Last week we told you about Melissa Wong’s high-heat method of roasting a turkey. But seeing as tomorrow is the big day, and a whole turkey is probably the biggest thing most of us will ever cook, we know many of you still may need last-minute advice.
Here are answers to the questions that pop up every year among those tackling that Thanksgiving feast:
QUESTION: How do I thaw the turkey?
ANSWER: It takes about 24 hours to thaw each 5 pounds of turkey in the refrigerator, which is where you should be doing it — not on a countertop.
If your turkey is still frozen solid today, here’s a safe cold-water thawing method: Place the turkey in its unopened packaging in the sink and cover it completely with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Rotate the bird occasionally and allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound. A 10-pound turkey will take at least 5 hours to thaw using this method.
Q: What about a fresh turkey?
A: No thawing necessary, obviously. But the USDA says you must cook a fresh turkey within two days of purchase or freeze it.
Q: OK, my turkey is thawed. Now what?
A: Remove the wrapping. Remove the neck and giblets from inside. Thoroughly rinse the turkey, inside and out, with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Season the turkey cavity with salt and pepper.
Place the turkey breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck the wings underneath and tie the legs together with string.
Brush the turkey with vegetable oil or rub with unsalted butter. Season the exterior with salt and pepper.
The traditional method of roasting calls for oven heat of 325 degrees, but some sources now recommend higher heat of 400 to 450.
Q: When should I stuff the bird?
A: Always stuff just before popping the bird in the oven, never before. Also, mix the stuffing ingredients just before you’re ready to stuff the turkey. Loosely spoon it into the cavity, allowing about 3/4 cup per pound of turkey. Don’t overdo it. A 10-pound turkey should hold about 7 cups of stuffing.
Q: Should I roast the bird covered or uncovered?
A: The Butterball folks recommend cooking the turkey uncovered in a roasting pan. Two-thirds of the way through cooking, Butterball says foil can be placed over the breast area to prevent it from drying out. If you do that, remove the foil 30-45 minutes before the turkey is done to allow the breast to brown.
Q: How will I know when the turkey is done?
A: Roasting times vary with the size of the turkey, whether it is stuffed and the oven temperature. This is where using oven-safe meat thermometers or instant-read thermometers comes in handy.
The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
>> U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: 888-674-6854. Staffed year-round 5 a.m.- 1 p.m. weekdays, but hours are earlier on Thanksgiving, 3 a.m.-9 a.m. Or go to fsis.USDA.gov
>> Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 800-288-8372 or butterball.com
>> National Turkey Federation: eatturkey.com
>> Reynolds Turkey Tips helpline: reynoldskitchens.com