Preparing your first Thanksgiving turkey? Hold on to your giblets

Don’t let your first Thanksgiving turkey become memorable for the wrong reasons.
The countdown has begun. Soon, thousands of newlyweds will be in the kitchen preparing their very first Thanksgiving turkey. As a service to our readers, we felt a responsibility to help educate people about foodborne illness by offering a special holiday feature that we like to call:

Don’t lose your giblets this Thanksgiving.

Being a writer, I’ve naturally spent a good portion of my career working in the food service industry. And like most writers, it was there that I was able practice my craft and eventually acquire something that ALL good writers must have: A Food Handler’s card.
Because of this, I can stand before you as someone highly qualified to talk turkey.

So let us begin.

Unless you actually live on a turkey farm (in which case you’ll be serving ham or nachos or meat loaf or microwaveable pork rinds or ANYTHING but more turkey this Thanksgiving), your bird has probably been somewhere in the bottom of the freezer since last January — in most cases, right next to that unlabeled container of something which, in its frozen state, has become completely unrecognizable. This means that you will have to thaw your turkey before cooking it.

To estimate how long the thawing process should take, the rule of thumb is 24 hours for every five pounds, which means that if you forgot to pull your bird out ahead of time, you’ll be thawing your turkey with a blow torch like the rest of us.

Once it’s thawed, reach into the abdominal cavity and remove the giblets, which, apparently, all turkeys conveniently wrap in wax paper and then swallow moments before death. Next, you need to immediately place the giblets into the refrigerator. This will ensure they don’t end up on the kitchen floor and, as a result, get thrown away after being mistaken for cat vomit.

If you choose to cook the stuffing inside the turkey, make sure that you don’t over stuff the body cavity. This can impede the cooking process and provide a breeding ground for foodborne illness. In addition, the expansion of cooked bread crumbs in a confined space can lead to what culinary experts call “Exploding Turkey” syndrome. Though it’s not lethal, it will mean a substantial delay in festivities while everyone waits for you to scrape the stuffing from the ceiling.

Important tip for first-timers: Once the bird has been stuffed, remember to put the legs into a tucked position using twine or a metal clip. This is important because, if you don’t, the legs WILL spring up and do the splits at some point during dinner.

Okay, not really.

But if that does happen, you may want to put the turkey back into the oven for a while — assuming you haven’t lost your giblets.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Or. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

4 thoughts on “Preparing your first Thanksgiving turkey? Hold on to your giblets”

  1. No Thanksgiving here so still have almost a couple of months before my turkey nightmare 🙂 We’re having a smaller group this year, so we’ve opted for turkey breasts, rather than a whole turkey. We’ll just flatten them slightly, line them up, roll around stuffing, then tie off so the finished product looks like a log. If you’re doing a whole turkey, remember to baste and foolproof way to check that it’s done is stick a skewer in the deepest part of the leg – right to the bone. If the juice is clear, you’re home free.

No one is watching, I swear...

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