Don't let this holiday turn into a turkey

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If your turkey is still frozen, you might want to make other plans for Thursday's big meal.

That's because you should defrost your frozen turkey in the refrigerator at a rate of about 24 hours for every five pounds. It's best to put the turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water to prevent the growth of microorganisms. If using water, change it every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately and do not refreeze it.

"The refrigerator method is safest and will result in the best finished product," said Julie Albrecht, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension food specialist.

Assuming your turkey is correctly thawed, Albrecht has the following tips:

When it's time to cook, turkeys need to be heated to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees, which should be confirmed with the use of a food thermometer. The approximate cooking times for an unstuffed turkey at 325 degrees are:

* 1.5 to 2.25 hours for four to six pounds

* 2.25 to 3.25 hours for six to eight pounds

* 2.75 to three hours for eight to 12 pounds

* 3 to 3.75 hours for 12 to 14 pounds

* 3.75 hours for 14 to 18 pounds

* 4.25 to 4.5 hours for 18 to 20 pounds

* 4.5 to 5 hours for 20 to 24 pounds

Vegetable preparation can be handled with four steps:

* Clean -- Wash your hands, all kitchen surfaces and utensils, and the fruits and vegetables.

* Separate -- Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat and poultry as well as household chemicals.

* Cook -- Cook or throw away food that has touched raw meat or poultry.

* Chill -- Refrigerate cut, peeled or cooked fruits and vegetables within two hours.

"As health and nutrition experts continue to recommend we add more fruits and vegetables to a healthy daily diet, it becomes increasingly important that consumers know how to handle them properly," Albrecht said.

After the meal, there are usually lots of leftovers. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours and stored in smaller portions in shallow containers. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees and check for cold spots with a food thermometer.

Take care in preparing and serving the main course of your Thanksgiving meal and you and your guests will enjoy a memorable holiday -- for all the right reasons.

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