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Turkey Day

 

After hours of activity, the kitchen is quiet. Your prettiest china and linens announce that all is ready. Give thanks for the blessings of health, happiness, family and, of course, a wonderful golden turkey. Follow our plan to realize this perfect Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving falls on November 26 this year. Those who cook and prepare for the big day want to awaken on November 27 assured that every guest left the annual turkey banquet pleasantly satisfied. Here’s how to accomplish the feat of roasting and stuffing the main entrée.

 

Planning The Day

Before shopping for the Thanksgiving Day turkey, address a few questions: How many dinner guests do you expect? Do your family members look forward to leftovers? Do they like stuffing? Armed with answers, determine how many pounds of turkey to buy and how much dressing to fix.

Inventory the kitchen to make sure you have the following essential equipment for preparing the feast for guests to enjoy.

Roasting pan: For a golden brown turkey, use a shallow heavyweight-roasting pan with a dark interior. The pan should be large enough to contain the turkey legs and wings. In a pinch, a broiler pan or disposable aluminum pan can be used for a small bird. Use caution with a disposable pan because it can tear when pulled across an oven rack, causing a messy leak of pan drippings.

Roasting rack: Use a rack to hold the turkey above the bottom of the pan and out of pan juices (which steam the bird), allowing oven heat to reach the bottom of the bird for even cooking and browning.

Meat thermometer: For roasting perfection, this tool is essential. Either insert an oven-safe thermometer into the bird for the duration of roasting or intermittently check the internal temperature of the bird with an instant-read thermometer.

Basting bulb: During roasting, use this tool to baste the bird with drippings, creating a beautiful color, crispness and moistness.

Aluminum foil: Foil comes in handy to tent the bird to prevent over browning as it roasts, to cover the turkey as it stands before carving and for wrapping leftovers.

 

Buying The Bird

The smallest bird you’ll find in the Hy-Vee fresh or frozen poultry case weighs 10 to 12 pounds, a size adequate to serve a gathering of six to eight people with minimal leftovers. Figure 1 pound of uncooked turkey per person without much leftover turkey. If you love turkey sandwiches or plan to prepare a casserole or two later, buy a 20- to 24-pound turkey. This size turkey amply feeds 10 to 12 guests, and you’re guaranteed plenty of leftovers.
Fresh or frozen? Plan to purchase a frozen turkey the weekend before Thanksgiving so it can begin thawing in the refrigerator at home. If you haven’t shopped ahead and allowed for days of thawing, purchase a fresh turkey.

Butter-basted or not? You’ll fi nd some turkeys labeled as “basted” or “self-basted,” which means the bird has been injected with a flavorful solution, often containing butter, to help keep the meat moist during roasting. If you follow our foolproof roasting directions, be assured that you’ll serve a moist, flavorful turkey without the expense of purchasing a basted bird. Whichever type of turkey you choose this year, you will find fresh, frozen, basted and un-basted birds at Hy-Vee.

 

Thawing The Turkey

“The turkey is still frozen!” That’s the most common cry from panicky cooks prepping for the big day. Avoid a rock solid bird by thawing a frozen turkey (in its wrapper) in the refrigerator for three to six days ahead of roasting day. Figure 24 hours of refrigeration thawing per each 4 pounds. The fridge method is the safest and easiest way to thaw a bird. Never thaw a turkey by letting it stand on the kitchen counter. If the bird is still frosty on T-Day, put the wrapped turkey, breast down, in a sink of cold water and change the water every 30 minutes (one reason to rise early on feast day). Although a turkey can be thawed in a microwave oven, don’t expect a 20-pounder to fi t into the small oven.

 

Dressing: In Or Out

You say “dressing,” some say “stuffing.” Whatever you call it, it’s all good. Purists say stuffed turkey is the best because the bread absorbs flavorful juices during roasting. Casserole-style dressing is easier—no spooning dressing into the turkey cavities then scooping it out again. Plus, the dressing can cook in a microwave oven while the turkey roasts in the oven. If this dish is one of the most popular on your table, prepare a double batch—one for stuffing the bird, the other baked or heated in a microwave—and count on some leftovers.

Plan to stuff the turkey immediately before roasting it. Remove the giblets and the neck from the body cavity (many an embarrassed cook has only just discovered giblets at carving time). Spoon the dressing into the neck cavity, and fold the excess skin over the filling. Secure the flap with short metal skewers or twist the wings back to hold the neck skin in place. Next, loosely spoon the stuffing into the body cavity; don’t pack it in. Position the legs over the cavity and tie together with kitchen string. Place a small piece of foil where the stuffing peeks out to keep it moist during roasting.

 

Roasting Perfection

Position the oven rack low in the oven and preheat the oven to 325ºF. Place a stuffed or un-stuffed turkey, breast side up, on a wire rack in the roasting pan. Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Brush the skin with vegetable oil to keep it moist and to aid in browning.

Loosely cover the breast with aluminum foil, removing the foil after 1 to 1½ hours of cooking to allow for browning. After removing the foil, use a bulb baster to extract pan drippings and drizzle them over the entire turkey; repeat this step about every 30 minutes until the turkey finishes cooking.

For roasting in a convection oven, which is the recommended method for achieving a golden brown turkey, set the oven at 300ºF. Because roasting is faster in a convection oven than in a conventional oven, check the internal temperature of the bird more frequently.

 

Is It Done Yet?

Use the timings that appear on the turkey wrapper (remember to save it!) as a guide for roasting time. Some turkeys have a popup device that indicates when the bird is done. Pop-ups are fairly reliable, but also check for doneness with a thermometer. Thigh meat should reach 180ºF. Reposition the thermometer and check the breast, which should reach 170ºF. The temperature of the stuffing inside a bird must be at least 165ºF before removing the turkey from the oven. Check temperatures often toward the end of estimated roasting time, so you triumphantly bring a roasted-to perfection golden turkey to your dinner table.

 

Who To Call For Help

Let us help. Order a holiday dinner from your local Hy-Vee. Turkey experts at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline are on call at 888-674-6854 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Central time) and on Thanksgiving from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Central time) to handle last minute questions. Or e-mail your questions before the holiday to [email protected]. Expert assistance is also available by calling your local Hy-Vee.

 

Here are some great recipes for your leftover turkey:

Turkey Pot Pie
Big Apple Turkey Sandwich
Strawberry Spa Turkey Salad
Turkey Tortilla Soup
Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice
Turkey Vegetable Soup
Turkey and Veggie Pita Pocket
Hellmans Leftover Turkey Casserole