• 61°

Experts offer turkey tips for Thanksgiving rookies

By Candice Choi, Associated Press

After Christopher Hughey tweeted that he’s tackling his first Thanksgiving turkey this year, the advice started rolling in.

Brine it. Don’t bother. Try “spatchcocking” – grilling the bird split open. Remember to turn on the oven and expect that something will burn.

“One extreme is that it’s going to be dry, and inedible and gross,” said the Charlotte, North Carolina resident, who already doesn’t like cooking poultry because of fears he’ll undercook it and sicken people. “The other extreme is that we’ll all wind up in urgent care.”

With health officials urging Americans to stay home or limit Thanksgiving gatherings, food experts say rookie cooks nervous about attempting their first Turkey Day spreads can avoid disaster and keep everyone healthy by following a few basic tips.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also offering advice on how to prevent coronavirus infections while celebrating, including eating outside if possible, limiting traffic in the kitchen and just have one person serve the food.

As for the meal itself, experts say to get started well before the big day. A common mistake: Failing to plan so all the dishes can be ready in time. That includes leaving enough time for frozen turkeys to defrost in the fridge, where temperatures are cold enough to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

Since it takes a day of thawing for every 4 to 5 pounds, that could add up to several days depending on the turkey’s size. Otherwise, sticking a frozen turkey in the oven could result in a bird that looks nicely browned, but is still cold inside.

“You’ll basically have a turkey popsicle that maybe looks good, but it’s not going to be cooked,” said Frank Proto at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.

Once the bird is thawed, experts say to resist any instincts to rinse it before cooking, which could end up splattering germs around. Thoroughly cooking should kill any germs on the turkey.

Making sure the bird is properly cooked – it should be 165 degrees at the thickest part – also means using a meat thermometer. Contrary to the advice many offered to Hughey, experts aren’t fans of the pop-up thermometers that come stuck in some birds.

“Those are not always effective in determining the temperature,” said Angela Shaw, a specialist at the Iowa State University’s food safety extension.

Though there’s debate about it, Shaw also recommends cooking the stuffing outside the turkey. Otherwise, she said it could pick up bacteria from the bird. Getting the stuffing hot enough to kill any germs could mean burning or drying out the turkey, she said.

Temperature control can be a problem even after everyone is done eating; experts say to refrigerate leftovers within two hours, since bacteria can grow quickly on food that’s left out.

A dry, overcooked bird is the main worry for Celeste Molina, who’s staying home with her partner and their roommates instead of spending it with family because of the pandemic. Molina, who works at a screenprinting firm in Portland, Oregon, knows how badly first attempts can go; years ago, her aunt ended up burning the Thanksgiving bird.

“We got to her house and she’s like, ‘I’m just going to order you guys McDonald’s,'” she said.

Molina isn’t worried about her first turkey, but just in case, she and her partner plan to buy a chicken to roast alongside it.

Lori DeSanti, a real estate agent in Meriden, Connecticut, will also be making turkey with her husband for the first time, instead of going to her dad’s or relative’s home.

DeSanti isn’t that concerned about the turkey – she’s never been a huge fan – and is focusing on pulling off a stuffing recipe.

“That’s what I’m more worried about ruining,” she said.

Advance planning could be important for another reason this year: Making sure you can get the right size bird, since gatherings are expected to be smaller.

In suburban Detroit, Robyn Dwoskin plans to get a turkey breast instead of a whole bird for her first attempt at a Thanksgiving spread, since it will just be her husband, their daughters and her mom. She’s cooked turkey breasts in her slow cooker before, but hasn’t yet figured out what she’ll do for Thanksgiving.

“I’m still in denial that I’m actually making Thanksgiving this year,” said Dwoskin, who owns a social media engagement company.

Back in North Carolina, Hughey is rethinking his game plan for the dinner he’s cooking for his ex-wife and sons.

“Honestly, I hate to say this. I’m thinking about cheating,” said Hughey, who owns a health care technology company. “I’m thinking my next stop is this place that does a fully cooked turkey.”

READ ABOUT MORE NEWS AND EVENTS HERE.

ALSO OF INTEREST:

Pecan recipes for the Thanksgiving feast

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Leftover Thanksgiving Soup

Business

Piers of the Outer Banks: Nags Head Fishing Pier

News

Kitty Hawk Town Council hears about youth fishing tournament; Perry will not run for re-election

News

North Carolina man hooks $1 million scratch-off prize

News

NC bill exempts lawmakers, others from concealed gun limits

News

States push jobless from virus recession to return to work

Crime

North Carolina man accused of sex crimes facing new charges

News

Nash County woman snags $200,000 prize from scratch-off ticket

Crime

Elizabeth City man arrested in Kill Devil Hills on firearm and drug charges

News

Kill Devil Hills public forum encourages community dialogue

News

Retention bonus for Home Health and Hospice workers approved

News

Weekly North Carolina gas update: Prices have gone up

News

Brief power outage set for four villages on Hatteras Island

Crime

Inmate in federal prison in North Carolina convicted of participating in mutiny

News

Lane closures due to cross pipe replacements this week in East Lake

Business

Maggie Easley named Outer Banks Hospital Employee of the Month for April

News

As vaccinations drop, North Carolina officials consider offering perks

News

North Carolina officials searching for stolen radioactive tool

Business

Chamber holds ribbon cutting for Village Realty’s Duck location

Lifestyles

COVID-19 testing calendared for Monday in Manteo

Business

Local law firm recognized with Attorney General’s Cup in Legal Feeding Frenzy

Crime

Las Vegas man pleads guilty to role in multi-million dollar North Carolina Medicaid fraud

Crime

Former North Carolina police chief indicted on 88 felony counts in evidence theft case

News

J-1 visa workers ‘not going to be a solution for the community this year’

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to over 14 years in prison for methamphetamine-related charges