Less than a week to go & most of us will be sitting down and enjoying a nice meal with family and friends. On this day of thanks, let us all hope that at the end of the day were not thanking our lucky stars that it was not as bad as it could have been. While I cannot help you with that one in-law, or weird relative that always seems to make a spectacle, let’s see if we can make it a little safer, for not only the guests, but your pets, and your house.
The turkey needs to be thawed out completely before cooking it. The turkey should be placed in a pan or container in the refrigerator to de-thaw 1 day for each 5 pounds in weight. The pan is meant to catch any liquid that may leak out so it does not contaminate anything else.
So what happens if you forget to pull it out in enough time, or it did not fully thaw out? The biggest issue is do not leave it on your counter to thaw out – submerge it in a sink of cold water & change the water out every 30 minutes. Make sure that after you do this, that you clean up & sanitize the sink and surrounding areas.
Fresh Turkeys should be cooked within 2 days of purchase, while a de-thawed turkey can be cooked up to 4 days later. In order to make sure your not using the sink method & stressing out about it de-thawing in time, today would be the best day to put a 20 to 25 pound turkey in the refrigerator.
Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry or meat. Wash all knives, cutting boards and utensils also after using for raw poultry or meat.
Per the USDA & Butterball® the turkey should be cooked to 180 degrees based on the thigh and 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing. I will leave the stuffing debate to others – some say no stuffing, others say precooking it is best, while others say just make sure it is cooked.
One Last Tip - make sure you check your oven before turning it on. It needs to be clean and free of Tupperware dishes… A young lady who never cooks with the oven simply used hers for storage & yeah you guessed it – it was full of Tupperware dishes. Well she was glad that she was actually going to host the Thanksgiving dinner, so she read & researched everything to make sure it would be perfect. Needless to say while getting the turkey prepared she started to preheat her oven. Fortunatly for her there was no major damage, except to her oven & her pride.
P.S. ok one last tip, especially for those with gas ovens – make sure you turn the exhaust vent on, lets get red faced from being happy or slightly tipsy, not from Carbon Monoxide.
Deep Frying a Turkey
Ahhh, crisp skin, moist meat and it cooks up nice & fast – what isn’t to love? Well, if you have never done this before, or even if you have make sure that you follow a few common sense tips to prevent a major burn or fire ruining not only your thanksgiving dinner, but the poor fire fighters that have to respond.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
- Set the fryer up on a flat surface far from any flammable structure – this does not mean on your deck but further out in the yard
- To prevent overfilling the unit – put the turkey in the basket and place it in the pot. Add water until it is an inch or two above the turkey. Lift the turkey out, and use a ruler to measure the distance from the water to the top of the fryer. Pour out the water and dry the fryer completely.
- Using the measurement above fill the fryer with high smoke point oil to that line. (Peanut, Canola or Safflower – careful if someone has a nut allergy, as peanut oil would not be a good choice)
- It will generally take about an hour for the oil to heat up to the 350 degree mark – make sure you use an appropriate thermometer to help keep it at that temperature for cooking. You should also keep an “All Purpose” fire extinguisher handy at all times — DO NOT use water that will just spread the fire if one occurs.
- Pat the turkey dry before SLOWLY lowering it into the fryer, continuing to monitor the temperature of the oil. It will take approximately three to four minutes per pound before the turkey is cooked. (Remember Oil & Water do not mix)
- Carefully remove the turkey & turn off the flame. If you need to touch the pan or fryer, you should be using oven mitts or pads. Make sure to keep everyone away from the fryer for quite a while as the oil can burn or scald someone until has cooled down enough. (plan on at least 4 to 6 hours minimum before it is safe to handle & always check the thermometer first)
- For more tips & some really good cooking advice, I recommend watching Alton Brown and his show Good Eats found on the Food Network. You Tube has his Deep Fryer system here in three parts. Part 1 – Good Eats /// Part 2 – Good Eats /// Part 3 – Good Eats
Turkey – just a small little piece is ok, right? Yes, as long as it is fully cooked, there are no bones, and you do not overdo it. Also, be careful with the seasonings that you use including Sage, if ingested it can cause you poor dog or cat some discomfort.
No cake dough, bread dough, etc… should ever be given to your pet (or in that case even the kids or you) – the eggs can carry salmonella & the bread dough can actually cook and expand in their stomachs.
Food placed on the table should be covered & placed away from the edges to help eliminate the temptation for your pet to follow its natural instincts instead of its training.
Secure your trash – all bags and containers should be sealed and disposed of properly to prevent your pet, or a neighbors pet from having a feast and leaving you another mess to pick up. The major issue besides cleaning up a second time is the bones that can seriously hurt your animals.
Stress relief for your pets – feed them away from everyone in a nice quite area, consider taking them for a nice long walk before company shows up, and allow them to have a nice corner where they can go to relax. Consider leaving them at home if you head out to the parades or other festivities – the amount of people & noise can easily stress them out.
Your pets should be kept out of the kitchen and dining area’s especially during the cooking and setup times. This will help prevent them from accidentally tripping you while you are carrying the turkey or hot gravy out and getting injured themselves.
Make sure they are wearing their tags in case someone leaves the door open and they try for the great escape. (For more -Top Ten Holiday Pet Safety Reminders)
You know you are going to have some, so make sure that you do not leave food out for more than 2 hours. The turkey & ham should be removed from the bone and placed in shallow containers in the refrigerator. All leftovers should be eaten within 4 days, reheating the turkey & ham up completely before eating. Gravy should also be reheated up to a boil before eating.
A quick note of thanks
From my family to yours, we wish you have a great Thanksgiving, and simply wish to say Thank You for the four great years we have had here in Alabama as we look forward to many more.