Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions that pop up each year while hopeful cooks prepare their Thanksgiving feasts:
Q: What size turkey should I buy?
A: If you haven’t bought your turkey yet, figure at least 1 pound per person or 1½ pounds if you want generous leftovers. Though the Butterball turkey help line (800-BUTTERBALL or text 844-877-3456) recommends figuring 2 pounds per adult and 1 pound per child.
Q: I forgot to thaw the turkey. What should I do?
A: Allow at least 24 hours of thawing time for each 5 pounds of turkey and always thaw the bird in the refrigerator in its original wrapping, never at room temperature. If you forget to take the turkey out of the freezer in time to thaw it in the refrigerator, here’s a safe cold-water thawing method.
Place the turkey in its unopened packaging in the sink and cover it completely with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Rotate the bird occasionally and allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound. A 10-pound turkey will take at least 5 hours to thaw using this method.
Q: Can I cook a frozen turkey?
A: You can cook it, in the oven only, from a frozen state if you absolutely must. Remove the packaging and place the bird in a roasting pan. It will take up to 50% longer than the recommended roasting time. Be sure the entire turkey — breast, legs and thighs — reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Q: If I forget to brine the turkey overnight. Can you brine the day of?
A: Yes. You can use a more concentrated brine. Dissolve 1 cup salt per gallon cold water for 4- to 6-hour brine in large stockpot or clean bucket. Add more water if you needed. Two gallons of water will be sufficient for a 12-pound turkey. Add turkey and refrigerate. If your refrigerator is full, use a big, clean cooler and ice packs. After four hours, rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
Q: When should I stuff the bird?
A: If you’re going to stuff the turkey do so just before putting the bird in the oven. Also, mix the stuffing ingredients together just before you’re ready to stuff the turkey. Loosely spoon the stuffing into the cavity, allowing about ¾ cup per pound. Don’t overdo it. A 10-pound turkey should hold about 7 cups of stuffing.
Q: How will I know when the turkey is done?
A: Roasting times vary with the size of the turkey, whether it is stuffed or not and the oven temperature. This is where using oven-safe meat thermometers or instant-read thermometers are handy. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let it rest at least 20 minutes or longer before carving for easier slicing.
Q: Can I peel the potatoes in advance?
A: Yes. Peel the potatoes, place them in cold water and store them in the refrigerator 4 to 12 hours in advance. Put a slice of bread in the water to prevent browning. When you’re ready to cook, drain, rinse and cook as directed. Use some of the water to make the gravy.
Q: Can I mash the potatoes in advance?
A: You can, though flavor and texture may suffer. It’s better to do it only an hour before serving.
Q: Can I use my slow-cooker to keep mashed potatoes warm?
A: Yes. Use the low setting and keep them in the slow-cooker no longer than 4 hours. Add a little warm cream to the slow cooker bottom before heating.
Q: Can I make gravy in advance?
A. Yes. We’ve had great success making turkey gravy days in advance. Check out the recipe below that uses turkey wings. After you roast the turkey you can add some strained pan drippings to the premade gravy.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
Makes: About 8 cups / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 3 hours (not all active time)
Make this gravy up to 3 days in advance. It can also be frozen. The consistency is almost like gelatin but will thin when you add turkey drippings to it.
4 turkey wings (about 3 to 4 pounds)
2 medium sweet onions, peeled, cut up
1 cup water
8 cups less-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, divided
1 large chopped carrot
½ teaspoon dried thyme, optional
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the turkey wings in a roasting pan; scatter onions on top. Roast 1¼ hours or until wings are golden brown.
Put wings and onions in a large stockpot. Add water to roasting pan; stir to scrape up any brown bits on bottom and add all to the pot. Add 6 cups broth (refrigerate remaining 2 cups), the carrot and thyme if desired.
Simmer, uncovered, 1½ hours.
Remove the wings and cool. Once cool, remove and discard skin; reserve meat for another use. Strain broth into fat separator or into a bowl. Let sit 10-15 minutes until fat rises to the top. Pour de-fatted broth into a saucepan. You also can put the bowl in the freezer. The fat will rise to the top and become solid. What’s left underneath will be jelled, which is what you want.
Whisk flour into remaining 2 cups broth until well blended and smooth. Bring broth in saucepan to a gentle boil. Whisk in flour mixture and cook 5 minutes to thicken gravy and cook out the raw flour taste. Stir in butter and season with pepper.
Cook’s note: Freeze the gravy up to 1 month. Thaw and reheat. You can add fat-skimmed drippings from a freshly roasted turkey.
Adapted from several recipes.
Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per 1/4 cup serving.
26 calories (34% from fat), 1 gram fat (1 gram sat. fat), 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 258 mg sodium, 2 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Sue Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: 313-222-6872 or [email protected] Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.
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