Talking Turkey: Get the Best From Your Bird
Experts offer tips for buying and cooking a tasty turkey
Thanksgiving Day is a time-honored American tradition, a time for family
gatherings and a holiday meal that encourages over-the-top decadence. And for
many (some 97% of us), the thought of a Thanksgiving without turkey is heresy.
We gobble up roughly 45 million turkeys to celebrate the annual holiday.
To help make sure your Thanksgiving dinner is safe, nutritious, and
delicious, we asked the experts for some timely turkey tips.
A Little Background
The tom turkey, the larger male bird decorated with colorful plumage, has a
long wattle -- a fleshy, wrinkled fold of skin hanging down from the throat --
and is known for his trademark "gobble." The hens are smaller and less
colorful than the males, and make only a clicking sound.
Both males and females are raised extensively for their excellent meat (and
for eggs). The most common breeds in the United States are the Bronze,
Narragansett, White Holland, and Bourbon Red.
We've all heard the legend about the first Thanksgiving: After a tough first
year in America in 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated a successful fall harvest of
fruits, corn, and other vegetables. They had beaten the odds, and for that,
they were mighty thankful. The Pilgrims' Governor William Bradford proclaimed a
day to give thanks that was shared by the new colonists and their Native
The tradition continued each year after the harvest, and in the late 1770s,
the Continental Congress suggested a national Thanksgiving day. In 1863,
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday.
(President Franklin D. Roosevelt later declared that the holiday would be
celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.)
Turkey Prep 101
For most of us, there's no doubt that a turkey will be the centerpiece of
our Thanksgiving feast. The only question: Should we buy it fresh or
Frozen birds tend to be less expensive, but they require more time to
"If you have the room to defrost a frozen turkey in your refrigerator,
plan on one day to thaw [each] 4-5 pounds," recommends culinary
nutritionist Jackie Newgent. Place the wrapped bird on a tray on the bottom
shelf of your refrigerator so the juices won't contaminate other foods.
Another safe method of defrosting is to submerge the bird, breast side down,
in cold water, and change the water every 30 minutes. With this method,
thawing takes approximately 30 minutes per pound.
"Defrosting in the sink is time-consuming, and if you don't change the
water to keep it cold, you risk the chance of bacterial contamination,"
For purists, nothing can compare with the mouth-watering aromas of slowly
roasting a turkey to golden perfection in the oven. Deep-frying is a popular
alternative cooking method, though it requires the right equipment and lots of