Don’t let your Thanksgiving turkey become memorable for the wrong reasons

imageThe 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.


image(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, or Barnes & Noble.)

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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...

37 thoughts on “Don’t let your Thanksgiving turkey become memorable for the wrong reasons”

  1. Ned, I gobbled this post right up. I’m going out on a wing here by saying you’re thigh high in keeping abreast of what your readers need to know about birds this coming holiday. You give good turkey talk and that’s no jive.

  2. I remember sitting around the table thirty years ago and having turkey dinner. But the turkey won. Most of those around the table have passed away. White meat, black meat, seasoned to well done, eating turkey was at one time was fun, but now it is done. Gobble Gobble.

  3. I haven’t managed to lose mine but came close. Two days ago the cafeteria worker almost drenched my quesadilla in hamburger drippings…gag reflex just thinking about it. Then, yesterday, a rag that was lightly wiped along a surface and left food remnants churned my stomach again. Thanks for the tips.

    1. I literally let out a gag sound with that quesadilla description. I’m a shameless carrnivor but meat drippings where they aren’t supposed to be still makes my stomach churn. Glad I could help (I WAS helping, right? I’m still not sure…)

  4. Canadian Thanksgiving has already passed – as has the turkey I prepared.. barely.
    And in that icky note, I want to wish you and yours a Happy Yankee Thanksgiving, Ned. All the best, buddy.

  5. And yet ANOTHER wonderful service announcement! WOW! Thanks Ned! 😉
    We will be having deep fried turkey, BBQ, venison something I’s sure since my dad told me he has about 400 lbs of deer meat dressed out so far! Sheesh…
    Happy early Thanksgiving! 😉

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