Tips to make sure your bird is fully cooked

“My mother is such a lousy cook that Thanksgiving at her house is a time of sorrow.” – Comedian, Rita Rudner

Yup, the pressure is truly on for cooks of a Thanksgiving feast. Guests might overlook the poorly executed sweet potatoes. They might even hold off on panning the over-seasoned, soggy stuffing.

But cook that bird wrong and your dinner table will deflate faster than the Snoopy balloon after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. However, with some careful planning and following of the tips below, you’ll ensure your bird is safely roasted.

•  First things first. Make sure your turkey is thawed before cooking. If thawing in a refrigerator, allow 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds. That means a 12- to 16-pound bird will need three to four days to completely thaw.

•  Heat it up. Set your oven temperature for 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

•  165 is the target. Use a meat thermometer to remove any guesswork. The turkey needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, which means a cook time of roughly three to four hours for a 12- to 16-pound bird.

•  Leave it unstuffed. While many stuff their birds, it’s recommended that stuffing be cooked in a separate casserole dish. If you do stuff the turkey, it will require additional cooking time.

•  Know your variables. Among the variables that can impact cook times are the accuracy of the oven; whether the bird is stuffed or not; if the cook pan is dark or shiny (dark roasting pans cook faster). An oven-cooking bag also can accelerate the cook time.

For additional safety tips about cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, download a PDF from the U.S. Department of Agriculture here.

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