There are many alternatives to roasting the holiday turkey — any way you slice it, as long as the turkey is thoroughly cooked, you can have a great holiday meal.
First, be sure to keep your cooking method safe by checking the internal temperature. Make sure you have a calibrated thermometer that is recommended for poultry.
Whole poultry is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, it is still best to cook turkey to higher temperatures such as 180 F to remove pink appearance and rubbery texture.
Electric roaster ovens, grills, smokers and deep fat fryers are now being used for cooking whole turkeys. They offer a different way to cook the traditional turkey while freeing up oven space for other dishes. Electric roaster ovens are tabletop appliances that are made specifically for cooking poultry. You should check the manufacturer's instructions for recommended temperature settings, but generally they are the same as for conventional ovens.
Grilling has become a popular method for cooking turkey. The turkey cooks by indirect heat in a covered grill. A pan of water is placed below the grill rack to catch the turkey drippings.
It is only recommended that you grill turkeys that are 16 pounds or less. The larger turkeys stay in the danger zone too long and may cause foodborne illness. Grilled turkeys should not be stuffed, as it will take too long for the stuffing to reach 165 F and may become unsafe. As with all cooking methods, be sure to check for doneness using a calibrated food thermometer.
Smokers are usually cylinder-shaped and can be either gas, electric or charcoal. You should follow the manufacturer's directions for operating and cooking with the smoker. The cooking time will vary as it depends on several factors such as the size and shape of the turkey, the temperature of the coals and the distance from the heat source. Generally, you can estimate that it will take about 20 to 30 minutes per pound.
Whole turkeys can be safely cooked in a deep fat fryer as long as the turkey is not stuffed and it is fully thawed. For frying, you should choose a pot that is large enough for the turkey to be completely submerged in oil. Ideally, a commercially made fryer that is designed for frying whole turkeys would be used. Follow the manufacturer's directions for heating the oil and cooking the turkey. The oil should be 350 F and the turkey needs to be carefully lowered into it.
It should take about three to five minutes per pound to cook the turkey. If the turkey is not done, return it to the cooking oil and finish cooking. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving and serving.
Can a frozen turkey be cooked? Turkeys can be cooked from the frozen state. Keep in mind that it will take about 50 percent longer to cook a frozen bird than a fresh one. It may be difficult to remove the giblets while the turkey is still frozen. Try removing them once the turkey has been in the oven long enough to defrost. Do not cook a frozen turkey in the microwave because it will cook unevenly and may not reach a safe temperature in all parts.
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.