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Thanksgiving rules and tips for cooking stuffing, deep-frying turkeys

Turkey and stuffing go together like peanut butter and jelly, but they shouldn't be cooked together.

It is best when making your holiday turkey to cook your stuffing separately. Even if the turkey has reached the required 180 degrees, the stuffing inside may not reach temperatures necessary to destroy disease-causing bacteria.

But if cooking your stuffing in the turkey is a holiday tradition you just can't bear to break, here are some "safe stuffing" tips to help reduce the potential risks.

- Stuff the turkey just before putting it into the oven. The wet and dry stuffing ingredients may be prepared ahead of time and chilled in the refrigerator.

- Stuff the turkey loosely- about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.

- The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in moist environments.

- Place the stuffed turkey immediately into an oven set no lower then 325 degrees.

- Even if the turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, a food thermometer should be used to check the final temperature in several different spots to assure even cooking. The inner most part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing should be checked since they will reach proper temperatures slower than other parts.

- All parts of the turkey should reach 180 degrees and the center of the stuffing inside the turkey should reach 165 degrees.

- Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes after cooking is complete and then remove all of the stuffing.

A whole turkey can be successfully cooked by the deep fat frying method. However, there are safety concerns to consider when working with large amounts of hot oil. This is especially true around small children and pets.

To deep fry a turkey first select a pot large enough to submerge the turkey in oil without spilling over. It is a good idea to measure with water beforehand to determine the amount of oil and size of pot needed.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees and then carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil. Allow approximately 3 to 5 minutes cooking time per pound of turkey.

When finished cooking, check the turkey with a food thermometer. The internal temperature of the bird should be 180 degrees when measured in the inner thigh. Once the proper temperature is reached, remove the turkey from the pot and drain excess oil from the cavity. Place the bird on paper towels and let stand for twenty minutes before carving.

To keep the oil for later use it should be strained first then placed in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Approximately 1/5 of the oil should be replaced with new oil for each use. Oil should be discarded if excessive smoking occurs or if the odor becomes objectionable.

To store leftovers: cut the turkey into small pieces; refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days; gravy within 1-2 days; or freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees or until hot and steaming.

For more information on your turkey cookery, give me a call at the Extension Office, 706-595-1815. Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

Web posted on Thursday, November 20, 2008

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