Chef’s Corner: Turkey Day is approaching; prepare your bird | Culture & Leisure

What’s so hard about eating turkey?

OK, OK, it’s high in protein and low in fat; a low carb dieter’s dream. It is inexpensive, a source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins too.

Turkey has strange powers, however. It has the ability to be a natural sedative. Turkey has an amino acid called tryptophan which helps the body produce the B vitamin niacin, which in turn helps the body to produce serotonin which acts as a calming agent in the brain and plays a role in sleep. Now you know why everyone falls asleep after Thanksgiving dinners. By the way, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1864.

Turkey is a variety of pheasant, and recent fossil evidence shows that turkeys have roamed the Americas for 10 million years. I’m not sure why the dinosaurs weren’t successful, but the turkeys did.

It is believed that the Aztecs were the first culture to domesticate the turkey. Christopher Columbus brought turkeys back to Europe, and by the 1500s turkeys were bred in Italy, France, and England for royalty and aristocracy. The turkey and all the sides were the first meal eaten on the moon by astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin.

Now that you know all about turkeys, let’s talk about the best… to eat turkey. Do you like it smoked, fried, braised, baked, boiled or stewed? Which is best is really up to you, but here are some tips that might help.

Buy at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person for dinner and leftovers. If your family members have a big appetite, count a kilogram and a half per person.

Fresh or frozen? Both are great options, and I prefer the fresh ones. I think it is a little softer when cooked. Fresh turkey can only be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days before cooking.

Frozen turkey must thaw in the refrigerator:

• 8 to 12 lb. – 1 to 2 days

• 12 to 16 lb. – 2 to 3 days

• 16 to 20 lb. – 3 to 4 days

• 20 to 24 lb. – 4 to 5 days

Once the turkey is thawed, it can only be refrigerated for one to two days before cooking.

It is better to cook the stuffing on the outside of the bird in a separate dish. The turkey will cook faster and the breast will retain moisture better. If you decide to stuff the turkey, stuff it just before cooking. The dressing should cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

How much stuffing is enough? Usually one cup per pound of turkey.

A thermometer is the best way to tell if a turkey is done. Dark meat should reach 165 degrees. Be careful not to touch the bone while quenching as you will get an inaccurate reading. When reheating the turkey the next day, it should be heated to 165 degrees.

To store cooked turkey, it should be placed in a covered container, plastic food bag or waxed paper and foil for up to 7 days in the refrigerator or three months in the freezer.

Season the cavity with your secret ingredients for best results. As for me, I love garlic-mmmm, my dad called it the Greek scent!

My all time favorite sandwich is made from leftover turkey – the turkey club! Toast, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, bacon and thick mayonnaise. Thanks for Thanksgiving!

Costa Magoulas is Dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or

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