Turkey Tips & Disasters (& How To Recover From Them)

Thanksgiving is here!

You pull out the Thanksgiving turkey you’ve worked so hard on… and something’s wrong. What do you do?

We posed this question to  Charla L. Draper, a former food editor for SouthernLiving and Ebony magazines, the current editor of the Special Fork digital recipe site, the owner of the blog ChowChow & Soul, and  a 10-yr veteran of the Butterball Turkey Talk-line.

She started with some tips on how to avoid a turkey disaster.

Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

“Make sure your turkey is completely thawed and always thaw in the refrigerator,” said Draper. “Plan on one 24-hour day for every 4 pounds of turkey weight. For a  12-pounder, allow 3-days, maybe 4, if the fridge is very cold.”

If it’s too late to thaw the turkey in the fridge, a cold water bath is the solution. “Place the turkey, still in original wrapper, breast down, in a sink of cold water. Change the water two to three times while it thaws.”
Draper also reminded us to take out the neck and giblets before cooking.

The key to a flavorful and moist turkey is the use of a meat thermometer, according to Draper. “The turkey should register 180° to 185° F in the dark meat or turkey thigh. White meat should register 165° to 170°F. If you stuff the turkey, the stuffing should be 165°F.”

After pulling the turkey from the oven, “Let the turkey rest for 20 to 25 minutes, so that you’ll be able to carve nice turkey slices.”

As for leftovers, “Slice the turkey meat off of the bone and put it in refrigerator. It should be put away promptly, about 2 hours after the turkey comes out of oven. Leftovers in the fridge can be used for up to 3 days. If you need to keep leftovers longer, package the turkey in airtight containers and freeze. If you want leftovers, plan on one and a half pounds per person when buying whole turkey. For a bone in turkey breast, buy three quarters of a pound per person.”

Cooking Methods

Draper said there were a number of ways that a Thanksgiving turkey can be cooked. Among them:

•  Breast Down – however, it can be tough to get a hot turkey right side up. “Make a plan in advance for ‘right siding’ the turkey if you choose this cooking method.”

•  Deep Frying – “Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and patted dry.  Plan to fry 12-pounders about 3 minutes per pound.  If turkey is larger than 14 pounds, plan on frying 4 minutes per pound.”

•  Spatchcock – “You remove the turkey backbone, flatten it so that it is ‘spread eagle,’ season, then roast the turkey in an open shallow pan. A video how-to is on ChowChow & Soul.”

•  Open Pan – “Place the turkey breast-up on a flat rack in an open shallow pan, season, brush with vegetable oil and roast in a preheated 325° F degree oven. Let the thermometer guide you on doneness. A 12-pounder will cook in about 3 to 3 1/2 hrs.”

•  Oven Cooking Bag – “Cooks much faster, at 350° F.”

•  Cooking A Frozen Turkey – “Will work if necessary. Use the Open Pan method, roasting at 325°F. After several hours, try to get the thermometer in. The Turkey may not be as moist due to the longer cooking time.”

When Disaster Strikes…

The family is ready to eat, you carve into the turkey and find the meat is still pink. What do you do?

No need to panic. Draper says this can be fixed. “Carve the slices and place in a shallow layer. Cover loosely with foil and heat until completely cooked in a 350° F oven.”

What if the skin on the outside is getting too brown and overdone before the rest of the turkey is done? “Cover it with aluminum foil.”

What to do if the turkey gets done two hours before the planned dinner time? “Keep the turkey hot by covering it with foil and a clean terry towel.”

And if the power goes out in the middle of cooking a turkey? “Take the turkey out of oven and continue cook on an outdoor grill if possible.”

And When All Else Fails?

Draper recommends calling the toll free Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, 1-800Butterball (1-800-288-8372) for help. It will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 7am to 7pm EST. For additional open times, see our special on the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.

Your Turn

What are your favorite turkey tips?

What turkey disasters have you experienced and how did you deal with them?

Tell us in the comments section below, and pass this article along to your friends, family and followers using the share buttons. They’ll appreciate the info!

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