By Bonnie Dunn, Tabitha Surface and Robin Turner, Extension Agents
Thanksgiving is a time for good food and drink with family and friends, but the common centerpiece of the holiday dinner – especially Thanksgiving – is turkey. And while delicious, turkey does have its own set of preparation steps that must be carefully followed to ensure it is cooked appropriately. Here are a few guidelines that will ensure all your guests remain happy and healthy during your “turkey day” festivities.
Thawing: There are a few ways to thaw a turkey, but the best is to thaw it in the refrigerator. This will allow the turkey to thaw at the proper temperature, which also slows the growth of harmful bacteria. If you must use water to thaw your turkey, make sure the water is cold and drain it frequently to maintain the cold temperature.
Next, remember the letters “CSCS!” when the real turkey prep begins: Clean – Separate – Cook – Clean Up.
Clean: Wash hands, utensils, surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Do not wash the turkey or eggs.
Separate: Keep all the meats separated from other food items by using separate cutting boards, utensils and towels. Wash your hands when switching from one utensil or recipe to another. Keep a sink full of clean, soapy, hot water to wash your hands as you are preparing each recipe. This ensures that no cross contamination occurs.
Cook: Yay! It is time to put the turkey in the oven. Try these helpful hints for a safe, delicious holiday!
- For a quick clean-up, purchase a turkey cooking bag at your local grocery store. This not only saves time on cleaning but also makes for a more moist and flavorful dinner.
- When stuffing is cooked inside the turkey, it is more moist and flavorful, but it absorbs some of the fat from the bird, so keep that in mind when calculating your caloric intake.
- Stuffing can be a source of foodborne illness, especially if placed inside the bird. Make sure all cutting boards, spoons, bowls and hands are very clean when preparing the mixture. Never stuff the bird before you are ready to bake it. Do not pack the cavity tight as the center may stay at the “temperature danger zone” too long.
- Baking stuffing separately from the turkey is safer and produces a lower-calorie side dish. If the stuffing is made early in the day, mix it very quickly and place in a prepared baking dish. Cover tightly and refrigerate immediately. When ready to bake, remove it from refrigerator and place directly into the preheated oven. Test to make sure the stuffing has heated all the way through before serving
Clean up: Do not leave your Thanksgiving dinner out on the table beyond two hours after having taken it from the oven/stovetop to the table.
If you want to cook your turkey unstuffed, add extra flavor by placing the following items in the cavity of the turkey: one celery rib, one onion cut in half, and one whole carrot. Otherwise, try our Healthy Holiday Stuffing recipe below.
Healthy Holiday Stuffing:
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup de-fatted turkey broth or 1 cup low-sodium non-fat chicken broth
1 cup sliced raw mushrooms
1 8-oz. package of seasoned stuffing mix
Non-stick cooking spray
- Wash, peel and finely chop carrots, celery and onion. Place in a medium saucepan with broth and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Slice mushrooms. Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat briefly and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Return to heat and add mushrooms to saute.
- Place stuffing mix in large bowl. Add mushrooms and vegetables in broth. Toss lightly with a fork.
- Spray baking dish lightly with cooking spray. Spoon stuffing into baking dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 325 degrees.
- If you choose to stuff your turkey, be sure to do it loosely.
Sodium: 387 mg
Carbs: 25 g
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 1 g
1 starch/bread and
For additional information refer to: CDC Thanksgiving Food Safety