With Thanksgiving almost upon us, it is time to start thinking about preparing for the big meal. The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving day dinners is the turkey; however, it can be the trickiest to get right.
One of the first hurdles, if you have a frozen bird, is to make sure you have enough time to thaw the turkey. According to foodsafety.gov, for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey you have, it will take 24 hours to slow-thaw in the refrigerator. These can mean quite a lot of time if you have a large bird. In fact, if your turkey is more than 20 pounds it should probably already be thawing in the refrigerator.
A common question is ‘can you cook a turkey from frozen?’ and the answer might surprise you. A turkey can be cooked from frozen but you will have to extend the cooking time by 50%. So, if you expected your thawed turkey to take 4 hours to cook your frozen turkey will take around 6 hours. Never roast your turkey at a temperature lower than 325 F. Lower cooking temperatures can result in the turkey staying in the food safety ‘danger zone’ for too long and has the potential to cause food-borne illness.
You can also fast-thaw your turkey if you forget to get it in the fridge. Fast-thawing is done by placing the frozen turkey in a cold water bath. A turkey in a cold water bath will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. With the fast-thaw method, you have to be careful to keep the water temperature below 40 F to ensure you are thawing your turkey safely. Changing the water out for fresh cold water and adding ice to the cold water bath can help you maintain these temperatures.
Be sure you plan for enough turkey for everyone. The USDA recommends that you have 1 pound of turkey for every guest. If you would like leftovers (who doesn’t?) then plan for 1.5 pounds for each guest.
When the big day comes be sure to cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 160 F taken at the thickest part of the bird to ensure food safety. It is recommended that you use an instant-read thermometer to check your turkey.