A couple weeks ago I received an email from someone with the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. As an aside, I have learned, especially from my time working on Capitol Hill, that if there are two or more people interested in a topic, there is no doubt an associations, lobbying group or interest group that has been formed for said topic.
But I digress...
The email I received had all sorts of really helpful turkey facts, that I now share with you.
First, the thawing process. Unless you buy a fresh bird, your turkey probably comes frozen. To safely thaw the bird and to ensure that the inside isn't still frozen when you begin to cook it, here is a chart to help you know adequate thawing times:
Thawing Time in the Refrigerator
Size of Turkey- Number of Days
4 to 12 pounds- 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds- 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds- 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds- 5 to 6 days
Tip – a thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
If fridge or microwave space is lacking, don’t panic. The turkey can be thawed by submerging it in cold water – just remember to change the water every 30 minutes. The following time frames will help estimate the amount of time the turkey will take to thaw in cold water.
Thawing Time in Cold Water
Size of Turkey- Hours to Defrost
4 to 12 pounds- 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds- 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds- 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds- 10 to 12 hours
When using the microwave, be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Turkey should be cooked immediately after thawing.
Turkey should be cooked until it reaches 165 degrees internally. Be sure to check the temperature at the thickest part of the breast, thigh and wing. Any stuffing that is cooked inside the bird should also register 165 degrees before removing from the oven.
To help complete the cooking process, let the turkey sit for 20 minutes before carving. Not only does the inside continue to "cook" a bit, but this allows the juices to be cooled so they don't run out of the turkey when you carve it.
Lastly--did you know that the US Department of Agriculture operates a free turkey help line? It will be open from 8am to 2pm on Thanksgiving Day and get this--you get a live person when you call!
So get those (frozen) turkeys thawing and get ready for the big day!