To stuff or not to stuff a Turkey ???

mom2brinaNovember 16, 2007


I am new to this board on THS, and I am hoping that you can help me with cooking a turkey this year. This will be the first time I have cooked a turkey (mom & MIL have always done it in the past). MIL bought it & dropped it at our house this week - it is HUGE! 22 pounds. So, couple of questions ... will 3 days in fridge be enough to defrost it?

I am going to try to brine it Wed. evening - it needs to be in fridge then right???

If I brine it, should I then do a rub, injector marinade, or basting of any kind?

And last question ... Is it better to stuff the turkey or to make the stuffing in a separate pan, maybe muffin tins??? Oh yeah, and keep in mind that the turkey is giant! LOL

Thanks for sharing your experience with a newbie!

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This is your first turkey??
Forget brining and marinades and rubs....just cook the bird!!
NO....3 days in the refrigerator won't be long enough...allow 4 1/2 days and then plan some time in the sink with cold water.
Get that bird washed....and the stuffing made and I like the stuffing IN the bird.
Allow about 4 hours at 350 for the turkey to cook and at least 30 to 60 minutes for the turkey to rest before carving.
Don't mess with brining a bird that least for the first time you are making a turkey... could rub the skin with terayaki sauce before will make it nice and browned.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 9:57PM
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Mom2brina, Welcome to the forum. You might want to read this recent thread. Lots of different opinions as to whether to stuff or not. And advice on different methods of roasting turkeys.

Stuff or not

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 10:07PM
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I'd put that sucker in the back of the fridge a cake pan...just in case it leaks..then refer to the thread AnnT sent you too...
Stuffing or dressing doesn't matter to me either way. :o)
Growing up we had both..whatever didn't fit in the turkey went in a casserole dish with a bit of chicken broth poured over, covered and baked..last 10 minutes or so..cover came off to "crisp" the top.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 10:47PM
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Hi mom2brina:I have only peeped in the FF a couple of times in the past month.
I saw this Post and had to respond.

I hate to differ with a few of my friends but I
guess I am for tradition and the majority.

I have been cooking Turkey's for about 55 years and
never had one that wasn't good.
There are many different opinions for Cooking and Tastes. Some people are finicky about food.

I think the majority like the stuffing in the bird.
They even write songs about traditional things.

I would go along with LindaC's advice.
The only difference is I cook mine a little longer, because,
I use a Roasting Pan with a lid and put a little water in the bottom.Take the lid off to brown.
When the bird is removed, gravy is made with the juices.

The stuffing is liked so much from the bird,that I have to make some on the side also but
that isn't touched until the other dissapears.
This is only my humble opinion.
LOU said that
Happy Thanksgiving !!!!!!!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 12:59AM
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The main points are in the thread Ann pointed you to, but I want to reiterate three important things.

To thaw in the fridge, you need to allow one day (24 hours) per five pounds of bird. I personally do not force thaw birds under running water because I feel it is a waste of water and an iffy process until you have a few turkeys behind you. :)

The "danger zone" for food -- the temperatures at which bacteria thrive are 42-142 degrees F. Whether you choose to brine or not, that bird needs to stay at under 42 degrees until you're ready to prepare it. The safety rule is that meat should not spend a TOTAL of greater than four hours in "the danger zone". That include prep time and serving time.

Finally, to stuff or not to stuff is a personal choice. That said, the safety rule says that the innermost part of the stuffing has to reach a minimum of 165 in order to be considered safe to eat. Getting it to that temp and yet not overcooking the breast meat can be a challenge. Lots of folks do it and do it well. Don't let it scare you, but if you're not comfortable, dressing on the side is a perfectly acceptable option. If you do dressing, you might want to stuff the cavity with some herbs, celery, etc.

Oh, and a lot of turkeys have those "flavor inhacing solution" of anywhere from 10-22%. Brining those usually doesn't add much except more salt. You might want to check the label. If it came from an Amish farm, kosher store or is labeled "minimally processed -- no added ingredients" or something like that, brining makes for one yummy bird.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 1:33AM
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Thanks for all of your replies.
After reading the link Ann provided, I have decided to not stuff the bird since it is so big. If it was a smaller 10 pounder, I would stuff it, but I don't want the turkey to dry out. I am putting it in the fridge tonight to start it defrosting, then I am going to attempt to brine it, roast it breast down and use a seasoned rub. I am going to use a recipe from - Brined and Roasted Turkey by Emeril.

My biggest fear is a dry turkey - MIL's is always dry, hence the reason I wanted to attempt it! ;)She always cooks it in the bag - is that why it is dry?

Here is a link that might be useful: Brined and Roasted Turkey

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 9:36AM
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Probably cooking it in the bag is not the reason it is dry. My guess is that she doesn't use a thermometer and overcooks it. Don't go by the pop-up thingy that comes in turkeys. Use a thermometer! That's one of the keys to a moist turkey. Brining is the other key.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 9:59AM
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And even if you brine can be very dry if over cooked! Get an instant read thermometer... and take it out of the oven as soon as the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees farenheit.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 10:15AM
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Yep, she does use the pop-up kind of thermometer. I'll be sure to keep an eye on the thermometer. I have a digital one that I use when roasting a chicken.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 11:12AM
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On the stuffing thing..I was watching Food TV..I think it was Paula...she said the key to getting the stuffing cooked to temp and not overcooking the bird was to "gently stuff" not pack it wanted breathing room..
But I agree...a bird that size, would need alot of to work up to that.

Good Luck...

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 2:27PM
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If I have a bird with the popup thermometer, the first thing I do is take it out and throw it away. I'm completely convinced that those aren't to tell you when something is done, only when it is OVERdone. :)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 2:58PM
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I had a pop up pop when the turkey had been in the oven about an hour....
I have that "eye" lookin' at me from the middle of the breast!
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 3:09PM
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LOL! Linda, the haunted turkey was WATCHING you.

My sister nearly cremated a bird one time waiting for that silly thing to pop up. I used to just ignore them and remove them when the brid was done (when I said it was done, not some nickel piece of plastic). Most never did pop. Far as I'm concerned those little pieces of plastic have done more to turn people against turkey than help anyone.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 3:34PM
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Mom2brina: Maybe the reason the internal temperature reaches 165 deg.
when I bake a large bird is because, I use a lid
and a little water in the bottom, of the pan.
The breast is probably being steamed , while the whole bird is cooking.
Or maybe I was just lucky all these years.

Now you have a lot of technical advise,on cooking a turkey.
Please, let us know how you make out.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 1:02AM
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Hi Brina's Mom- Welcome!
I'm a very proud mom tonight too! My DD and her best friend cooked their very own Thanksgiving dinner tonight, their first one ever! I have to tell you that they also had a 22 lb bird, they stuffed it too and without a doubt it was the best turkey I've ever eaten!! Definitely better than mine, better than most of my mother's and without a doubt it was better than the woman whose house we go to each T-day!
So don't be afraid, just dive right in. The girls used Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and cooked it about 5-6 hours until they thought it was done-- risky-- I'd have preferred that they had a meat thermometer. I'll be buying them one each for the holidays!
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 1:52AM
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Ellen : I'm proud with you. That was really risky, cooking
the "Old Fashioned Way ". It's a wonder you all survived.

I use a thermometer but I still have to see the legs
starting to separate , from the bird.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 12:26PM
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I'm glad you decided not to stuff the turkey. I've told this story before, but for many years I volunteered at a Thanksgiving feed for the needy. I carved donated cooked turkeys one after another. We sadly but necessarily had to throw out many stuffed turkeys that were undercooked. I always wondered how many family members were being sickened that day.

Anyway, I have nothing against stuffing a bird, but I don't think it's a good idea for a beginner to stuff a big bird. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and do come back to participate in Thanksgiving week threads here at the forum - one of our busiest times!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 3:40PM
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I know I feel like a total beginner to cooking simply because I have not cooked a turkey before! LOL It is hard to digest all the info out there, but you guys are such a great source to weed through it all. Back when I was younger & had no idea there was all kinds of methods, I would have stuffed the bird & cooked it just like your girls did. I'm glad it turned out well for you Compumom ... hopefully all of our turkeys will be good eats this Thursday!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 4:05PM
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Do you have a good ice chest? It is always difficult at holiday time to make room for a big turkey in the fridge for 3 days - at least for me. I put it in my ice chest about 3 days before I have to cook it.

I've always stuffed, even big birds and never had a problem with the turkey being dry. I usually put a couple of layers of cheese cloth on top and baste every 15 to 20 minutes.

If you aren't going to stuff, you can put some aromatic items like an onion, some celery stalks and a lemon inside the bird to flavor it. I like cooking the stuffing inside the bird partly because the stuffing flavors the meat. This gets you most of that without the fuss or extra cooking time of stuffing.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:32PM
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