Thanksgiving is a time that revolves around food, family and friends! Entertaining on Thanksgiving requires planning and organization, and it can be stressful, but preparing food doesn’t have to be. Just keep these helpful tips in mind.
Choosing Your Thanksgiving Turkey
Are you grappling with what size turkey to purchase this year for your family’s Thanksgiving feast? Whether you decide to go big or scale it down for a smaller group, a solid tip to remember is to plan on feeding 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. Typically, the smallest turkeys found at the grocery store will be 10 to 12-pounds (however, who doesn’t love a little extra turkey for leftovers?).
For families looking for an alternative to purchasing a whole turkey, the Ohio turkey experts recommend purchasing turkey breasts or thighs and cooking them individually. Turkey parts can be roasted in the oven, just like a whole turkey, or even in a slow cooker.
Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
Whether you choose a turkey breast or whole turkey, follow these recommended practices for thawing, preparing, cooking and carving.
- Thawing: When gearing up for the big day, be sure to thaw your turkey using the refrigerator for the safest result. Frozen turkeys should be thawed 24 hours for every four to five pounds it weighs. If you choose to thaw your turkey in cold water, change the water every 30 minutes. Using this method, it takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw.
- Prepping: Once thawed, remove the packaging, drain the juices and pat dry with clean paper towels. Brine or season the turkey to your liking. If stuffing the turkey is your preference, stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven for cooking. If you have prepared the stuffing ahead of time, wet and dry ingredients should be refrigerated separately and combined right before stuffing the turkey. Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
- Cooking: Roast the turkey in a 325°F oven. Lightly brush or spray the turkey with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance. As a rule of thumb, it takes approximately 15-20 minutes per pound at 325°F to cook an unstuffed turkey, longer if you cook the stuffing in the turkey. When the turkey is about 2/3 done, loosely cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent over cooking. Your turkey is done when a meat thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 165°F in at least three places: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the thigh. Once the temperature has been reached, the turkey should be removed from the oven.
- Carving: Once removed from the oven, allow the cooked turkey to sit for around 20 minutes before carving. Begin carving by separating the drumsticks from the rest of the turkey. Then, cut between the legs and breast and slice sideways. Finally, carve the turkey breast and serve!
Storing Turkey Leftovers
Storage: Cooked turkey should be carved, enjoyed and stored within two hours of cooking. Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones before storing away. Leftovers should be stored in shallow containers and refrigerated or frozen within two hours of cooking.
Shelf life: Leftover turkey and stuffing should be consumed within 3-4 days, while gravy lasts for only one to two days in the refrigerator. Cooked turkey can be kept in the freezer for 3-4 months.
Tasty Turkey Leftovers Recipes
One of the best parts of the annual Thanksgiving meal – the turkey leftovers! Get creative with these tasty leftover recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters:
- This Turkey Sweet Potato Hash Frittata is a delicious, savory meal fit for any time of day. Filled with turkey, potatoes, green onions and cheese, this one-skillet dish is a game-changer!
- The Monte Cristo Sandwich by Lemons for Lulu is a savory, hearty sandwich sure to satisfy your taste buds!
- The Turkey Carbonara dish by Cincinnati food blogger Foodtastic Mom is a sophisticated and delicious way to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers.
- Turkey Hash with Bacon and Brussel Sprouts by Ohio food blogger Lemons For Lulu is a great option for any time of the day.