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Thanksgiving turkey tips for senior cooks

Properly thawing a turkey is one of several tips to making your Thanksgiving dinner almost perfect this year.
Properly thawing a turkey is one of several tips to making your Thanksgiving dinner almost perfect this year. TNS

Thanksgiving can be a joyous time for people of all ages, especially seniors. But it can also be very stressful and chaotic.

With the holiday, which is Thursday, Nov. 24, centered around the Thanksgiving dinner, some advance preparation can keep your day, and meal, on track.

Buying the perfect turkey

When purchasing a turkey, one of the first things you must decide is whether you want to buy a fresh turkey from a specialty butcher shop or a frozen bird from the freezer of your local grocery store. According to the National Turkey Federation, there’s really not much difference in the taste of a fresh or frozen turkey. It is also worth noting that a 10- to 12-pound turkey will feed about eight people. If you are having a smaller gathering, buying a turkey breast could be an option.

Knock off the chill

One of the most common mistakes people make with turkeys is not properly thawing them before the birds are cooked. The best method for defrosting a frozen turkey is to thaw it in the refrigerator. It can take 4-5 days to completely thaw a 20-pound turkey.

Cooking the perfect turkey

Cooking a turkey can be a daunting task, so it’s important to remember this rule of thumb — a turkey should cook at 20 minutes per pound at 350 degrees. If you have a 12-pound turkey, simple math shows that it should roast in the oven for four hours.

FoodNetwork.com recommends cooking the bird with its breast covered in foil and removing the cover about 45 minutes before it is due to come out of the oven.

If you feel the need to stuff your turkey with stuffing or dressing, make certain that the inside temperature of the bird reaches 165 degrees or above as an undercooked turkey could cause salmonella.

Frying a turkey

Deep frying a turkey in hot oil such as peanut oil can make for a delicious entree. However, deep frying a turkey can be extremely dangerous. It is recommended to consult your local fire chief for tips before you throw a bird in the fryer.

The road to a perfect turkey

  • Thawing a frozen turkey requires patience. The safest method is to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Be sure to plan ahead — it takes approximately 4-5 days for a 20-pound turkey to fully defrost.
  • For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Cooking times will differ depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350-degree oven for a defrosted turkey and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for fresh.
  • A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Consider adding flavor by loosely filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables — carrots, celery, onion or garlic work nicely — or by carefully tucking fresh herbs underneath the breast skin. For the stuffing lovers, cook the dressing in a casserole dish on the side.
  • Before roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with vegetable or olive oil, season with salt and pepper and tightly cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning (it will be removed in step 7).
  • Don’t be a peeping Tom (no pun intended)! Once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation to open the oven door and admire your handiwork. When the oven temperature fluctuates, you’re only increasing the likelihood of a dry bird. About 45 minutes before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil from the breast to allow it to brown.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and use an instant-read thermometer to determine temperature; it should read 165 degrees F at the thigh when it’s done. If you stuff your turkey, check the internal temperature of the stuffing as well; it should be at least 165 degrees.
  • Tent the bird with foil and let rest for about 25 minutes before carving. If you need more time to make gravy, heat up side dishes, etc., you can let the turkey set for up to an hour without losing too much heat.
  • Remember to carve your turkey with a very sharp or electric knife.

Source: Food Network

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