By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
A good Thanksgiving meal likely revolves around the quality of the bird on the table. Unfortunately, cooking the perfect turkey is not as simple as throwing it in the oven on Thanksgiving morning. Fortunately, the craft of cooking a perfect bird has been fine-tuned over the years. Karissa Winkel, family and community wellness agent with K-State Research and Extension - Cottonwood District, said the process begins days in advance with the thaw.
"The best way is to thaw it in the fridge but that can take some time so you want to plan a little bit depending on how big your turkey is," she said. "For a 16-20 pound turkey to thaw, it takes four to five days."
The general rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours of thawing in the refrigerator for every four or five pounds of turkey. The bird may also be placed in a leakproof plastic bag and placed in cold water. Experts say the turkey should be completely covered with water, and the water should be changed every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey, and turkeys thawed this way must be cooked immediately after thawing.
Turkeys should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, but the danger does not end there. Food left out for too long after the big meal also poses a threat.
"You don't want to leave any food out longer than two hours," Winkel said. "That's the 2-hour rule. If you have food out, go ahead and enjoy it, but go ahead and put it back in the fridge and let it cool."
Larger pieces of turkey should be cut into smaller sizes so it cools faster. Leftover turkey should be consumed within three to four days or placed in the freezer for longer storage.