cooking November 24, 2021

Exploding turkeys and how not to thaw your frozen bird: Top turkey questions from our Cooking Stack Exchange

You’ve got questions, we’ve got Seasoned Advice on how to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the US, better known in some circles as Turkey Day. The traditional Thanksgiving meal is—you guessed it—turkey. If you’re prepping a bird for tomorrow, this roundup of turkey-related questions on Seasoned Advice will make sure your bird gets a good word. From basics like ensuring food safety and calculating serving sizes to more advanced considerations, like whether your dryer can jumpstart your thawing process, this list has everything you need.

(Of course, you can always call the Butterball hotline, a presidential favorite.)

Let’s get started!

How long will a whole turkey keep in a refrigerator?

“Every year the turkey trauma begins anew.” 

Avoid any turkey-related trauma by making sure your bird doesn’t go bad. If you bought your turkey in advance, the safest option is to freeze it, then move it to the fridge to thaw well before cooking. Allow enough time for the turkey to defrost, or you might find yourself pouring over the answers to the next question.

Can you thaw a frozen turkey in a dryer?

“The turkey would be [ruined], but I think you knew that.”

On an episode of the sitcom New Girl, characters try thawing a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer. It doesn’t work for them, and it won’t work for you, either. Not even if you add a rack to your dryer. Fortunately, Seasoned Advice offers much better methods for thawing your turkey, from defrosting it in the sink under cold running water to simply moving it to the fridge.

How much turkey should I plan per person?

“Note that this is for Americans at Thanksgiving.”

Like many answers, this one begins with, “It depends.” How many adults and children you’re serving, how many side dishes you’re planning, and how invested you are in those leftover turkey sandwiches will dictate how much meat you should plan per person.

How do you keep turkey from getting too dry?

The age-old question.

Brine your bird and roast it upside down for tender, tasty results. Another secret might be…bacon?

How do I safely deep-fry a turkey?

“What causes the explosions?”

Deep-frying a turkey can be dangerous because the hot oil can—ahem—overflow and ignite the burner during the turkey transfer process. Before you try it at home, learn how to avoid making your way into a YouTube compilation. The main takeaways: Do it outside and turn off the burner.

Follow-up question: What if it’s snowing? Is it more dangerous to deep-fry a turkey in wet weather? Inquiring minds want to know.

How long do you let a turkey rest after cooking?

Welcome to the danger zone.

Gordon Ramsay recommends letting a turkey rest for the same amount of time that it cooked, but what if it cooked for three hours? Taste and temperature hang in the balance—not to mention food safety.

What is the ideal fake turkey substitute for a vegan Thanksgiving?

Hail Seitan.

For a meat-free Thanksgiving turkey, Seasoned Advice recommends seitan, tofu, and/or a mashed-potato sculpture of a turkey with “feathers” made from carrots and celery. Sculpting a turkey sounds like more work than roasting one, but what do I know? I’m only here for the pie.

Why did my turkey stock turn into gelatin?

Because you did it right!

When you make stock, you’re simmering the bones to break down the collagen and turn it into gelatin, so a Jello-like substance is exactly what you want. Freeze the stock in a covered ice cube tray and pop out the frozen, meaty goodness to add richness and flavor to stir-frys and other dishes.

And for dessert:

Best apples for apple pie

Here’s a question with very few wrong answers. The consensus is that an optimally delicious pie uses more than one kind of apple, like a mix of Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Braeburn.

Unpopular opinion: I’d rather have rhubarb.

Happy Thanksgiving from Stack Overflow, and good luck in the kitchen!

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