Warning:   Turkeys And Salmonella  —  Here’s a guide you can use to ensure that your family and friends don’t remember the year you hosted Thanksgiving as the year everyone got sick.

👺 Thawing the turkey and the two-day rule.   Buying your turkey early?  Better keep your bird frozen until you are ready to thaw or you may be on your way to the grocery store for a new one, according to Hanes.

"Once a frozen turkey is thawed, it should be cooked within two days," Hanes said. She said some people prefer a fresh turkey, so they should plan on waiting to pick it up from the store until one or two days before they plan to cook it.

It takes 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey to thaw, according to the USDA.  USDA guidelines guidelines on refrigerator thawing times:
4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

You can thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, or if you are strapped for time, you can use the microwave or run cold water over the wrapped bird in a sink.

👺 How do I know if the turkey is spoiled?  Maybe you left your turkey in the fridge for a week, or it sat in your trunk in the garage for a few hours, regardless you should be wary of using the product. 

Many times people can tell if a turkey is spoiled by the "texture and smell" of the turkey.
The skin of the turkey may become slimy
The smell is often described as "rotten eggs or like sulfur."  
It gets trickier with detecting food borne pathogens .  “You can’t see, taste or smell food borne pathogens, so if E. coli, Salmonella or Staph are on the turkey, you wouldn't know it," she said.

👺 To wash or not to wash?​    Don't wash your turkey. While many people might think that rinsing the turkey will remove bacteria from the bird, nothing could be farther from the truth, according to the USDA.  "Juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods and utensils. This is called cross-contamination, which can make you and your guests very sick," according to the USDA.
Make sure that all surfaces and plates that come into contact with the raw turkey are sanitized and make sure to wash your hands.

👺 Doesn’t matter if it wiggles, or jiggles like it should, the bird has to be 165 degrees   Regardless of whether your turkey is the perfect shade of brown or if the drumsticks jiggle, the bird is not safe until it reaches 165 degrees, according to the USDA. Use a food thermometer to check the bird in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost parts of the wing and the bird's thigh.

👺 No, we aren't done yet. Leftovers:   Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of eating and should be safe for three to four days after your meal. If you freeze your turkey, it should be ok for two to six months.


Two Kinds Of Disassembly Instructions  —  The Johnny Five and Spatch-Cocking —   Thanksgiving and Christmas time are excellent shopping times for us in Tampa Bay, the three major Grocery chains all pull out their stops on the turkeys and sell off the underling herd of turkeys at very almost extreme giveaways to get you in their doors.   They’ll make better profits all the stuff you buy to go along with the bird.

Its like buying a color printer, the machine is not that expensive but you’ll go broke with ink cartridges.   Giveaway turkeys in your grocery store at 79-89 cents a pound are Corporate Turkeys and not to be confused with Butterballs or other national brands.

These turkeys were not the ones in the famous Norman Rockwell painters with Mom presenting the beautifully tanned bird to the family table.  These were genetically fast raised for the season, they are in abundance and a seven dollar turkey can be had for 7 dollars.    These are fast grown more like a fryer,  versus a carefully treated slow grown 24 pounder from Butterball.  It is truly Corpo-Guano grown for the money.   Weeks not months

I’ll explain further why I changed direction on Turkey.   I used to buy a half dozen of these birds and kept them in my deep freeze for months.  But those sale birds are exactly what you paid for… low end young birds who stay all day in coops or small pens and meant to be genetically altered.   I do what I have to do for the holiday and after that I’m not a big turkey fan.  I can get a Boars Head Breast or similar cooked and sliced with no work, anytime and GFS slices it for me.

These young birds are grown specifically in as little as eight weeks, super fed and limited ranging or exercise produces bigger breast and smaller legs for the retail market as a draw.  They also are stuffed  and contain 12-15% water injected.  And they just do not taste like a Butterball. They taste like  seven dollar turkey.

 —  And Johnny Five —  There is no cleanup, in either method since all the cutting is done up front.   Both cook under fast intense heat, and both work, for me it depends on the size of the bird.

Step One —  I have no patience for guts, Sorry Norman Rockwell, the guts, gimlets and goblets and any other internals go to the dumpster rewrapped and secure,  actually triple wrapped to discourage the coyotes, alligators and others ( raccoons can open anything) that think,  they own the golf course and the dumpsters from 180 condos.   I can disassemble a bird cleanly in under twenty minutes and have no use for stock made from a bird that stroll in dirt and only god know what it has eaten.    And it's simple, if the grandkids saw the guts, we would be back to Mac and Cheese. 

Our tribe,  I have found, with kids never eat the legs, wings or thighs because most cooking techniques dry them out, so they were removed.  They all want the white meat and gravy.  Not worth the effort…  If you choose to go traditional Norman Rockwell go for it.  It seems again, time proven picky Kids on the legs will, usually take one bite and dump the leg.

On turkeys, after I Spatchcock the turkey the parts are placed on two flat baking pans and 400 - 450 degrees for an hour or so.    When I dissect, wings, legs, drumettes other small parts go unto a slow cooker or pot of broth or stock and cooked till the meat can be removed or falls off the bone.  Pitch the bones, the meat is going into a stewpot, pot pie or slow cooker. 

The breasts were removed and placed on a tray separated by foil as I prepped the two like roasts making them Regular ( usual ingredients salt, pepper, garlic onion, paprika  rosemary, thyme, sage etc)  and Spicy ( Usual plus Cajun, or Sriracha and same thing as paying five times as much for trimmed breasts alone.   

All the small spare meat around the breast and bones were surgically removed and placed in the slow cooker or stew pot cooked into the soup.  We took as much small meat t off the wings, legs and thighs and throw them into the stew pot till the meat falls off,  don’t dump any remaining bones. 

I took a third of that meat that was pulled and cooked into barbecue sauce. ( Like pulled chicken only turkey) That the kids will eat on submarine rolls.

 To the remaining chicken or turkey broth soup  I added two packages of frozen Sam’s mixed veggies, mandolin thin sliced potatoes and tomato paste, diced and sauce, the usual spices. a thickener like flour or arrowroot, and Herbs de Provence and some other goodies and we netted four quarts of thick soup, it’s a wholesome soup, some barbecue and two big turkey breasts which is all they eat anyway.  VPC (Very Picky Crew)

Last point: This methodology is not for tradition, its for 100% usage of the turkey, easy to do , less cleanup and no Norman Rockwell’s live in my house ,  I cook to eat.  


MODERN — Art Of The Turkey - The Easy Way

During Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or any other family and friends occasion we are reminded of the great times we have had and the great food we have enjoyed together.  Most great visuals of the food part of the Holidays depict a traditional cooking exercise, with MOM starring in the Norman Rockwell posed with browned turkey on the platter approaching the table a classic example of Americana.

Thats out, my technique changed three years ago when I learned about Spatchcocking from a show on TV .  The term “ Spatchcock” is believed to have come from Ireland or Scotland and is shortened from”Dispatching the Cock” or flattening the bigger birds.  Males are larger and called Cocks and Females are smaller and called Hens. This was so more of them would fit in the oven, which was fire, wood driven, and as many as ten birds at a time were cooked, and cooked evenly for those big rowdy feasts.   

🦃  Spatchcocking A Turkey Is Just Another Smart Method  —  There are a nearly endless supply of ways to cook a turkey.
  Most are methods passed down from generations and strict rules apply. Mostly for personal adoration, the new method of spatchcocking is for personal ease.  Speed, better taste and common sense.  

  • Some people want the perfect golden brown centerpiece, we call it the Norman Rockwell method.
  • More for thanks and credit to MOM than common sense cooking about the bird.
  • Some deep dip the turkey in boiling oil, AKA the Redneck Oil Cooker and deep fry it outdoors in the back yard. 
  • Some attack the bird with a possible trillion combinations of herbs and spices resulting in “Was that Turkey”?  
  • Still others care only for the breast meat and pay a ridiculous premium for the driest part of the turkey which no doubt they will overcook by drying  it out.  Thats what gravy is for.  
  • Now, large charities make one Normal Rockwell for the press to see and photograph.  The real meals are breasts only. All they need is a slicer , it’s quicker, faster, safer,  just buy the breasts and a slicer, douche or drown it in gravy and it feeds the masses.

🦃  Spatchcocking Solves A Problem —  Option One  —  I am in the NONE OF THE ABOVE METHODOLOGY since the basic problem with roasting a whole turkey or chicken, lies in the fact that while leg meat, with its connective tissue,  fat, and deep color should be cooked to at least 165°F to be palatable, lean breast meat will completely dry out much above 150°F*  and taste is more important to me than the presentation folks have seen for a millennium.   Two Methods here, they are dividing the bird on two trays or Spatchcocking.

Both techniques depend on how many guests, are adults and kids.  Both cook fast more efficient and the divide eliminates most of the wasted time and wasted parts left over which few eat and allows more time for entertaining and with less kitchen chores.  Thats the alternative plan if you have picky eaters and only eat breast meat like kids and some adults with a lack of good culinary experience passing the Mac and Cheese syndrome down to the kids. 

  • We turned the leftovers into first overs by incorporating the less popular cuts wings, legs , thighs and drumettes into Turkey stew and soup, cooking albeit slower into a crock pot,  but at the same time the main breast portions were cooking.   This parallel cooking of the wings, related parts, and the legs and thighs related parts were on a 2nd tray lower in the oven cooking at the same time as the breasts and tops of the thighs. Then…

  •   I pulled the wings and legs 2nd tray at one hour, couple whacks with the cleaver for sizing and into the crock pot with broth and of tons vegetables and at the end added two cans of cream of Chicken.  This created a very rich soup for Thanksgiving or stew, from Christmas to New years.  Almost a Turkey pot pie soup.  After a few hours adding water or broth as needed the meat fell off the bones. 

  • The 2nd tray parts fall apart in the crock pot so you have 100% usage, and it improves the wings and legs flavor.  I just use tongs to pull the bones out when the meat falls off.  I had  a lot of meat from the tom, and actually finished cooking by setting the crock pot on low and went to bed.  The next morning doing portion control with the  Tupperware. For the two of us it lasted two weeks.

  • This results with 100% usable Turkey less the guts.  If you knew what I knew,  with what they are fed in growth hormones alone to make 8-12 week wonders, I will not use spare parts for gravy or any other purpose other than keeping my garbage man employed.

  • Both recipes are below and absolutely zero wastage.  These are not wild turkeys, the factory holiday birds are bred to just eat, they don’t fly and they don’t dance, so they will get big breasts and the rest is to me useless and to most folks and most of those parts, well they are not that popular anymore.  
    We decided to do this as the kids usually wanted the turkey leg, took one bite and left the rest on the table till the dog managed to find it.  Now the whole leg gets used in the soup less fat skin and bones.

  • Keep it simple.  Using Spanish or the hotter Hungarian paprika, with the usual partners, Sage, Rosemary, Salt Pepper, and a few florals, like Garam Masala, we are creating a Turkey thats cooked even, moist with a crisp and edible skin, and filled with enticing smells and aromas.  The fast cooking produces a fully moist Turkey.   Some will prefer simply using poultry mix right out of the McCormick bottle. Thats your call.

  • Now the cheap birds 10-12 lbs known as young turkeys get used with the breasts in Barbecue, Hot-wing Sauce, Honey -Sriracha, Teriyaki and other smaller in-house ( not for occasions) usage like a big chicken.

Spatchcocking Methodology  —  Option Two  --

A Spatch cock, or “Spattlecock”, is poultry or game that has been prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the entire backbone, and breaking the sternum of the bird.  

Thus by flattening it out before cooking allows the broken bird to cook more even throughout at even higher temperatures.  It may also be known as “butterflying” the bird. 

I simply say and coined it "we flat-lined the bird”.  Our oven like most has a heating element on the bottom and an element on the top and where you place the bird has a lot to do with what you wind up with.   

At these temperatures middle is best. With the ancillary parts, legs, 1/2 thighs, and complete wings on a lower tray.  I use commercial Foil Trays from Gordon Food services. 
No muss, no fuss, no cleanup. I clamp the bird to the grid with wire if needed when cooking more than one.

Cooking Times - Advantages Are Substantial  —  You will spend less time in the kitchen.  Basically all carving, the major surgery is done ahead of time.  There is little or no cleanup during and after the dinner meal. 

Because of faster cooking times, in our twenty year old  Kenmore  Stove our twelve pound bird was done in 1:10 minutes.  Our 21 pounder took 1: 30 minutes to 168-170 degrees F. which is based on a preheated oven at 450F.   They were cooked and fit flattened in foil commercial 21 inch oven trays with sealing tops for travel, nice heavy duty,  from Gordon Food Service for $2.50 - 2.79 for the top and bottom. 

“Johnny Five” cooks the same as spatch cocking except in Johnny five we remove the wings and legs for one tray and the breast on another allowing two different seasonings at the same time in the oven.   We unpacked and laid the big 21.5 lb.  bird on the cutting board and broke the backbone, removed the wings, thighs and legs using a sharp knife, heavy duty OXO shears and at one point the 21 pounder got the 1-1/2 inch garden branch cutter for the really tough leg bones. 

Only for kitchen use, the branch cutter does not go outside.  The smaller bird we spatch cocked and cooked the bird basically butterflied.

I Will Be Hated For This By The Gravy Purists  —  I have no use for the inner guts, giblets or any other part of the digestive track of the bird, so they get pitched.   Oh, Oh, here we go, here come the purists.  This is not about taste nor process, it is about health.  I do not care for the organs as they have most of the synthetic chemicals the bird gets with the food it is fed for enhanced growth. 

I worked in the food industry and continue to monitor it and while many of the companies adhere to strict rules, many simply don’t.  It is systemic from the farm to the table, be it in your home or restaurant.  When something is made grown or is processed,  food like served at fast food establishments, and might be bad, money is still the bottom line and throwing something out, using it beyond its date, putting it in the stock pots or other “tricks” do not sit well with me.  

Do not put some growers and farms beyond this bar.  Raw food is money and you just don’t throw it away till the Dirty Dinning police or the County Agricultural Restaurant people close a place down.  Happens thousands of times a day.

I do not use the inner parts, nor the sternum I remove for gravy, forget the gravy, too many good ones on the shelves.  In powder form mixed with Turkey or Chicken broth from Lawrey’s, or GFS,  and in jars from Campbell’s, Heinz, Custom Culinary.  Many choices out there.

Then I dress it up with a dark wine, a small can or two of sliced or chopped mushrooms, garlic, onion or shallots and/or  enhance flavor herbs (Sage, Rosemary, Thyme)  or simply by adding a tablespoon of Poultry season, and I don’t need a stock pot.  It’s called “  the old pan on the stove technique”, simple and just eliminated four steps and a lot of cleaning for nothing.

The best parts are ready to serve.  90% of those at holiday time eat the breast meat and 100% of the secondary parts are now making other dishes because this 21 pounder fed 12  [6 adults 6 kids] and we had enough breast meat left for sandwiches and left overs for a week, almost  five pounds, and… The less desirable parts are already making about  four to five enriched quart containers of incredible turkey soup for those frigid cold Winter months here in Florida when it drops below seventy-five degrees.

Stuffing Hints  —  I use the aluminum pans from GFC, because they are sheet or half sheet size restaurant quality, heavier than supermarket pans and with locking lids.   Start your turkey in the oven resting directly on top of a large tray of stove top stuffing mixed with a layer of chopped vegetables underneath the turkey as it roasts using the Trinity of onions, carrots, celery, a little sage and thyme. 

I may add broth to keep the stuffing soft occasionally, and not only will these vegetables add aroma and flavor to the turkey, they’ll also emit enough steam to effectively control the temperature of the baking sheet, preventing any juices from burning.

You can transfer the turkey to a rack in a rimmed baking sheet about half way through cooking before the stuffing has a chance to start burning.   This is actually an even more effective way of getting turkey flavor into the stuffing than to stuff it into the turkey itself.   When butterflied, you get direct contact between far more turkey and stuffing than you ever could otherwise.