Tips for cooking a thanksgiving turkey

Info Guru,

Rate This Article:

3.9 / 5.0
graphic of a turkey
Turkey is the star of the show presented on Thanksgiving but caution is what makes the meal.
  • Share
  • Tweet

Cooking a thanksgiving turkey can get you in hot water.

Hear that sound? Gobble-gobble-gobble. When you have succeeded in cooking a thanksgiving turkey that's fabulous, it's the sound you'll hear as family and friends chow down on your tenderly prepared holiday bird.


Cooking a thanksgiving turkey should be a simple procedure. Recipes and guidelines abound. Kitchen wizards in white aprons swear that frayed nerves are not on their list of ingredients. Nevertheless, every foray into cooking a thanksgiving turkey should begin with one crucial component: caution.


Grandma's well thumbed cookbook often is consulted as the Bible of Great Birds. But new technologies have replaced some of her rules. The rise of microwave cooking has led to quick cooking times. Newfangled frozen turkeys now are sold with onboard stuffing. In addition, methods of cooking a turkey are proliferating—fast.


Turkeys deep fried outdoors in cauldrons of scalding oil

Turkeys wrapped in palm leaves and buried in beds of hot coals

Turkeys cooked outdoors in smokers made of steel drums

Turkeys baked outdoors on a covered barbecue grill

• Turducken: a roasted turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken

Turkeys steamed vertically with an opened can of beer in the cavity

Turkeys wrapped in parchment paper and baked in a clay shell


Practice turkey safety for everyone's health


The first secret of success entails washing everything. Wash your hands with soap. Wash the turkey with cold running water. Clean well all utensils, your countertop, cutting board and roasting pan. Invest in some new kitchen supplies if yours have seen better days.


Use one cutting board for meats and a different board for fruits and produce. It is imperative that proper hygiene is practiced to avoid cross contamination from the uncooked turkey to your kitchen surfaces and implements.


Danger can lurk within an undercooked turkey. A turkey that is not cooked thoroughly can harbor vast colonies of salmonella bacteria. In addition, utensils and kitchen surfaces that come in contact with raw turkey can be incubators for any salmonella that is present.



The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than one million Americans annually experience salmonella food poisoning symptoms. Discomfort in some was noticed within 12 hours. Others fell ill up to thee days after exposure. Many people recover without hospitalization but some—especially the elderly and those with debilitated immune systems—expire from the condition. Symptoms vary from mild to severe.


• Queasy stomach or vomiting

• Headache

• Fever and dehydration

• Abdominal cramping

• Diarrhea, mild or severe


Food contaminated with animal feces is the prime transmitter of the salmonella bacterium—of which there are many varieties. Barnyard animals, livestock and poultry are likely candidates for carrying the bacteria. Prevention largely stems from thoroughly cooking foods. Turkey cooking advice from The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes a warning for cooks to heat their ovens to a minimum of 325 degrees when cooking turkey.


Monitoring a roasted turkey's internal temperature is the only foolproof way to know when the bird is done. Be sure to insert the ovenproof food thermometer into the thickest portion of the turkey's breast before placing the bird in the preheated oven. This method eliminates the need to repeatedly open and close the oven door, thus wasting heat and chancing uneven cooking. Usually, about five hours is needed to cook a bird weighing 20 pounds.


Estimate accurately how much turkey to cook


Don't let food go to waste by cooking too much of it. Traditional serving sizes call for one pound per person. Ask yourself how many guests are expected for dinner. Think about how many professional football players or teenage boys will be on hand. Will there be nibblers whose diets permit only salads and water?


Leftover roasted turkey that is properly refrigerated in sealed containers should be eaten within a few days. Remains promptly frozen should be used within a few months. If your guests finish dinner and more than two hours pass in post-banquet chit-chat, do not encourage them to return to the table. Foodstuffs languishing at room temperature for so long surely have grown lots of bacteria. Discard those leftovers, along with the tepid gravy and room-temperature stuffing.


Be thankful you're not eating a bald eagle


It is said that Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the wild turkey as America's national bird—instead of the bald eag

Rate this Article

Click on the stars below to rate this article from 1 to 5

  • Share
  • Tweet