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Cooking a Thanksgiving turkey and handling leftovers

Posted: November 26, 2013 4:11 p.m.
Updated: November 27, 2013 5:00 a.m.


Special to the C-I


Food safety is important when cooking a turkey. Improperly cooked turkey could make family members ill.

Safety and preparation for all cooking methods:

• Never brown or partially cook a turkey with the intention of finishing cooking later. It is safe to partially cook or microwave a turkey if it is immediately transferred to a hot grill, deep fryer or oven to finish cooking.

• It is not necessary to baste a turkey. Pouring juices over a turkey’s surface while it cooks will not make the meat juicier. The liquid penetrates only about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch beneath the skin and most of the juice will run off into the pan. Opening the oven door to baste a turkey can cool the oven and possibly increase the cooking time.

Roasting: The open pan roasting method will consistently create a juicy, tender, golden brown turkey.

• Place thawed or fresh turkey, breast up, on a flat rack in a shallow pan, 2 to 3 inches deep.

• Brush or rub skin with oil to prevent drying of the skin and to enhance the golden color.

• Place in an oven preheated to 325° F.

• When the skin is a light golden color and the turkey is almost done, shield the breast loosely with a tent of lightweight foil to prevent overcooking of the breat.

• Turkey is safely cooked when the internal temperature is at least 165° F when checked with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature (even if the turkey has a "pop-up" indicator) in the innermost part of the thigh and wing as well as in the thickest part of the breast, without touching bone. It is perfectly safe to cook the turkey to a higher temperature for taste or texture preferences.

• Let turkey stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set.

• Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavities.

Handling leftovers:

Within two hours after cooking, remove stuffing from turkey and carve the meat off the bones. Put leftovers in shallow containers, no more than 2 inches deep and refrigerate or freeze. It is best to sue refrigerated leftover s within three or four days, or freeze. To freeze, wrap in freezer paper or heavy duty foil or put in freezer bags or freezer containers. For best quality, use frozen leftovers within three to four months.

For more information, call Deon Legette, Food Safety/Nutrition Agent at 432-9071 or visit the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center website at


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