To Turkey Or Not To Turkey

By Charlyn Fargo

October 5, 2016 9 min read

Here's a fun quiz that addresses some of the common mistakes people make when cooking turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, put together by The Ohio State University. Pick the best answer to each question.

1. The turkey in your freezer has been there since last Thanksgiving. What should you do with it?

a. Throw it out!

b. Feed it to your in-laws.

c. Go ahead and use it on Thanksgiving.

d. Leave it in there and buy another one for Thanksgiving.

2. Your turkey is frozen solid. How do you thaw it?

a. Put it in the dryer with lots of towels.

b. Run it through a cycle in the dishwasher.

c. Put in a cooler in the garage.

d. Find a spot in the refrigerator.

3. It's the day before Thanksgiving and your turkey is still frozen. What can you do?

a. Cancel the holiday dinner.

b. Let the turkey sit in the laundry tub overnight.

c. Cook the frozen turkey.

d. Put the turkey under running water for 10 hours.

4. Your family loves stuffing/dressing that's baked inside the turkey. You know that isn't recommended, but you're going to do it anyway. What's the best way to proceed?

a. Mix and prepare the stuffing just before you put into the turkey. Stuff it lightly just before it goes into the oven and use a thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees before serving.

b. Since they like it so much, put as much stuffing into the turkey as you can fit, just before you put it in the oven. You might need to lace it closed with twine to hold all that stuffing inside.

c. Stuff the turkey the night before and have it ready to go into the oven in the morning.

d. Get the stuffing ready to go the day before and stuff the turkey in the morning, this will help you get it in the oven quickly.

5. The turkey's been in the oven for several hours. How do you know if it's done?

a. The pop-up thermometer has popped. It's done.

b. A thermometer reads at least 165 degrees in several spots on the bird.

c. You calculated the time vs. pounds on the instructions, and that time has come and gone. Plus, it's brown all over. It's done.

d. The juices are running clear and the drumstick wiggles.

Answers:

1. C. A turkey that has been kept solidly frozen for an entire year will be safe to eat. The quality may be lower than a turkey kept in the freezer for a shorter time. One suggestion is to prepare it for a family meal before Thanksgiving. This will give you a recent turkey-cooking experience, so cooking on the big day won't be so intimidating. Actually, answers B and D could also be correct, since there would be no reason not to invite your in-laws to your practice dinner or the holiday. You really could save the older turkey for after the holiday, but the longer it sits in the freezer, the lower the quality will be.

2. D. Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method. It takes one day for each four to five pounds of turkey to thaw. The other answers don't keep the outside of the bird cold enough while the inside is still frozen.

3. C. Turkeys can be cooked directly from the freezer; the cooking time may be as much as 50 percent more than a thawed turkey. There also won't be an opportunity to stuff it. Instead, you could bake your stuffing in a casserole dish. Now what about those giblets in the bag? Check the turkey throughout the cooking process, and when it has defrosted enough, carefully remove the giblet bags with tongs. You could also thaw a turkey by submerging it in cold tap water. The water should be changed every 30 minutes, and this method will take 10-12 hours for a 20-pound turkey. It also requires lots of water. The turkey should be cooked immediately after thawing. Oh, and if you purchased a pre-stuffed turkey, then it should always be cooked directly from its frozen state.

4. A. The ingredients can be prepared the day before, but keep the wet and dry ingredients separate. Make sure that the wet ingredients (chopped vegetables, broth and cooked meats) are safely stored in the refrigerator. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together just before filling the turkey cavity, and even then, only fill it loosely. Cook the turkey immediately after stuffing it. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

5. B. The only way that you can be absolutely sure that the turkey is done is to use a thermometer. The minimum temperature to which a turkey should be cooked is 165 degrees. Check the internal temperature at several locations, including the thigh and the thickest part of the breast. Pop-up timers may pop too early because of fat pooling at the tip, so always use another thermometer to double check. The National Turkey Federation recommends cooking turkey to a higher temperature than the minimum. While 165 degrees is the minimum safe temperature, they say that people like the quality more (and it will be easier to carve and slice) if it's cooked to a higher temperature. They frequently suggest 180 degrees instead.

Q and A

Q: How long would I have to walk to burn off the calories in holiday treats?

A: It depends on the treats you choose and how fast you walk. Holiday cookies often have 60 to 140 calories each, and sweet desserts may contain from 200 to 600 calories or more per serving. If you walk at a moderate 3 miles per hour pace and weigh 150 pounds, you would need about 24 minutes to burn the calories in one 140-calorie cookie, and well over an hour for other sweet desserts. If you can comfortably walk at a brisk pace of about 4 miles per hour, you could cut your walking time to 15 minutes to burn the same number of calories; or if you walk briskly for 24 minutes, you'll burn almost 200 calories. Looking at this math, it's easy to see that although boosting physical activity at a time when there's more high-calorie food around can help avoid weight gain, adding extra exercise can't easily keep up with how quickly excess calories accumulate with overeating. However, don't look at walking and other exercise simply as a way to balance calories you consume. Physical activity, independent of weight, links with numerous health benefits, including lower risk of several cancers. It also helps your body regulate blood sugar and keeps several hormones at healthy levels. For many people, daily physical activity also helps handle stress, raise energy levels and improve sleep quality, which are all often challenges at busy times of year. So enjoy sweet treats of the season, choosing those that you enjoy most at times when you can truly taste and savor them.

Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Recipe

Not sure what to do with the leftover turkey? Try this turkey and wild rice soup recipe from Eating Well magazine.

CREAM OF TURKEY & WILD RICE SOUP

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups sliced mushrooms, (about 4 ounces)

3/4 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped carrots

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 cup quick-cooking or instant wild rice, (see Ingredient Note)

3 cups shredded cooked chicken, or turkey (12 ounces; see Tip)

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots and shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in turkey (or chicken), sour cream and parsley and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more. Makes 4 servings, about 1 3/4 cups each.

Per serving: 354 calories, 36 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 378 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo's weekly column, "Nutrition News," can be found at creators.com.

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