Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

November 27, 2013

Mitzi Parker: Turkey tips

AMERICUS — Food is big business! In today’s era of celebrity chefs, reality TV cook-off competitions, food channels — not to mention the countless Internet sites and blogs devoted to cooking — you can find “new and improved” recipes for cooking all your favorite holiday dishes. When it comes to cooking the turkey, they may promise a browner, tastier and more tender bird, but University of Georgia Cooperative Extension food safety expert Judy Harrison is a fan of the classics. According to Harrison, she has discovered all types of strange cooking methods and recipes that claim to make a better turkey, like cooking it in a brown paper grocery bag or cooking it at very low oven temperatures. She offers these tried and true tips (and food safety tested) for oven roasting your turkey:

• Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees. Place the turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan large enough to hold it with a meat thermometer, and allow plenty of time for roasting.

• Many factors can affect the roasting time of a whole turkey. For example, a turkey in a dark roasting pan with a lid or in a cooking bag will cook faster. A foil tent over the turkey for the entire time can slow down cooking.

• If you plan to cook your turkey in a bag, be sure to purchase cooking bags. These are often found in the section with foil and wraps at your grocery store.

• In general, an unstuffed turkey weighing between 14 pounds to 18 pounds takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to 4 hours and 15 minutes to cook. One weighing 20 pounds to 24 pounds, unstuffed, could take as long as 5 hours.

• A stuffed turkey that weighs between 14 pounds and 18 pounds takes about 4 hours to cook. One weighing between 18 pounds and 20 pounds takes 45 minutes longer.

• It’s OK to cook a frozen turkey, but it takes at least 50 percent longer to cook than a thawed one.

• Use a food thermometer to check the temperature, even if the turkey comes with a pop-up temperature indicator. Using a meat thermometer to check for doneness throughout the cooking process or checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer when you think the bird is done is the only way to know for sure that the turkey has reached a safe temperature.

• Check the internal temperature at the innermost part of the thigh and wing and at the thickest part of the breast. If you are starting with a frozen turkey, it is especially important to check the temperature in several places to ensure that there are no cold spots remaining.

• Turkey meat, including that which remains pink, is safe to eat as long as it reaches at least 165 degrees F. You may prefer to cook turkey to as high as 180 degrees F. to remove the pink appearance or rubbery texture.

• For optimum safety, Harrison doesn’t recommend stuffing a turkey. For more even cooking, it is recommend you cook your stuffing outside the bird in a casserole dish.

If you do cook stuffing inside the turkey, stuff the bird loosely and remove all of the stuffing as soon as the turkey is done. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe, minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

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