911Turkey Tips For Chefs in Despair

Does your Thanksgiving turkey always come out overcooked? You're not alone.

Last Thanksgiving, frantic cooks had a slew of last-minute turkey cooking questions for Good Morning America's food editor Sara Moulton. If you've got an urgent turkey question for Moulton, ask her for help via online e-mail form.

But first, check out our most popular turkey questions from past Thanksgivings.

Defrosting the Turkey

Holly Burg from Hilton, N.Y., e-mailed with this question. "My turkey is still partially frozen, how do I get it thawed?"

Moulton advised her to fill up her sink with cold water and put the turkey in breast side down. The defrosting takes 30 minutes per pound, and you should defrost the turkey in a sink full of cold water. (On Thanksgiving morning, this will work for turkeys, 10 to 12 pounds, but for larger ones, you will have to wait until Friday to cook.) Also, you should change the water frequently.

Overcooking the Turkey

An e-mail from Melissa of New York said her mom always overcooks the turkey. What can she do?

Moulton offered the following tips:

Keep moisture in the bottom of the pan that you cook the turkey in. You could use chicken broth, as Moulton did.

Follow the time chart. (See chart below) The government says that you should cook turkey about 20 to 25 minutes per pound, but Moulton generally cooks it for more like 15 minutes per pound.

When you first start, smear up your breast with some butter, and cover it tightly with aluminum foil until the last hour to keep the moisture in. In the last hour of cooking, remove the cover, and it will brown nicely, she said.

The main thing is to check your turkey 30 to 45 minutes before the lower temperature on that chart. For instance, if you have a 12-14 pounder, check it at 2 1/2 hours, not three hours.

Allow yourself like an extra hour from the point that you want to eat, which will allow you resting time, and maybe more or less cooking time.

Let your turkey rest. If you take it out of the oven and carve it, all the juices will come streaming out. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before you start carving.

The Rest Is Gravy

Another email from Maria of Holland, Ohio asked "What is the key to good gravy? I've had gravy in a jar that is better than what has been served at our Thanksgiving meals."

First of all, you want at least a third cup of finished gravy for every person at your meal.

Start with a good, flavorful chicken or turkey broth

Take the little packages out of the turkey that have giblets in them and throw them into the chicken broth and simmer that while the turkey is cooking.

Use the drippings from the turkey. The fat will rise to the top, while the drippings stay on the bottom.

Here is her gravy recipe (per cup):

1 cup chicken/turkey broth 1 1/2-2 tbs flour 1 1/2-2 tbs turkey fat

and click here for Sara's other gravy recipes.

If Sara Moulton didn't get to your e-mail, and you still have questions, here are some resources you can try on Thanksgiving Day. (Remember, you may have to spend some time on hold during the holiday season!)

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, 800-323-4848 or www.butterball.com.

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline ,800-535-4555.

National Turkey Federation, www.turkeyfed.org

Land O'Lakes Holiday Bake Line, 800-782-9606, www.landolakes.com.

Ocean Spray Help Line, 800-622-3263, www.oceanspray.com.

Fleischmann's Bread-Line, 800-777-4959.

General Mills Bake Line, 800-328-6787.

Dial-A-Chief Holiday Hotline, 888-723-4468.

International Food Safety Council, 800-266-5762.

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