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However you cook the bird, make sure that it's well done

If you want to cook turkey with a different twist this year, there are many alternatives to roasting the holiday bird. Just be sure to keep your cooking method safe by correctly checking the internal temperature for doneness. Start by making sure you have a calibrated thermometer that is recommended for poultry.

Electric roaster ovens, grills, smokers and deep fryers are now being used for cooking whole turkeys. They offer a different way to cook the traditional turkey, while freeing up oven space for other dishes.

Electric roaster ovens are tabletop appliances that are made specifically for cooking poultry. You should check the manufacturer's instructions for recommended temperature settings; but, generally they are the same as for conventional ovens. Whole poultry is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, it is still best to cook turkey to higher temperatures such as 180 degrees to remove pink appearance and rubbery texture.

Grilling has become a popular method for cooking turkey. The turkey cooks by indirect heat in a covered grill. A pan of water is placed below the grill rack to catch the turkey drippings.

It is recommended that you grill turkeys that are only 16 pounds or less. The larger turkeys stay in the temperature danger zone too long and may cause foodborne illness. Grilled turkeys should not be stuffed, as it will take too long for the stuffing to reach 165 degrees and may become unsafe. As with all cooking methods, be sure to check for doneness using a calibrated food thermometer.

Smokers are usually cylindrical and can be either gas, electric, or charcoal. You should follow the manufacturer's directions for operating and cooking with the smoker. The cooking time will vary as it depends on several factors such as the size and shape of the turkey, the temperature of the coals and the distance from the heat source. Generally, you can estimate that it will take about 20 to 30 minutes per pound, but always check for doneness using a food thermometer.

Whole turkeys can be safely cooked in a deep fat fryer as long as the turkey is not stuffed and it is fully thawed.

For frying, you should choose a pot that is large enough for the turkey to be completely submerged in oil. Ideally, a commercially made fryer that is designed for frying whole turkeys would be used. Follow the manufacturer's directions for heating the oil and cooking the turkey.

The oil should be 350 degrees and the turkey needs to be carefully lowered into it. It should take about 3 to 5 minutes per pound to cook the turkey.

Check the internal temperature with a food thermometer as described above. If the turkey is not done, return it to the cooking oil and finish cooking. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Make your holiday meal safe and one to remember.

Caroline Richardson is a county extension agent serving McDuffie, Warren and Glascock counties. Contact her at (706) 595-1815, or at

Web posted on Thursday, November 17, 2011

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