The countdown has begun. Before long, thousands 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 and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. This has been an excerpt from his book, Humor at the Speed of Life, available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)