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The Many Ways To Cook a Turkey


The Many Ways To Cook a Turkey

Jennifer Ogletree

Picture for a moment every holiday movie, when the hostess opens the oven door and the camera pans on a perfectly roasted nicely tanned bird with onions and celery adorning the pan. That is the picture-perfect turkey, but there are so many more ways to cook Thanksgiving’s special bird. 

Before we get cook the meal let’s first investigate the types of the turkeys one might find at the store. First what is the difference between a hen and a tom, well besides the obvious, toms are usually bigger, but the USDA says there is not really a difference when it comes to tenderness or taste.

If a turkey says “young” it means the turkey was less than eight months old when harvested. 

There are no approved hormones for turkeys so all turkeys on the market are hormone free. Similarly, there are no approved additives for turkeys so you can mark that off your list of concerns. 

Enough of the shopping talk lets cook a bird. 

The USDA warns people not to cook a turkey, and probably everything else, in a brown paper bag. They state the bags are not sanitary, may cause a fire and may release toxic fumes. However, if you really want to stuff the bird in a bag before tossing it in the oven there are commercial oven bags you can use. 

If you like to cook outside, you are in luck you can use a grill or a smoker to slow cook your bird. This method provides that nice smokey aroma and taste. Although if you are going to cook the turkey in the smoking or grilling method it is not advisable to stuff the bird with stuffing. The stuffing will likely not hit that 165 degree temperature deemed as safe and the smoking process does not do any favors to the flavor of the stuffing. 

If you still want to be outside but smoking is not your thing, you can deep fry the turkey. When using this method, a smaller bird is better, ideally under 12 pounds, and fully thawed. If you have ever fried anything then you know water and oil are not friends. Although this method can be quite dangerous, if you take the proper precautions, you should be successful in your cooking endeavors. The USDA recommends using water to see how much oil you will need in your pot. To do this you will need to put the turkey in the pot and fill it with water until there is one to two inches of water above the turkey. Now remove the turkey and make a note of the water level because that is where the oil should be filled to for safe cooking. The cook time will be three to five minutes per pound. 

What if you wake up on Thanksgiving in a cold sweat because you forgot to thaw out the turkey? Never fear the CDC and USDA agree that you can cook a frozen turkey, however the cook time will be about 50 percent longer. 

Now if you find yourself without an oven, grill, smoker or a deep fryer you can microwave a turkey, according to the USDA. Most microwaves can handle a 14 pound turkey max. You will want to leave about three inches of space all around the bird. You will need to set the microwave to about 50 percent power and cook the bird for nine to ten minutes per pound. 

Whichever way you choose to cook your turkey let it set for about 20 minutes before carving it up. Doing this will allow the juices to soak back into the meat making for a juicier bird. 

However you have your turkey, enjoy with family and or friends.