a faster, but less desirable, thawing method. If you choose this method, cover the whole bird in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes thawing time for each pound of weight.
Thoroughly cooking a turkey will kill microorganisms that, if present, might cause illness. Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to know when the turkey is thoroughly cooked. For a whole turkey, put the thermometer in the inner thigh, being sure not to hit a bone because it will give an inaccurate temperature reading.
Roast a whole turkey at 325 degrees until the thermometer reaches a temperature of 180 degrees. Cook turkey parts or a breast at 350 degrees until the thermometer reaches 170 degrees. Cook about 15 to 20 minutes per pound.
Visual signs that the turkey has reached a safe temperature are clear juices that run when you pierce the turkey with a fork and tenderness. Turkey legs should wiggle in the sockets.
It's best to bake stuffing separately in a casserole dish for uniform doneness and safety. Place a food thermometer in the center to be sure stuffing reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees.
If you do decide to cook stuffing inside the turkey, remember the stuffed bird will take longer to properly cook than one that's not stuffed. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing.
Carve meat off the carcass before the holiday meal. Maintain the amount you will eat at 140 degrees or higher and immediately refrigerate the remainder in shallow containers for faster cooling. Maintain cold foods at 40 degrees or below.
While it may be a challenge to return to the kitchen after consuming a big holiday meal, always refrigerate leftover holiday foods within two hours of removing them from the heating or cooling source.
Cooked turkey should be refrigerated no more than three or four days. Never refrigerate a stuffed turkey because the mass of stuffing slows down the cooling rate. If you plan to freeze the turkey, tightly wrap it to exclude air. Frozen turkey will maintain its quality for three months if properly wrapped and maintained at less then 0 degrees.
Reheat leftovers only once. Bring gravy to a rolling boil and thoroughly heat turkey and dressing.
For more information, contact the Jessamine County Cooperative Extension Service.
Source: Joe O'Leary and Sandra Bastin
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