Thanksgiving turkey’s timing needs good planning

It’s time to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Most important is the logistics for cooking the turkey.

The actual cooking of the turkey is easy. It’s the timing that needs thought. You need to work backwards from when you want to serve the turkey.

The turkey should come out of the oven at least 90 minutes before serving. The cooked turkey must collect on the kitchen counter for at least 1 hour before carving. The turkey will shred if carving is attempted fresh from the oven.

At least 30 minutes before serving, carve the turkey in the kitchen. Norman Rockwell may have depicted carving the turkey at the table, but that’s only a painting.

In the privacy of the kitchen, start carving by cutting off the two wings and two drumsticks. Next cut the turkey in half along the backbone.

Each half separates with a few cuts into large thigh and breast pieces. Decent-looking slices of dark meat and white meat can be carved according to diners’ preferences. Instacart reports that 44% prefer white meat, 20% prefer dark meat, and the rest don’t care.

For the actual cooking, ignore the complex recipes in the national media. For a whole turkey, take it out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes per pound. If you use a meat thermometer, the turkey is done at 170 degrees.

You can cover with foil at first and remove the foil during the final 1/2 hour. Place an apple in the cavity to enhance the turkey’s sweetness. Cook stuffing separately to keep it crisp.

Bowman & Landes, MOON Co-op’s source for local turkeys, recommends cooking uncovered at 450 degrees for the first 45 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 and cover loosely with foil, around 20 minutes per pound.

Now on to leftovers. How about an Oxford club sandwich composed entirely with local ingredients? Slices of Bowman & Landes turkey, Smoking Goose bacon from Indiana, and lettuce from Kristi Hutchinson’s 5 Oaks Organics or Jennifer Bayne’s 7 Wonders Farm. The local tomato season is over, but I’ve seen a few stragglers at the farmers market and MOON Co-op.

Artisan bread is delivered twice weekly to MOON Co-op from 16 Bricks and is available weekly from James Bigham at Oxford’s Farmers Market. Moisten the club sandwich with locally made hummus from Chickpea Chicks or mustard from Local Folks.

Several years ago, Prue Dana told me that when their meal is cleared from the table, the leftovers go directly into a large casserole ready for the next meal. The main components of the leftover casserole are all of the hot dishes from the meal. Presumably turkey, potatoes, green vegetables, stuffing, and gravy.

“The best meal of the year is the day after Thanksgiving,” says my buddy John Hofmann. “The day after Thanksgiving meal is fabulous. Everything is already cooked, so no commotion, no complicated prep, just reheating.”

MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. Visit it online at

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