Turkey is the perfect center of any meal. It is nutrient-rich, low in calories and has no saturated fat. As the center of the Thanksgiving meal, cooks are always concerned on how to achieve a perfectly cooked turkey. Thawing the turkey has always been a concern. How long to thaw the turkey and finding refrigeration space adds to the preparation stress.
Cooks have discovered and the USDA has endorsed cooking your whole turkey while it is still frozen. It is safe and any size of turkey works, but the cooking time will take 25% to 50% longer than a fully thawed turkey. (A 14-pound turkey may take 5 hours vs. 4 hours.) This method also promotes better food safety practices. When the turkey is frozen no juices are able to leave the turkey and transfer onto sinks, countertops and towels. This greatly reduces the risk for cross contaminating food.
To cook your turkey in this manner, there are a few key points to follow.
- Roast your turkey in an oven or in an electric roaster. Do not smoke, grill, deep fat fry, or microwave a frozen turkey.
- Roast at 325 degrees F is recommended.
- Place turkey on a rack on an open sided pan or a covered roasting pan. By setting the turkey on the rack it will allow for the heat to circulate around the turkey.
- After 2 to 3 hours of cooking remove the turkey from the oven and using tongs or a fork, remove the packages the giblets are in. Now is a good time to season the turkey and insert an ovenproof thermometer into the thigh area of the turkey. (If the giblets are in a paper wrapped bag there is no concern if they remain in the turkey the entire cooking time. If they are in a plastic bag, and the bag has been altered or melted by the cooking process, do not eat the giblets or turkey because harmful chemicals may have been leached in the meat. If the plastic bag has not been altered, the giblets and turkey are safe to eat.)
- Cook the turkey until it reaches 180 degrees F in the thigh portion of the turkey.
- If the turkey is fully cooked prior to your desired serving time, allow it to set for 20 minutes and then carve the meat from the turkey. Place the meat in an oven safe pan, cover with tin foil and hold in a 250-degree oven.
If you are looking for additional information ranging from what wine to serve with your meal, or how to deep-frying a turkey, www.EatTurkey.com has put together tips to guide you through the process and get the best results. This "How-To" Web page includes advice on preparation techniques and a selection of favorite recipes.