Family, food, and football are the three F's sure to be found in many households on the last Thursday of November. But if you're like the vast majority of Americans taking part in the annual feast, one thing that almost every Thanksgiving holiday has in common is the main course: the turkey.
Nearly 9 in 10 Americans have turkey on Thanksgiving, according to data from the National Turkey Federation. In fact, nearly 740 million pounds of turkey are consumed in the United States every fourth Thursday of November – accounting for roughly one-quarter of the amount of turkey eaten in the U.S. each year!
Delicious and tender when cooked to perfection, turkey isn't something that you can simply throw in the oven and have ready an hour or two later. It requires consistent attention and monitoring to ensure it stays moist yet fully cooked. And the larger it is, the longer it takes to prepare.
There are several ways to ensure that Thanksgiving's main course is a smash hit with everyone at the table. The following are some of the ways you can make sure this year's Tom Turkey is a delicious (and safe) success for everyone there.
One pound per person
There are almost always leftovers after a Thanksgiving meal, but if you're wondering how big of a bird you should purchase in order to ensure there's plenty more in the days to come, the general rule of thumb is about a pound of turkey per person. The average turkey on Thanksgiving weighs roughly 16 pounds, according to the National Turkey Federation.
Ensure it's thawed completely
Although more people today are buying their turkeys fresh, most people still purchase them in the days before the big meal. In order to ensure that it's fully thawed – and that you don't risk any food-borne illnesses – take the turkey out at least a day before it will be prepared and keep it in the refrigerator. The typical turkey thaws at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours.
Perhaps one of the biggest things to pay attention to while cooking a turkey is how long it should be in the oven. If its interior temperature is 180 degrees Fahrenheit, then it's done. You can determine this by sticking a food thermometer into its thickest portion, making sure to avoid the bone. It typically takes 20 minutes per pound for a turkey to cook in a 350 degree oven.
Be extremely careful when frying
One of the best ways to expedite the cooking process is by deep frying it, as a bird that takes several hours in the oven is ready in a fraction of the time in a fryer. The only problem with frying, though, is that it's a major safety hazard. The U.S. Fire Administration has some safety tips to be mindful of if you plan on frying. Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
For more helpful hints when cooking this Thanksgiving, visit NFPA's website.