Food & Drink

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner?

Thanksgiving is the most food-focused event of the year. What could possibly go wrong?

Not much, really. Forget all the hype and remember that if you have enough to eat, people to share it with and a place to cook it, you’ve got the basics covered already. Just in case, though, here are a few things we’ve learned that people might want to know.

The safety stuff

Turkey thawing: In a refrigerator, it should take 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. To speed it up, put the wrapped turkey in a sink and cover with cold water. Expect it to take 30 minutes per pound. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.

Safe handling: Wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces with hot, soapy water after coming in contact with uncooked turkeys. Never put cooked food on the same surface used for raw food.

Stuffing and dressing: Don’t stuff in advance and don’t mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients, particularly raw eggs, until just before baking. Stuff turkeys loosely. Use a thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. After cooking, remove stuffing as soon as possible.

Thermometers: Use a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer, and place it in the thickest part of the inner thigh, pointing toward the breast, but make sure it isn’t hitting bone. Cook until the turkey reaches 180 degrees in the thigh and 165 degrees in the breast. Use instant-read thermometers to check the meat, but don’t leave it in place in the oven.

Leftovers: Turkey and other cooked foods shouldn’t sit out longer than two hours at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees. To chill efficiently, cut turkey into smaller pieces and transfer leftovers to shallow containers. Refrigerated cooked turkey keeps up to four days, frozen keeps for six months. Dressing and gravy keep for one to two days, other dishes keep three to four days.

Fixing common problems

Turkey done too soon: Take it out, wrap it in heavy-duty foil and cover it with a bath towel or put it in an empty cooler. It will keep hot for an hour.

Giblet bag: If you leave it in the turkey, just pull it out and throw it away. It’s made of food-grade plastic.

No roasting rack: Crisscross celery and/or carrots in the bottom of the pan, or put thick slices of onion in pan. Place the turkey on them so the bottom doesn’t get soggy.

Gravy: If it doesn’t thicken, make a slurry of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water or broth, stir in and bring to a boil. Or make a paste of equal parts flour and butter. Pinch off pieces and stir in as it boils, until it thickens.

Heating takeout turkey: Cut the turkey off the bone, slice and arrange in a roasting pan. Use the skin to cover the meat to keep it moist. Cover the pan with foil and heat 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Baking powder/baking soda: If you haven’t used them since last year, check them. Stir 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into 2 teaspoons of vinegar or 1 teaspoon of baking powder into 1/3 cup hot water. They should bubble.

Spills: For gravy, soak in cold water, treat with an enzyme presoak or a prewash spray, then launder. For red wine, blot the stain, cover with a thick layer of salt, then rinse well with cold water and launder.