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How to make Thanksgiving a feast they'll gobble up

Get your instant thermometer ready. That bird needs to hit 165 degrees before it can be eaten. And don’t rush the turkey to the Thanksgiving table. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes so the juices can redistribute. Otherwise your guests will be going extra heavy on the gravy.

Associated Press

Get your instant thermometer ready. That bird needs to hit 165 degrees before it can be eaten. And don’t rush the turkey to the Thanksgiving table. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes so the juices can redistribute. Otherwise your guests will be going extra heavy on the gravy.

Thanksgiving is stressful enough without also having to break out the calculator and suffer through math class flashbacks. So leave the calculating to us and use this holiday cheat sheet to make your life — and cooking — a little easier. All serving estimates are generous, to allow for plenty of seconds and leftovers. Associated Pres

How big?

For turkeys that are less than 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per person (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine; they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio. But if your goal is to have ample leftovers, aim for 1 1/2 pounds per person whatever the turkey's size.

• For eight people, buy a 12-pound turkey.

• For 10 people, buy a 15-pound turkey.

• For 12 people, buy an 18-pound turkey.

• For 14 people, buy a 21-pound turkey.

The big thaw

The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. You'll need about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. You also can put the turkey in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and plan for about 30 minutes per pound.

The brine

Never brine a turkey for more than 8 to 10 hours. Much longer and the meat will be too salty. Always keep the bird refrigerated during brining. If the turkey is too big, an ice-filled cooler works, too.

The roast

Roasting temperatures vary widely by recipe. Some go slow and steady at 325 degrees. Others crank the heat to 400 or 425 degrees for the first hour, then drop it for the rest of the time.

However you roast, use an instant thermometer inserted at the innermost part of the thigh (without touching bone) to determine when turkey is done. The meat temperature needs to hit 165 degrees for safe eating, though some people say thigh meat tastes better at 170 degrees.

The following roasting time estimates are based on a stuffed turkey cooked at 325 degrees. Reduce cooking time by 20 to 40 minutes for turkeys that are not stuffed. And, remember, a crowded oven cooks more slowly, so plan extra time if your bird needs to share the space.

• 12-pound turkey: 3 to 4 hours at 325 degrees.

• 15-pound turkey: 4 to 4 1/2 hours at 325 degrees.

• 18-pound turkey: 4 1/2 to 5 hours at 325 degrees.

• 20-pound turkey: 5 to 6 hours at 325 degrees.

The rest

The turkey should never go directly from the oven to the table. Like most meat, it needs to rest at least 15 to 20 minutes for the juices to redistribute.

The sides

• Carrots: A 1-pound bag makes 4 to 5 servings.

• Cranberry sauce: A 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries makes about 2 1/4 cups of sauce; a 16-ounce can has six servings.

• Gravy: Plan for 1/3 cup of gravy per person.

• Green beans: 1 1/2 pounds makes 6 to 8 servings.

• Mashed potatoes: A 5-pound bag of potatoes makes 10 to 12 servings.

• Stuffing: A 14-ounce bag of stuffing makes about 11 servings.

The hotlines

When your holiday dinner looks more disaster than decadence, finding expert help is just a call or click away. The most famous hotline of them all, Butterball, offers help even on Thanksgiving Day. Here are some of this year's holiday cooking hotlines and Web sites:

• Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: toll-free 1-800-288-8372 or butterball.com.

• Crisco Pie Hotline: toll-free 1-877-367-7438.

• Foster Farms Turkey Helpline: toll-free 1-800-255-7227 or fosterfarms.com.

• Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line: toll-free 1-800-637-8537 or verybestbaking.com.

• Ocean Spray consumer help: toll-free 1-800-662-3263 or oceanspray.com.

• Perdue consumer help: toll-free 1-800-473-7383 or perdue.com.

• Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline: toll-free 1-800-745-4000 or reynoldskitchens.com.

• U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: toll-free 1-888-674-6854 or www.fsis.usda.gov; enter "Ask Karen" in the search field to access a virtual representative.

How to make Thanksgiving a feast they'll gobble up 11/20/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:21pm]

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