8 Ways to Cook a Holiday Turkey

Filed under: Holiday Season |

Thought there was only one way to cook a turkey?

Since the oven often is needed for side dishes, the big bird may have to take an alternate route to the table, according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“No matter what route you chose, always ensure whole turkeys reach 165 degrees F as measured in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast,” said Duitsman.

TurkeyHere are some things to keep in mind with various turkey cooking methods:

Electric Roaster Oven: Use on the countertop as an “extra oven” for a whole turkey. The cooking time and oven temperature should be identical to a conventional oven. Preheat to at least 325 F, and place the turkey on a meat rack. Keep the lid on throughout cooking. Cooking bags may be used, as long as the bag does not touch the oven surface on any side.

Grilling: This popular method allows a completely thawed bird to cook over indirect heat in an outdoor gas or charcoal grill. Keep the grill covered, and place a pan of water beneath the grilling surface to catch drippings. Do not stuff the turkey — the indirect heat might not allow the stuffing to get hot enough to kill bacteria.

Smoking: Smokers vary widely, and use either electricity, gas or charcoal for heat. Ensure the smoker reaches an internal temperature of 225 F to 300 F before introducing the completely thawed, unstuffed turkey. If using water-soaked wood, do not use softwood like pine, fir, cedar or spruce. These woods will give the food a turpentine flavor and coat the meat with black pitch.

Deep Fat Frying: A whole unstuffed turkey of 12 pounds or less can be successfully cooked in a short amount of time. Follow manufacturer directions, and ensure the oil covers the turkey by 1-2 inches. Select a safe location for your fryer, and heat oil to 350 F. Slowly and carefully lower the turkey in the hot oil. Monitor the temperature, and never leave unattended.

Pressure Cooker: Use turkey parts such as breasts, legs and thighs. Follow the manufacturer instructions for a quick-cooking (about 1/3 or less of conventional time) product.

Slow-Cooker: Use cut-up parts of the turkey like legs, thighs, breasts, wings or quarters. Begin heating on “High” for an hour or more before turning to “Low” (or, just continue cooking on “High”). A minimum heating temperature between 170 F and 200 F should be maintained. Do not remove the cover while cooking.

Microwaving: This can work successfully with either a whole unstuffed turkey, or using parts of the turkey in a covered dish. Limit the size of your bird to around 12-14 pounds, and allow 3 inches oven clearance on top and 2-3 inches of space around the bird. Because microwaves can heat unevenly, a cooking bag will aid heat distribution.

Conventional Oven: If you decide to go with your regular conventional oven, set your oven temperature no lower than 325 F. Place your turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. For food safety, it’s best to cook stuffing outside of the cavity — in a casserole dish. Cook the turkey immediately and use a food thermometer to check that the center of the stuffing and the internal meat have both reached 165 F.

More questions? If you have more questions about cooking a turkey call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day.

© 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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