Jean Ince | Domestic Columnist
As the Thanksgiving
holiday approaches, you
have probably given some
thought to what you will prepare,
how you will prepare
it, who is coming and the list
goes on and on. Regardless
of whether this is your first
Thanksgiving or the fiftieth,
preparing the holiday bird
can be stressful. It doesn’t
have to be that way. Here
are few steps to follow to
ensure you have a delicious
Thanksgiving meal for you,
your family and your friends.
There are some things to
consider when purchasing
the turkey. Most of the turkeys
we have available come
to us frozen, so let’s address
that option. Now is the time
to purchase the turkey. You
will need to allow several
days for the turkey to thaw
in your refrigerator, so make
sure you have enough room
in the fridge to thaw it properly.
Be sure to plan ahead – it
takes approximately 3 days
for a 20 pound turkey to fully
defrost in the refrigerator.
Place the turkey on the bottom
shelf with a pan under
it to catch any liquids that
will pool as the turkey thaws.
Avoid thawing in the kitchen
sink or on the counter. Bacteria
which are present in the
turkey will grow at an alarming
rate. By thawing in the
refrigerator at a temperature
below 40 degrees, bacteria
will not grow as fast.
Determining how long to
cook your bird can also be
difficult. Plan on 20 minutes
per pound in a 350 degree F
oven for a defrosted turkey.
That means if your turkey
is 20 pounds, you will need
to allow about 4 ½ hours to
Although many people
picture the ideal turkey as
one put on the table with
the stuffing inside, a turkey
will cook more evenly if it is
not densely stuffed. Consider
adding flavor by loosely filling
the cavity with aromatic
vegetables – carrots, celery,
onion or garlic – or by carefully
tucking fresh herbs
underneath the breast skin.
Rosemary or thyme are great
herbs to use. For the stuffing
lovers, cook the dressing in a
casserole dish on the side.
Before you begin roasting,
coat the outside of the
turkey with vegetable or
olive oil, season with salt and
pepper and tightly cover the
breast with aluminum foil to
prevent over-browning. Once
you get the turkey in the
oven, resist the temptation
to open the oven door. When
the oven temperature fluctuates,
you’re only increasing
the likelihood of a dry bird.
About 45 minutes before the
turkey is done, remove the
foil from the breast to allow
it to brown.
Use a food thermometer
to check the internal temperature
of the turkey and
assure a moist bird. A whole
turkey is safe when cooked
to a minimum internal temperature
of 165 degrees F
throughout the bird. Check
the temperature in the innermost
part of the thigh and
wing and the thickest part of
the breast. All turkey meat,
including any that remains
pink, is safe to eat as soon as
all parts reach at least 165 degrees
F. The stuffing should
reach 165 degrees F, whether
cooked inside the bird or in a
separate dish.
When the turkey has
reached the correct temperature
and you are ready
to remove it from the oven,
let it stand sitting out for 20
minutes. Then you can remove
the stuffing and carve.
This should give you plenty
of time to make gravy, and
finish up any side dishes.
Once you have enjoyed
your meal, don’t forget to
store your leftovers properly.
Cut your turkey into small
pieces; refrigerate stuffing
and turkey separately in
shallow containers within 2
hours of cooking. Use leftover
turkey and stuffing
with 3-4 days, gravy within
1-2 days, or freeze these
foods. Reheat any leftovers
thoroughly to a temperature
of 165 degrees F or until hot
and steaming.
Preparing your holiday
bird can be an enjoyable,
stress-free task if you heed
some of the tips mentioned
above. Talking Turkey is a
free handout available that
provides information such as
what size turkey to purchase,
thawing methods, cooking
times for both stuffed and
unstuffed birds according to
the size of your turkey, and
If you would like to receive
this information, contact the
Howard County Cooperative
Extension Service at 870-845-
7517 or visit our office located
on the second floor of the
courthouse. The Cooperative
Extension Service is part
of the University of Arkansas
Division of Agriculture. You
can also download this handout
at http://www.fsis.usda.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving
meal with family and
Recipe of the Week
Being creative with
the leftovers can sometimes
be a challenge. Remember
you can use cooked turkey
in place of cooked chicken in
recipes. Here is a great recipe
for using leftover turkey to
make gumbo. The ingredients
are simple, yet the
results are wonderful. It will
make 6 one-cup servings, so
if making it for a large family;
you may want to double the
Turkey Gumbo
3 cups low-sodium broth,
fat removed
1 cup cooked turkey,
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
1 (10 oz.) package frozen
cut okra
1 (16 oz.) can diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup white or brown rice
Bring broth to a
boil in a large stockpot, and
then add all remaining ingredients.
Cover and let boil
gently for 20 minutes or until
the vegetables and rice are
tender. Stirring occasionally.
Serve with a tossed green
Nutritional Information
per Serving: Calories-102,
Fat-2 g, Sodium-320 mg, Carbohydrates-
15 g, Fiber-7g