Good planning helps to avoid hitting the panic button around holiday meal times. It is important to know how many people you will be serving to help plan how much food you will need. Plan your menu ahead of time and review your recipes. Make a shopping lists ahead of time. Plan on some recipes that serve well at room temperature. Remember you do not have to do it all yourself, it is ok to ask guests to bring a dish! Calculate cooking time, temperature and order for your recipes before the day of the meal. Utilize all of your refrigerator space by placing drinks in a cooler of ice. The largest part of planning ahead for a Thanksgiving meal is thawing the turkey. Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey, in a refrigerator, cold water or the microwave. When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, allow approximately twenty four hours for each four to five pounds. Be sure to place the turkey in a container to prevent juices from dripping on other foods. Cold water thawing requires about thirty minutes per pound. Place turkey in a leak proof plastic bag to prevent cross contamination and prevent the turkey from taking on water which will result in a watery product. Change the water every thirty minutes. You can follow the manufacturer’s directions on microwave thawing, but note this will not work for larger turkeys as they won’t fit.
If you are going to stuff your turkey this holiday, be sure to use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. To roast a turkey safely, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure the turkey is completely thawed, and place (breast side up) in shallow roasting pan. Tuck the wing tips back under the bird’s shoulders and add one half cup of water to the bottom of the pan. In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil may be placed loosely over the breast of the turkey (for the first hour to hour and a half), then remove for browning. Whether or not the turkey is stuffed will affect cooking times. An eight to twelve pound turkey that is NOT stuffed will require approximately two and three quarters to three hours of cook time while a stuffed turkey of the same size will require three to three and half hours to cook. Be sure to check that the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 degrees.
When serving your meal, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Split up leftovers into smaller portions in shallow containers and cool shortly after the meal is finished. Remember, eat, drink and be merry!!