Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey but for many selecting and cooking a turkey causes much anxiety since this bird has never been available easily. Here are some easy tips to take away the tension from turkey.
What Size Bird to Buy
When buying a turkey, allow 1 pound per adult serving if the bird weighs 12 pounds or less.
For turkeys over 12 pounds, count on 3/4 pound for each serving.
For boneless turkey breast, count on approximately 1/2 pound per person.
If you want leftovers, buy a bird that's 2 to 4 pounds larger than the size you'll need for serving.
Refrigerate. Never marinate or defrost poultry on the counter. Always keep poultry in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it.
Keep it clean. Always wash your hands, work surfaces, the sink, and utensils in hot, soapy water after handling raw poultry, to prevent spreading bacteria to other foods.
Cut right. When cutting raw poultry, use a plastic cutting board; it's easier to clean and disinfect than a wooden one.
Don't wash the bird. Washing raw poultry is not necessary, and the splashing water may contaminate surrounding objects. In general, the less you handle poultry, the safer it remains.
Avoid cross contamination. Never use the same plate or utensils for uncooked and cooked poultry unless you have thoroughly washed them first. This rule applies to basting brushes as well. If you are going to baste the bird, wash the brush each time.
Don't stuff it early. If you're planning to stuff the bird, do so immediately before cooking. Never allow the stuffing to touch raw poultry unless you are going to cook both right away.
Heat any marinade or basting sauce that has been in contact with the raw poultry if it is to be served with the cooked poultry. Juices from the uncooked poultry may contain bacteria. Or, before you start basting, set some of the sauce aside to serve with the poultry.
For many stuffing fans, the only reason for the turkey at Thanksgiving is to hold the stuffing. Be creative with what you put into your stuffing — you won't be disappointed.
Stuffing, or dressing as it is also called, requires these elements:
a starch, such as bread, corn bread, rice, or potatoes
a liquid, such as broth, wine, or liquor (or a combination of these)
other additions that can include herbs
dried or fresh fruits
sausage or other meats
or seafood, such as oysters, crab, or shrimp.
If you want to create your own recipe, keep these proportions in mind:
For every 1 cup of bread or other starch, you will need about 2 tablespoons of liquid, just enough to moisten the bread.
For each pound of uncooked poultry, you will need about 3/4 cup stuffing.
If you just want stuffing, there's no requirement for a bird.
Serve poultry immediately after cooking it. Don't let it stand at room temperature longer than two hours, or bacteria will multiply rapidly — especially in warm weather. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.
Reheat wisely. Heat leftover gravy to a rolling boil in a covered saucepan, stirring occasionally, for food-safety assurance.