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Getting the bird on the table

Thawing times, carving tips and a place to call if things go wrong

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Carving the bird

Let the roasted bird rest, covered with foil on a cutting board for 15 minutes after removing it from the oven. Use a carving fork to steady the turkey, but take care to avoid stabbing the bird, causing juices to run out.

The breast/wing


The leg/thigh
— James DeWan, special to Tribune Newspapers

Turkey thawing times

You can thaw the bird in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees or below) if you have time; it takes 24 hours per 4 or 5 pounds of turkey. Or speed things up by submerging it in cold water that you change every 30 minutes. Do not thaw the turkey on the counter at room temperature.

If thawing in the refrigerator, place the turkey on a tray or pan to contain any liquid that may drip. After thawing, the uncooked turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, according to the USDA.

In the refrigerator

Weight:
8 to 12 pounds Time: 2 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds Time: 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds Time: 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds Time: 5 to 6 days

In cold water:

Weight:
8 to 12 pounds Time: 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds Time: 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds Time: 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds Time: 10 to 12 hours

Source: fsis.usda.gov

Cooking times

Use these USDA recommended times instead of those found in older cookbooks and references. Cook at 325 degrees. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer, according to the USDA.

Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If cooking stuffing inside the bird, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. Even if your turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator, the USDA recommends checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.

Unstuffed:
Weight
8 to 12 lbs. 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 lbs. 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 lbs. 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 lbs. 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed:
Weight
8 to 12 lbs. 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 lbs. 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 lbs. 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 lbs. 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

Source: fsis.usda.gov

Turkey help
Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372); for live chats and more, go to butterball.com

The National Turkey Federation: Offers tips on buying, thawing, prepping and cooking the bird. eatturkey.com

Partnership for Food Safety Education: This nonprofit's website has info for the whole family. Go to fightbac.org and click on "Holiday Food Safety" at the bottom of the home page.

USDA: For fact sheets and videos, go to: http://www.fsis.usda.gov, click on "Fact Sheets," then "Seasonal Food Safety."