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Thanksgiving Turkey Prep: Your Questions Answered

Answers to questions from WebMD's Facebook audience.
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What’s the difference between a regular turkey you get at the grocery store and a fresh turkey? Do they taste different? Do you prepare them differently?

There’s no nutritional difference between a frozen turkey purchased at the supermarket compared to a fresh turkey, and there’s no difference in how they are prepared.

As for taste, it’s a matter of preference, and I haven’t eaten enough fresh turkeys to be able to say which one tastes better.

What do people mean when they say they cook their turkey in a “slow oven?”

A “slow oven” is an oven that is heated to about 300 degrees, so that it cooks food more slowly. 325 degrees is also considered slow, just not as slow as 300.

As with the question of frozen versus fresh turkey, cooking a turkey in a slow oven is a matter of personal preference. Some people say that it tastes so much better when cooked this way.

Whatever temperature you choose to set your oven, the bottom line is that it's the turkey’s internal temperature that’s most important.

What is the danger of eating an undercooked turkey or an undercooked ham?

It’s a bacteria issue. With poultry, an undercooked turkey might still contain live salmonella, which can make you quite sick. Undercooked ham has its own bad-for-you bacteria; it should also be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

How long can you leave your Thanksgiving dinner on the table before running the risk of it spoiling? Are there any particular items you should be concerned about?

You have two hours from the time you take your food out of the oven until it needs to be refrigerated.

In particular, make sure you refrigerate the turkey, stuffing, gravy, anything with milk and anything with eggs, and rice.

Basically, anything with a little bit of protein in it can become hazardous if left out too long.

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Reviewed on November 17, 2010

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