This year some of us will prepare the Thanksgiving meal as usual, in a warm, well-stocked family kitchen, using the proper pans and ingredients and perhaps a gravy boat or roaster passed down by our mothers and grandmothers.
Thanks to Hurricane Ike, though, others will improvise in the tiny galley of a FEMA trailer, using implements scrounged from family, friends and generous neighbors, or brave the uncertain behavior of an outdoor grill or roasting pit. Wherever your kitchen, we hope your holiday is filled with family and friends, good food and good fellowship.
Need a refresher course in the basics? Here's our annual countdown, complete with pounds per person, thawing and roasting times and cooking temperatures. Today our focus shifts to the heart of the menu: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Here's a bountiful harvest of holiday tips for a fabulous feast:
By the pound: Buy about 1 pound of uncooked turkey for each person you are serving and, if desired, another pound each for leftovers. If everybody prefers white meat, you'll need a slightly larger bird.
Thawing: Avoid room-temperature thawing, which can encourage bacterial growth.
In the fridge: Place wrapped, frozen turkey on a tray, breast side up. Place in refrigerator and allow about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds. A 20-pound frozen turkey will take four to five days to thaw completely.
In water: If you're pinched for time, submerge the frozen, wrapped turkey in cold water to cover, changing the water every 30 minutes. It will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw.
When partially thawed: Remove the neck and giblets and refrigerate. Rinse the thawed turkey, drain and pat dry. It can be stored in the refrigerator as long as two days before roasting.
To prevent the spread of bacteria: Wash your hands, countertop, cutting board and utensils after they come in contact with uncooked turkey.
For a fresh or thawed turkey at 325 degrees (accordinig to the National Turkey Federation).
8 to 12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours unstuffed; 3 to 3 1/2 hours stuffed
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours unstuffed; 3 1/2 to 4 hours stuffed
14 to 18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours unstuffed; 4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed
20 to 24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours unstuffed; 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours stuffed
Temperature: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Stuffed: Lightly stuff the neck and body cavities just before roasting, using about to cup of your favorite stuffing recipe per pound of turkey. Make sure stuffing is warm; never stuff the turkey the night before.
Unstuffed: Rub salt and pepper in the turkey cavities and, if desired, insert celery, onion and parsley to enhance flavor. Place in roasting pan.
Fold neck skin to the back: Fasten with a skewer, if desired. Tuck wing tips underneath back. If desired, tie the legs together with twine or tuck them under the skin band.
Brush the skin: Use oil or melted butter to keep moist; baste frequently with pan juices.
When the skin is light golden brown: About two-thirds through the cooking process, place a tent of lightweight aluminum foil over the breast to prevent overbrowning.
Doneness: Turkey is done when the internal temperature of the thigh is 180 degrees and the center of the stuffing is 160 degrees.
Let the turkey stand: Wait 20 to 30 minutes before carving, to retain juices.
AROUND THE WEB
BBQ ABOUT.COM : Top 10 Turkey Brine Recipes
EPICURIOUS : Turkey Brine Recipes
NYTIMES : Tackle the Turkey
SunTimes: Planning for Leftovers