In honor of Thanksgiving, we here at first tuesday would like to pay tribute to the beloved turkey, which makes all that is good on this wonderful day of senseless overeating possible.

Though the wild turkey was first discovered in the United States, it is native to both Northern Mexico and the Eastern United States. The male turkey, called a tom, is more colorful and has a long wattle on its bill and neck which distinguishes him from the female bird, called a jenny. A turkey’s diet consists of insects, plants, corn, wheat and seeds. The wild turkey has the ability to fly and roosts in trees. 

The commercially bred turkey is usually white and cannot, unlike its wild counterpart, fly due to a thicker and heavier breast. The increased amount of breast meat in the commercially bred turkey is to the benefit of all those who endure the day-long, mouth watering smell of the bird cooking in preparation for the ensuing feast. 

If you plan to have a cooked turkey on your table at Thanksgiving, you must first ensure the turkey is completely thawed. A good rule of thumb when defrosting is 4 hours per pound of meat in the refrigerator. It is important that you never thaw a turkey at room temperature! 

While many prefer a turkey without stuffing, many more choose to stuff the body cavities of the bird prior to cooking. Stuffing may change the cooking time of the bird, so be sure to take this into account when planning your meal. If you are baking your turkey in the oven, set the temperature at 325 degrees or greater. To ensure the turkey has been cooked properly, a meat thermometer is vital to your success as a top, Thanksgiving Day chef. The meat must be at least 165 degrees to be safely edible. 

Contrary to popular belief, basting is not necessary for moist and tender turkey meat. Since the turkey drippings penetrate only 1/4 inch beneath the skin, most of the juices are not absorbed and simply drip off back into the pan. Further, regularly opening the oven to baste the turkey will increase cook time. It may be best to let the oven do the work. 

When the turkey is golden brown and the meat thermometer reads at least 165 degrees, take the bird out of the oven, carve and enjoy! If you prefer to deep-fry your turkey, be careful not to start a fire! When cooked properly, a deep-fried turkey can be an excellent way to accomodate Thanksgiving Day guests. 

However you choose to prepare your bird, be sure to enjoy all the Thanksgiving Day trimmings! 

For more information regarding turkeys and turkey preparation, please visit: 

//www.nwtf.org/new_turkey_look.html 

//hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC3560.htm