For rookie Thanksgiving cooks, expert tips to avoid disaster

Turkey
Turkey (Pixabay)

NEW YORK – After Christopher Hughey tweeted that he’s tackling his first Thanksgiving turkey this year, the advice started rolling in.

Brine it. Don’t bother. Try “spatchcocking” -- grilling the bird split open. Remember to turn on the oven, and expect that something will burn.

“One extreme is that it’s going to be dry, and inedible and gross,” said the Charlotte, North Carolina, resident, who already doesn’t like cooking poultry because of fears he’ll undercook it and sicken people. “The other extreme is that we’ll all wind up in urgent care.”

With health officials urging Americans to stay home or limit Thanksgiving gatherings, food experts say rookie cooks nervous about attempting their first Turkey Day spreads can avoid disaster and keep everyone healthy by following a few basic tips.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also offering advice on how to prevent coronavirus infections while celebrating, including eating outside if possible, limiting traffic in the kitchen and just have one person serve the food.

As for the meal itself, experts say to get started well before the big day. A common mistake: Failing to plan so all the dishes can be ready in time. That includes leaving enough time for frozen turkeys to defrost in the fridge, where temperatures are cold enough to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

Since it takes a day of thawing for every 4 to 5 pounds, that could add up to several days depending on the turkey’s size. Otherwise, sticking a frozen turkey in the oven could result in a bird that looks nicely browned, but is still cold inside.

“You’ll basically have a turkey popsicle that maybe looks good, but it’s not going to be cooked,” said Frank Proto at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.