NEW CUMBERLAND - West Virginia University Extension Service recommends using turkey tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure a safe Thanksgiving holiday meal.
First, decide if you want a fresh or frozen turkey. If you plan to purchase a frozen bird in advance, be sure you have adequate freezer space to accommodate it. If you opt for a fresh bird, plan to make your purchase one to two days prior to cooking your meal.
Next, decide what size bird you need. If you want to serve a whole turkey, the USDA recommends this calculation: one pound of turkey for each person you plan to feed.
If you buy a frozen bird, factor safe thawing time into your schedule. The USDA recommends two safe options - refrigerator thawing or cold-water thawing.
To use the refrigerator method, keep the frozen turkey in its original wrapper. Place the bird in a refrigerator that registers at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Thawing will take approximately 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. For example, a 16- to 20-pound turkey will take four to five days to thaw.
If you purchase a frozen turkey a day or two before your dinner guests are due to arrive, the cold-water method is your safest thawing method. Keep the turkey submerged in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Safe thawing requires approximately 30 minutes of cold-water time per one pound of turkey. For example, a 16- to 20-pound turkey will take eight to 10 hours to thaw.
Finally, roast the bird in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the bird. For specific cooking times and other safety steps, check the USDA's website at usda.gov.
The turkey is ready when the minimum internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the bird. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and in the thickest part of the breast.
For information about programs and activities, contact the Hancock County Extension Service office by calling (304) 564-3805.