Basic turkey cooking tips

Are you afraid of your turkey? Here are

Are you afraid of your turkey? Here are basic tips to get you through Thanksgiving day. (Credit: AP)

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Hug your turkey. It may sound a little weird, but Dorothy Jones of the Butterball Turkey Talk Line thinks that may be the first step particularly nervous cooks need to make Thanksgiving morning.

Taking a moment to embrace the bird that looks so intimidating in the refrigerator could calm them down before they start to cook.

"Give it a nice, big hug," she says, "when it's still wrapped up."

Why is turkey so terrifying for some cooks? The bird is awfully big, at 18 or 20 pounds, often the largest mass to sit in someone's refrigerator. AnotherĀ fear factor is the pressure that first-time or occasional cooks feel to produce the perfect, Norman Rockwell feast.

Inexperienced cooks also have to deal with lots of advice, some of it conflicting, on the best way to cook a turkey. But here are three basic tips anyways:

1. Allow enough time to thaw a frozen turkey. The best advice is to buy your frozen turkey about a week in advance and let it slowly thaw in the refrigerator, one day for every four pounds of bird. If it still has the texture of a bowling ball on Thanksgiving morning, there is one safe way to finish thawing it: cold-water. Thaw breast- side down in its wrapper in cold water to cover, changing water every 30 minutes to keep surface cold. Allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound.

2. Have the proper equipment. You need to have an instant-read thermometer and a real roasting pan. A meat thermometer put in the right place - in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thighbone, but not touching the bone for turkey in the center of the body cavity for stuffing - will let you know when the turkey is done, without any guesswork. Don't rely on those pop-up thermometers in the turkeys or cheap foil pans.

3. Let the cooked turkey rest. Impatient carvers are one of the reasons turkey turns out dry. It's best to let it sit for half an hour so the juices can relax back into the meat.

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