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A cartoon of a turkey pilgrim.

According to the National Turkey Federation, 97 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.

Talking turkey

From eNews, November 11, 2004

The Thanksgiving holiday began almost 400 years ago by early pilgrims as a feast of thanks for a bountiful harvest. Today, the tradition has evolved into a time for family and friends to reunite, and for most people, a day to feast on turkey and stuffing. According to the National Turkey Federation, 97 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving--a whopping 690 million pounds of it in 2003.

The following tips are from the University of Minnesota Extension Service on buying, cooking, and handling turkey.

Fresh or frozen?
Buying a fresh or frozen bird is strictly a matter of personal preference. If you choose a fresh bird, buy it a day or two before cooking. Never buy a prestuffed fresh turkey.

How much turkey do you need?
Allow about one pound of turkey per Thanksgiving guest. For prestuffed birds, allow about 1.25 pounds per person and keep the turkey frozen until you're ready to cook it.

How do I thaw it?
Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey, and after it thaws, keep it refrigerated for a day or two before cooking. If you don't have room in your refrigerator to thaw your turkey, or perhaps you just didn't get started soon enough, go the cold water route. Submerge the frozen bird in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound of turkey. Then cook the turkey immediately after it thaws.

When do I know when it's cooked?
Set your oven at 325 degrees and place a meat thermometer in the turkey thigh. When the thermometer registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit, the turkey is ready. The stuffing should reach 165 degrees, whether it's cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish. An unstuffed 12- to 14-pound turkey will take from three hours to three hours and 45 minutes to cook. A stuffed turkey of the same size will be ready in three-and-a-half to four hours.

What do I do with leftovers?
Debone leftover Thanksgiving turkey and refrigerate it in shallow containers within two hours of cooking. Refrigerate stuffing separately from the meat and use within three days. Freeze your leftovers if you don't think you'll eat them within three days. Sliced cooked turkey will keep about four months in if tightly wrapped; frozen stuffing and gravy should be used within a month. Always reheat leftovers to 165 degrees or until they're hot and steaming.

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