One of the most frequent questions asked on the Internet is how to cook a turkey. With the two turkey Thanksgiving – Christmas holiday season ahead of us … lets look at how to get a frozen bird from freezer to fancy fixings.
There are two important numbers you must keep in mind when preparing a turkey. 41 and 165. These are the two temperatures in Fahrenheit that you must observe closely, so that beautiful bird you put on the table doesn’t make any of your family sick with food poisoning.
I know that’s it not a nice thing to think about but it’s your number one priority if you don’t want your fancy dinner to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Since Thanksgiving is here you should already be thawing that bird out. There are various ways to thaw a turkey, like in the fridge, at room temperature, or perhaps the microwave.
The number one rule is not to expose the turkey to a temperature above 41 degrees while it thaws because those nasty bugs like Salmonella start growing on the meat then. You must have control of the external temperature as well as be able to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey to determine when it is thawed.
The best way to do that is in a fridge. Keep a thermometer in there and make sure the air temperature doesn’t go above say 40 degrees to be on the safe side. The department of agriculture says it might take four to five days to thaw out a 24 pound turkey in the fridge and one to three days for a 12 pounder.
This may be the slowest way to thaw of all three mentioned but it’s the least risky in terms of contamination.
So okay .. the bird is thawed, now what? You don’t want to wash it by spraying water on it in the sink. No No No. The spray off the skin will fly around elsewhere taking any pathogens with it off the turkey and possibly contaminating other food it lands on.
Instead use a damp rag and wipe the turkey down and then get rid of the rag. You’ve got to get rid of the rag because it is now contaminated with the things you want to avoid. Treat it as a raw piece of meat that you don’t want to eat.
You are now ready to cook the meat and you must make sure that no part of the turkey comes out of the oven until the temperature is at least 165 degrees. All the bad junk in the meat is killed at that temperature and can’t survive.
Use a digital thermometer and measure the turkey meat in several places away from the body cavity and bone to ensure no part is less than 165 degrees.
Now you can feast on the turkey till your bellies are full and peacefully burp your way into a nice snooze … since we all know there is something in a turkey that makes you sleepy … v-e-r-y sleepy.
Before you doze off be sure to stuff what’s left back in the fridge. Below 135 degrees any nasty stuff left on the meat will start to grow again and then the left overs are going to get you when you eat them.
Unfortunately while its sitting out at room temperature other little critters can also start growing on the meat that your bod will not be able to handle and make you sick. The cold fridge temperatures will stop that from happening. It’s also a good idea to strip the meat off the bone and put it in plastic bags to store in the fridge. That way the meat will tend to keep a bit cooler than if left on the bone.
When warming up that left over turkey you still have to use your meat thermometer to make sure the temperature reaches 165 degrees and blasts away all those belly aching pesky little varmits again.
Note: Some people like to plop the bird into a pot of boiling oil to deep fry it. This can be very dangerous and even life threatening if you do this with a frozen turkey. It will physically cause a turkey explosion and blow hot grease up in your face. If you want to cook this way the turkey must be thawed first. Throwing water onto boiling oil is an accident looking for a place to happen.
For those of you wanting a different way to cook your Christmas turkey you might want to consider the BBQ. I found an interesting little book here about how to BBQ a turkey.
Hope you enjoy your turkey no matter how you cook it.