from The Perfect Turkey Handbook
by Kate Heyhoe
Here are all 15 rules from FoodWine's Perfect Turkey Handbook. Please read the article associated with each rule for more information.
- Rule #1: Wash the Bird.
Rinse all poultry and poultry pieces under cool running water, rubbing all surfaces inside and out, to wash away bacteria.
- Rule #2: Avoid Cross-Contamination.
Any surface that comes in contact with raw poultry—knives, cutting boards, counter tops, dish towels, sink, etc.—must be washed with hot soapy water before using again. Bacteria transfers easily from one surface to the next and can result in illness.
- Rule #3: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Both cooked and uncooked food should be stored properly and never left at room temperature for extended periods. Bacteria multiply between 40 and 140 degrees F., with the quickest growth happening between 70 and 100 degrees (right around room temperature).
- Rule #4: Store turkeys at 40 degrees F. or below.
Store turkeys in the coldest part of your refrigerator, in the back on a lower shelf.
- Rule #5: Never thaw the bird at room temperature,
unless using the cold-water method.
- Rule #6: Allow several days for the bird to thaw.
It takes 3-4 days to thaw in the refrigerator, the method most recommended.
- Rule #7: Never stuff a bird until you are ready to roast it.
Pre-stuffing runs the risk of food poisoning, and of all the parts of the turkey, stuffing is the most easily contaminated. Always cook it to 165 degrees F. even when you reheat it.
- Rule #8: Follow the safe-handling tips
Rinse the turkey in cool water, avoid cross-contamination by washing all surfaces that come in contact with raw turkey in hot soapy water before using on any other foods.
- Rule #9: Always use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
See our section on Using a Meat Thermometer.
- Rule #10: Make the gravy in the same pan you used to roast the turkey.
- Rule #11: All gravies require a thickener and one or more liquids.
Thickeners: flour or cornstarch
Liquids: the pan juices, chicken broth, water, or stock and sometimes a dash of white wine, milk, sherry, etc.
- Rule #12: Determine your measurements.
The standard ratio is 1 tablespoon of fat from the drippings, plus 1 tablespoon of flour (or 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch), per cup of liquid.
- Rule #13: Cook the flour all the way through.
Undercooked flour gives off a raw taste. It should bubble in the fat and start to turn brown.
- Rule #14: Make sure your carving knife is sharp.
Sharpen with a steel or electric sharpener, whetstone or other sharpening gadget. You are more likely to cut yourself using a dull knife than a sharp one.
- Rule #15: Never let the Thanksgiving meal linger.
Refrigerate the cooked turkey and other parts of the meal within 2 hours after cooking. Never store the stuffing and the turkey together.
- What size turkey should I buy?
- Is it better to buy one large turkey or two small ones?
- Should I buy fresh or frozen?
- What about turkeys that have been injected with fats and seasonings?
- What about turkey parts and frozen stuffed turkeys?
- How long can a whole turkey be kept frozen?
- How long can a fresh turkey be kept refrigerated?
- Thawing Rules
- Thawing Methods
- Turkey Thawing Charts
- Is it best to cook the stuffing inside the bird, or separately in a baking dish?
- If I do want to stuff the bird, what's the best way to do it?
- How much stuffing do I need?
- Do I need to close up the cavity after it has been stuffed?
- Preparations Step-by-Step
- Stuffing & Trussing
- Do I need to truss the bird's legs, or can I just roast it the extra effort?
- Roasting Step-by-Step
- How do I keep the breast meat moist when cooking?
- Use a Meat Thermometer
- My turkey comes with a plastic pop-up timer. Can't I use that instead?
- How accurate are "recommended cooking times"?
- How can I tell when the turkey is done?
- USDA Timetable for Turkey Roasted at 325 degrees F.
- Rules for Making Gravy
- Making the Basic Gravy
- Additions to Gravy
- Basic Carving steps
- Removing the Thigh, Drumstick & Wings
- Carving the breast
- Storing leftovers
- Reheating leftovers
- Back to Thanksgiving Headquarters
This page modified November 2006