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Gastronomically yours,

A bit on the cooking of Turkey for this Thanksgiving Weekend…

Poultry is a collective term used to describe any bird that is domesticated and destined for human consumption. Of these a certain breed of grouse more commonly known as turkey are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere. Our domesticated turkey is directly related to our wild turkeys.

Hunting down a turkey for Thanksgiving has never been easier, as most people simply drive to the grocery store and choose from a bin of frozen carcasses that make sounds similar to those heard at a bowling alley as they bang together while we dig through them looking for our own special turkey. Some of us may even have to dodge a few wild turkeys on our journey to and from the grocers.

More people are choosing to have fresh turkeys for their thankful feast which leaves one having to consider the age and sex of their birds as determining factors in how they will taste. An older large male or tom turkey is preferred to young toms as young toms have a tougher somewhat stringy texture whereas the opposite applies for females as the older hens make for tougher birds.

Wild or not, Canadian’s will prepare an estimated 4.5 million turkeys this year for Thanksgiving. These birds will have an average weight of 15 pounds which means that we as a nation will satiate our appetites with about 34 000 tons of turkey in the coming week.

Most of this turkey will be purchased frozen and need to be thawed before cooking. The safest way to thaw poultry is in the refrigerator in a drip proof tray, preferably done on the bottom shelf. A frozen turkey requires just over 4 hours per pound to thaw, more accurately that average sized 15 pound turkey will need 67 hours to thaw.

If you are reading this and trying to do the math on when you should start thawing your turkey, today is the day to start defrosting your bird if you want it thawed properly in time for cooking your Thanksgiving feast on Sunday.

When preparing your turkey for roasting, gently loosen its skin away from the body without removing it. Rub the turkey with your choice of seasonings under the skin so that the flavor goes into the flesh during the cooking process, as seasoning the skin only makes for tastier skin.

There is much debate and discussion as to how to cook a turkey so that it yields the juiciest results. These include but are not limited to roasting turkeys upside down, slathering turkeys with butter, deep frying your turkey, or cooking them with or without stuffing them. They all work just fine and are only differentiated by personal taste.

To ensure your bird is cooked to perfection I suggest you take the following into consideration, the average sized 15 pound turkey will take approximately 3 hours to cook at 350°f covered or uncovered in the oven. I cannot stress this next point enough, so please take my advice and purchase a meat thermometer and check your bird periodically during the last hour of cooking. Your bird is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 185°f and to reach this temperature without your turkey drying out you should cook your bird to an internal temperature of 175°f, pull the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15- 20 minutes before slicing it as the carry over cooking time will allow it to rise up to the desired 185°f.

 

 

 

Remove it from the oven and let it rest for a minimum of twenty minutes before carving.

I urge you not to cook your stuffing inside the turkey, I know that this defeats the purpose of calling it stuffing but a stuffed 15 pound bird will require an additional hour of cooking time, plus it will eliminate the possibility of food poisoning associated with improperly cooked stuffed foods.

Cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish is no different than cooking it in the bird, other than you will need to add some extra onions or mushrooms to it to raise the moisture content to keep it from drying out.

Have a Happy and food safe Thanksgiving this year.



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