Holiday dinner planning checklist

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    Planning for your holiday dinner can alleviate stress and ensure you have everything you need to serve a wonderful holiday meal. Here is a checklist to help you plan, and guidelines for cooking a turkey that will be safe and delicious.
    Two to three weeks before:
    • Make your guest list and invite them.
    • Plan your menu (keep the list handy so you can add or delete items).
    • Decide how much food to buy for the number of guests being served.
    • Order fresh meat. If buying a frozen turkey or other meat, make sure you have plenty of freezer space to store.
    • If you are asking your guests for help, give them a heads up.
    • Will they bring a side dish?
    • Will they help set up and/or clean up (this is really a great job for spouses and kids; just let them know you need their help).
    A few days before:
    • Start defrosting frozen turkey in refrigerator (see the chart below).
    • Make sure your shopping list is up to date and go shopping.
    • Make pies and desserts (day before).
    • Make other sides that will keep overnight (cranberry sauce is best when it has a few days to sit).
    The morning of the dinner:
    • Get the coffee going.
    • Set the table, assemble dishes, platters and serving utensils.
    • Prepare vegetables for the side dishes. Clean, peel and cover. Store in refrigerator or place on the stove so they are ready to start.
    • Chill wine and other beverages.
    • Check your menu to make sure you haven’t forgotten any dishes.
    Hours before the dinner:
    • Start cooking your turkey (see the chart below for cooking times, plan for 30 minutes after your turkey is cooked to carve and serve).
    • Set out snacks and beverages for your guests — not too much so they don’t get full.
    • Start cooking vegetables.
    • Check the temperature of your turkey (see below for temperatures).
    • Prepare gravy.
    Dinnertime:
    • Place food in serving dishes and take to dining table.
    • Put wine and water on the table.
    • Call guests to the table.
    • Reflect on what you are thankful for.
    • Enjoy an impressive holiday dinner with your guests.
    Let’s talk turkey: A USDA consumer guide to safely roasting a turkey
    Fresh or frozen?
    Fresh turkeys
    • Allow 1 pound of turkey per person.
    • Buy your turkey only one to two days before you plan to cook it. You may need to preorder your turkey; ask your market.
    • Keep it stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.
    • Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys. If not handled properly, any harmful bacteria that may be in the stuffing can multiply very quickly.
    Frozen turkeys
    • Allow 1 pound of turkey per person.
    • Keep frozen until you’re ready to thaw it.
    • Turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer indefinitely; however, cook within one year for best quality.
    • See “Thawing your turkey” for thawing instructions.
    Frozen pre-stuffed turkeys
    The USDA recommends only buying frozen pre-stuffed turkeys that display the USDA or state mark of inspection on the packaging. These turkeys are safe because they have been processed under controlled conditions.
    Do not thaw before cooking. Cook from the frozen state. Follow package directions for proper handling and cooking.
    Allow 1 1/4 pounds of turkey per person.
    Thawing your turkey
    There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven.
    In the refrigerator
    In the refrigerator (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below). Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds:
    • 4 to 12 pounds — one to three days.
    • 12 to 16 pounds — three to four days.
    • 16 to 20 pounds — four to five days.
    • 20 to 24 pounds — five to six days.
    Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one to two days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.
    In cold water
    Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound:
    • 4 to 12 pounds — two to six hours.
    • 12 to 16 pounds — six to eight hours.
    • 16 to 20 pounds — eight to 10 hours.
    • 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours.
    Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.
    In the microwave oven
    • Check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing.
    • Remove all outside wrapping.
    • Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.
    • Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.
    Reminder: Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.
    Roasting your turkey
    • Set your oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F.
    • Place your turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
    • For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, it is recommended you cook your stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
    • If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate. Chill all of the wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.). Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
    • A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.
    • If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer.
    • For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.
    • Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavities.
    Timetables for turkey roasting: (325° F oven temperature)
    Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.
    Unstuffed:
    • 4 to 8 pounds (breast) — 1 1/2 to 3 1/4 hours.
    • 8 to 12 pounds — 2 3/4 to 3 hours.
    • 12 to 14 pounds — 3 to 3 3/4 hours.
    • 14 to 18 pounds — 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours.
    • 18 to 20 pounds — 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours.
    • 20 to 24 pounds — 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
    Stuffed:
    • 4 to 6 pounds (breast) — not usually applicable.
    • 6 to 8 pounds (breast) — 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.
    • 8 to 12 pounds — 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
    • 12 to 14 pounds — 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
    • 14 to 18 pounds — 4 to 4 1/4 hours.
    • 18 to 20 pounds — 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours.
    • 20 to 24 pounds — 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours.
    It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet packages during the cooking time. Remove carefully with tongs or a fork.
    Optional cooking hints
    • Tuck wing tips under the shoulders of the bird for more even cooking. This is referred to as “akimbo.”
    • Add one-half cup of water to the bottom of the pan.
    • If your roasting pan does not have a lid, you may place a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for the first 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This allows for maximum heat circulation, keeps the turkey moist and reduces oven splatter. To prevent overbrowning, foil may also be placed over the turkey after it reaches the desired color.
    • If using an oven-proof food thermometer, place it in the turkey at the start of the cooking cycle. It will allow you to check the internal temperature of the turkey while it is cooking. For turkey breasts, place thermometer in the thickest part. For whole turkeys, place in the thickest part of the inner thigh. Once the thigh has reached 165 degrees F, check the wing and the thickest part of the breast to ensure the turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F throughout the product.
    • If using an oven cooking bag, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the package.
    Remember: Always wash hands, utensils, the sink and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and water.
    Storing your leftovers
    • Discard any turkey, stuffing and gravy left out at room temperature longer than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F.
    • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
    • Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing and gravy within three to four days.
    • If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months for best quality.
    Reheating your turkey
    Cooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated.
    In the oven:
    • Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F.
    • Reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
    • To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.
    In the microwave oven:
    • Cover your food and rotate it for even heating. Allow standing time.
    • Check the internal temperature of your food with a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees F.
    • Consult your microwave oven owner’s manual for recommended times and power levels.
    For more information about food safety (in English and Spanish), call: USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, (888) MPHotline [(888) 674-6854)].
    Colorado Master
    Gardener program
    applications being taken
    The Master Gardener program is innovative and flexible in its outreach and works to match volunteer skills and schedules. Each year, Colorado Master Gardeners all over the state help people make the right choices for their garden care. Anyone who would like to play an active role in the education of gardeners of all ages is invited to join our Colorado Master Gardener team.
    Classes typically meet once a week on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 11 consecutive weeks. The cost of the Master Gardener apprentice training is $170 and the Colorado Gardener Certificate is $530. Partial scholarships are available as well for the apprentice program.
    If you would like to learn more about successful gardening in Archuleta County, be sure to call the CSU Extension office in Archuleta County today at 264-5931. To register for the 2020 Colorado Master Gardener Program, which tentatively begins Jan. 23, 2020, please go to www.cmg.extension.colostate.edu. Hard copies are accepted at the local office, too. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 15. Apply today.
    Testing of dial pressure canner gauges
    The CSU Extension — Archuleta County office is now offering to test dial pressure canner gauges for $5 to Archuleta County residents. For more information, contact Terry Schaaf at 264-5931.
    Save the dates
    Jan.18, 2020: Cottage Foods Class.
    Feb. 11, 2020: Beef Symposium.
    Feb. 12, 2020: Agricultural Financial Management Strategies. More information to come.
    CPR and first aid classes
    CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.
    We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.