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Giblets and gravy: Getting the turkey right this Thanksgiving


By Tara Bailey

→ Do you know how difficult it can be to cook a turkey? Thanksgiving is around the corner, so if you’ve had a challenging meal prep in the past, read on!

“Making sure the turkey is perfect is the most stressful thing about Thanksgiving,” said Debra James, 65, of Sheraden. “The turkey is the centerpiece of the entire holiday. It must look and taste good. Thankfully, Thanksgiving occurs once a year, and that is something to be thankful for.”

→ Did you know you should never thaw a frozen turkey on the counter at room temperature or in hot water? The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends thawing turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent and safe temperature, but it takes a long time. Allow one full day of thawing for each 4-5 pounds of weight. If you’re planning to brine, add an additional two days to the thawing time. The USDA says once the turkey is thawed it will remain safe for another two days.

→ Did you know to thaw a turkey in water, you should use cold water and keep the turkey in its original wrapping? Place the turkey in the sink, a large container, or a roasting pot. Butterball estimates a minimum thawing time of thirty minutes per pound of turkey.

Helen White, North Side, recounted her 2011 Thanksgiving: “I’m not sure how it happened. I may have gotten carried away with cleaning the house that I almost forgot about purchasing the turkey. It was the night before Thanksgiving around eight o’clock when I realized I forgot to buy the turkey. I rushed to the store and there were only two left. I grabbed the biggest of the two and sped back home. I needed the turkey to thaw quickly and was not able to cover the turkey completely with cold water. So, I did the next best thing. I thawed my turkey in my bathtub. Of course, my tub was thoroughly cleaned. But I did leave that detail out to my friends and family.”

→ Did you know it can be risky, but you can defrost a turkey in the microwave? The USDA warns people to check the owner’s manual to configure the settings for the exact minutes per pound and the correct power level to use when thawing. Before microwaving, remove the wrapping and giblets from inside. Generally, allow six minutes per pound when thawing in the microwave. Rotate the turkey several times and flip it during the thawing process.

Shamise Boyd, from Manchester, shared her first experience of when she cooked a turkey for the first time. “Cooking my turkey in the microwave was the biggest and most rookie mistake I ever made in my life, next to pouring cold water in a hot glass casserole dish while baking chicken in the oven. The casserole dish exploded in my hand while I attempted to put the chicken in the oven. The eight-pound turkey did just the same, but worse. The first mistake was that the turkey was too big for my microwave. My second mistake, the turkey wasn’t thawed out completely. Lastly, I cooked it on full power. The only good thing about that particular experience is that I was wise to perform a test run before the big day.”

→ Did you know you can cook a frozen turkey? The USDA says it’s perfectly safe to cook a frozen turkey. The downside to cooking a frozen turkey is that the cooking process will be delayed. A frozen turkey will take double the time then a thawed turkey and twice the stress. Maybe save yourself the hassle and purchase a fresh turkey, sparing yourself the pain of calculating thawing time.

→ Did you know Butterball hosts a turkey help hotline? The hotline offers 24/7 access to their experts to help with the challenges of turkey preparation. Even seasoned Thanksgiving hosts may need a reminder on how to cook the tastiest turkey. After all, many of us only cook the whole bird once a year!

→ Did you know when the turkey talk helpline began in 1981 they answered over 11,000 turkey questions over only a few weeks in November? At the time, only six home economists worked the Butterball phone lines. Because of the popularity, the hotline has since grown in both calls and Butterball experts. To talk turkey, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL or text 844-877-3456 to chat with their turkey experts.

→ Did you know you can fill a turkey with multiple types of meats, like the infamous “turducken”? The late Cajun-American chef Paul Prudhomme claimed to be the trailblazer behind the pop-culture phenomenon of Turducken. Prudhomme specialized in creole cuisine of Southern Louisiana, and wrote eleven cookbooks and created seasoning mixes. He popularized turducken in the 1970s, and trademarked the name and claimed sole ownership over the creation.

→ Did you know the giblets (which should generally be removed before cooking) contain the neck and the turkey’s internal organs such as the heart, liver, and gizzard? The giblets can be used to make gravy, flavorful stock, or stuffing.

James has been using her grandmother’s recipe for giblet stuffing for decades. James says: “I use the giblets for seasoning the stuffing. First, I make the cornbread then bake it. After the cornbread is done, I boil a pot of water using no exact measurements, just eyeballing it, then put in the neck bone, liver, and heart.

After the giblets are finished boiling, I take out the heart. I could never bring myself to use the heart. Eating heart is something that I couldn’t do, but I can boil it. My mother and grandmother used giblets in their gravy and stuffing. That’s probably why I make it that way to this day. After the giblets and cornbread are done, finely dice the onion, green peppers, and giblets. Combine all ingredients with a stick of margarine and bring to boil. Make sure not to cook it until it’s slimy. Grab the mixing bowl and mixture. Make sure the giblets are chopped perfectly so people don’t know it’s in the stuffing. I think turkey is better stuffed with giblet stuffing. After all, what is Thanksgiving without turkey and stuffing?”


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