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Food & Dining
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Getting the bird on the table

Carving the bird

Let the roasted bird rest, covered with foil on a cutting board for 15 minutes after removing it from the oven. Use a carving fork to steady the turkey, but take care to avoid stabbing the bird, causing juices to run out.

The breast/wing

  • Make a shallow incision along the entire length of the breast bone. With the tip of the knife, cut and scrape down one side of the rib cage, pulling gently on the breast to free it.
  • Follow the bone down until you reach the wing joint. Cut through this joint to keep the wing attached to the breast.
  • Continue cutting down along the carcass until the breast comes free.
  • Lay the breast skin side up on the cutting board with the wing toward your guide hand. Steady the wing with your guide hand and make a slanting cut to remove the wing.
  • Place your guide fingers on the cut surface and make another biased cut to get an even slice.
  • Slice the entire breast in this fashion.
  • Repeat steps to remove and slice the other breast.

The leg/thigh

  • Lay the bird on its back with the legs facing you.
  • Using a very sharp carving knife, cut through the skin between the thigh and the carcass. Pull back on the leg to expose the joint. Cut through the joint and remove the leg/thigh.
  • Cut straight down through the knee joint to separate the leg and thigh. Lay the thigh skin side down and cut out the bone.
  • Hold the drumstick vertically and cut straight down against the bone to remove the meat.
  • Repeat steps to remove the other leg.
  • Cut the dark meat into serving pieces and place on a platter.

— James DeWan, special to Tribune Newspapers

Turkey thawing times

You can thaw the bird in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees or below) if you have time; it takes 24 hours per 4 or 5 pounds of turkey. Or speed things up by submerging it in cold water that you change every 30 minutes. Do not thaw the turkey on the counter at room temperature.

If thawing in the refrigerator, place the turkey on a tray or pan to contain any liquid that may drip. After thawing, the uncooked turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, according to the USDA.

In the refrigerator

Weight:
8 to 12 pounds Time: 2 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds Time: 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds Time: 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds Time: 5 to 6 days

In cold water:

Weight:
8 to 12 pounds Time: 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds Time: 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds Time: 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds Time: 10 to 12 hours

Source: fsis.usda.gov

Cooking times

Use these USDA recommended times instead of those found in older cookbooks and references. Cook at 325 degrees. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer, according to the USDA.

Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If cooking stuffing inside the bird, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. Even if your turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator, the USDA recommends checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.

Unstuffed:
Weight
8 to 12 lbs. 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 lbs. 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 lbs. 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 lbs. 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed:
Weight
8 to 12 lbs. 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 lbs. 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 lbs. 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 lbs. 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

Source: fsis.usda.gov

Turkey help
Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372); for live chats and more, go to butterball.com

The National Turkey Federation: Offers tips on buying, thawing, prepping and cooking the bird. eatturkey.com

Partnership for Food Safety Education: This nonprofit's website has info for the whole family. Go to fightbac.org and click on "Holiday Food Safety" at the bottom of the home page.

USDA: For fact sheets and videos, go to: http://www.fsis.usda.gov, click on "Fact Sheets," then "Seasonal Food Safety."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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