So you’re cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey! Don’t lose your giblets

(If you’re reading this and still haven’t begun defrosting your Thanksgiving turkey, stop RIGHT NOW and place your bird in the shower, where it can be defrosted and monitored properly, as well as cleansed regularly, between now and Nov. 28. This is just one exciting example of the kind of tips you can expect from this week’s edition of Flashback Sunday! Now, please wash your hands…)

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 readers, I felt a responsibility to help educate people about foodborne illness by offering a special holiday feature that I’d 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.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, will be released this December from Port Hole Publications. You can write to him at, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 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...

53 thoughts on “So you’re cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey! Don’t lose your giblets”

  1. Or, you can successfully avoid having to cook the turkey by visiting the people who do. Works for me every year.
    P.S. Are you starting the NWOC (Nickel’s Worth On Cooking) feature?

    1. Sounds like a good plan.
      Wait… does that mean you’re coming to our house?

      If I knew how to cook asian food I could still call it NWOW (Nickel’s Worth on Woking)

          1. Ummm, Ned… Strictly theoretically speaking, it’s still possible for a woman to get pregnant after her husband gets a vasectomy, or, say, while he spends years at sea… 🙂 🙂

            1. Lol! After I pushed “post comment” I told myself, “That needed more explanation.”

              Sadly, it’s quite obvious child number four carries some of my genes 😉

  2. I remember a video of years past on America’s Funniest Videos where the first time turkey cooker (a new bride) thought the contents of the packet was the stuffing. She left it in the turkey while baking. I guess she was taking care of her giblets.

  3. Good advice for the first-timers. I have a great first Thanksgiving story that I was going to tell you about in my comment. But wait! That’s good writing material! So sorry, Ned, you’ll have to wait for it in a post. You’re on pins and needles, right? 🙂

  4. The sun-tanned turkey in the skin-coloured bikini is a hoot.
    Thanks for the lovely tips. We had our turkey last month. My son-in-law cooked it and managed not to lose either turkey or giblets but then he’s been cooking turkeys for years. I must show him your tips to make sure he’s following all the steps. 😉

  5. You forgot the part about making contingency dinner plans in case you do everything right but the cat/dog finds the bird before you do while you’re letting it rest before carving. It’s not really an issue unless one of the guests sees it, I suppose.

  6. i hate to say it, but this kind of sounds like the same process i go through when thawing out from the long winter and getting ready for a day on the summer’s beach. it all sounded just a little too familiar….

No one is watching, I swear...

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