Taming the Turkey: Five tips for preparing turkey on Thanksgiving

Chef Heather Hunsaker
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without the star of the show, the turkey. But for many purchasing, storing and preparing a turkey can be a terrifying task. Whether you are a turkey roasting pro, or this year will be your first attempt, use the tips below to help guide you to turkey perfection!

Selecting: When purchasing a turkey, avoid packaging that has been torn or tampered with. As a general rule, plan for one pound of turkey per person.

Thawing: Since most store bought turkeys are sold frozen, thawing your turkey is a crucial step. To properly and safely thaw a turkey requires patience and planning ahead. It is recommended to thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator and to allow at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Cooking: The most popular cooking method for cooking whole turkeys is roasting. Start by removing the giblets. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry. After drying, tie the turkey legs together using kitchen twine (called truss); this helps hold the turkeyand#8217;s shape while cooking. Next brush the turkey with oil or melted butter and season with poultry seasoning. Bake at 350 degrees until the turkeyand#8217;s internal temperature, taken at the thigh, reaches 165 degrees. Today, it is advised to cook the stuffing separately from the turkey, to ensure both the turkey and stuffing are cooked properly.

Carving: After cooking, cover the turkey with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. A sharp, thin knife or electric knife is an essential tool to turkey carving. Cut into the joints and not bones, to easily break down and remove the thighs, legs and wings without much effort and the risk of breaking your knife.

Storing: Frozen uncooked turkeys can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months. A fresh or fully thawed turkey can be kept in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees) for up to two days. Fully cooked turkey can be frozen for up to four months.

Have leftover turkey on hand? This warm, flavorful soup is perfect for a cool November day, and even makes enough to feed lingering holiday guests!

Hearty Italian Tortellini Soup with Turkey

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

2 cups cooked, shredded turkey

2 (15.5 ounce) cans diced Italian tomatoes

2 (15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

6-8 cups turkey broth

1 (20 ounce) package cheese tortellini

In a large stock pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in poultry seasoning, turkey, diced tomatoes, beans, peas and 6 cups of broth. Let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add tortellini and continue cooking for another 5-8 minutes or until tortellini are cooked. The additional 2 cups of broth maybe needed to reach desired soup consistency.

Note: Chicken and chicken broth maybe used in place of the turkey and turkey broth.

and#8212; Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her motherand#8217;s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site

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