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Preparation is the key to cooking a perfect turkey every time

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

My friends, it's time to talk turkey!

Yes, the Thanksgiving holiday is just ahead, and it's always good to refresh one's skills or, for the ones out there who have their first holiday planning, here's information to help planning and cooking.

Let's start from the beginning with different ideas that will help you in your planning.

Storing turkey

Cooked or uncooked, fresh or frozen, turkey must be stored with care. Never leave thawed, uncooked turkey or, any poultry at room temperature. It will cause the poultry to spoil rapidly.

Cooked turkey must also be refrigerated within an hour or two after eating. This will prevent bacteria growth.

Frozen turkey will store well in the freezer for months. Turkeys will taste as good as fresh if stored up to seven months, after that period they will lose some flavor and texture. To freeze, leave the turkey in its original unopened wrapper and store it in a zero degree or lower freezer. To get the maximum flavor, thaw and cook the turkey between six and seven months

Fresh uncooked turkey is best kept in the unopened wrapper in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below. Most refrigerators have an area that is the coldest such as the lower shelves or, the back of the box.

Cook the turkey within two to four days after purchase. It is best to cook fresh poultry within two days of purchase. However, turkeys kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator will be satisfactory for up to four days.

Thawing turkey

To thaw frozen turkey there are two acceptable methods. One is the refrigerator method and the other is the cold water method.

Please, never thaw turkey at room temperature on the kitchen counter or on the back porch.

The preferred method of thawing is the refrigerator method. It is the easiest and foolproof. Just be sure to use a shallow pan or tray to collect any juices that may leak from the wrapper as the bird thaws.

Place the turkey, still in its original wrapper, breast side up in a shallow pan and slide it onto a refrigerator shelf. Several days of thawing will be required in a 40 degree refrigerator

The cold water method has been around for a long time.This method is used when time is of an issue. Frozen turkey will thaw easily when submerged in cold water. You can use a sink or a large pot or tub. Place the turkey, breast side down in enough cold water to cover. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes to keep it good and cold.

Cooking tukey

What's the best way to roast your turkey? A simple open-pan roasting method is great for both thawed and fresh turkey. Follow these simple steps to give you a golden roast turkey.

Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water. Remove the thawed turkey from its original wrapper. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the neck from the body cavity and the giblets from the neck cavity. Drain the juices and refrigerate these parts.

Blot the cavities with paper towels to remove any juices. Be sure to clean all work surfaces, utensils, cutting boards or any areas touched by the raw poultry or, juices with hot soapy water.

Stuff the neck and body cavities, if desired. Turn the wings back and use them to hold the neck skin in place. If the legs are untucked, return them to a tucked position. If you tuck the legs properly, there is no need to truss the turkey.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a flat rack in an open roasting pan that is about 2 -inches deep.

If you have a meat thermometer — not an instant read type — insert it in the thickest part of the thigh next to the body. Be sure it does not touch the bone.

Brush the skin with vegetable oil to prevent it from drying out during roasting

Roast the turkey, uncovered, in the preheated oven. When the skin turns golden brown, about two-thirds of the cooking time, shield the breast loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over browning. Check for doneness by checking the meat thermometer or by using an instant read. The internal temperature of the thigh should be between 180 to 185 degrees. The center of the stuffing should be 160 to 165 degrees. The thigh and drumstick will feel soft when the meat is pierced with a fork. The juices should run clear, not pink. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes to make carving easy.

I hope your all have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!

As always, enjoy!

David Kelly is a columnist for Trib Total Media.

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