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NEW YORK (AP) After Christopher Hughey tweeted that he was tackling his first Thanksgiving turkey this year, the advice started to come in.

Brine it. Do not worry. Try spatchcocking – broiling the bird in half. Remember to turn on the oven and expect something to burn.

One extreme is that it’s going to be dry, inedible and disgusting, said the Charlotte, North Carolina resident, who already doesn’t like cooking poultry because of fears that hell won’t cook it and the sick people are sick. The other extreme is that all end up in emergency care.

As health officials urge Americans to stay home or limit Thanksgiving gatherings, food experts say novice cooks nervous about trying their first Turkey Day spreads can avoid the disaster and keep everyone healthy by following some basic tips.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers advice on how to prevent coronavirus infections while celebrating, including eating out if possible, limiting traffic in the kitchen, and having one person serve the food.

As for the meal itself, experts say start long before the big day. A common mistake: not planning to have all the dishes ready on time. This includes allowing enough time for frozen turkeys to thaw in the refrigerator, where temperatures are cold enough to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

Since it takes a day of thawing for every 4 to 5 pounds, it can take several days depending on the size of the turkey. Otherwise, putting a frozen turkey in the oven could result in a bird that looks golden brown, but is still cold inside.

Essentially, you’ll have a turkey popsicle that might look good, but won’t be cooked, said Frank Proto of the Institute of Culinary Education of New York.

Once the bird is thawed, the experts tell resist just instinctively rinse it off before cooking, which could end up splashing on the sprouts. Thorough cooking should kill any germs on the turkey.

Making sure the bird is cooked through – it should be 165 degrees in the thickest part – also means using a meat thermometer. Contrary to the advice that many have given Hughey, experts are not fans of pop-up thermometers that get stuck in some birds.

These aren’t always effective at determining temperature, said Angela Shaw, an extension food safety specialist at Iowa State University.

While there is some debate on this, Shaw also recommends cooking the stuffing outside of the turkey. Otherwise, she said he might pick up bacteria from the bird. Making the stuffing hot enough to kill the germs could mean burning or drying the turkey, she said.

Temperature control can be a problem even after everyone has finished eating; experts say refrigerate leftovers inside two o’clockbecause bacteria can grow quickly on leftover foods.

A dry, overcooked bird is the main concern for Celeste Molina, who is staying at home with her partner and their roommates instead of spending it with family due to the pandemic. Molina, who works at a screen printing company in Portland, Oregon, knows how badly first attempts can go; Years ago, her aunt ended up burning the Thanksgiving bird.

We got to her house and she said, I’ll just order McDonalds from you, ”she said.

Molina isn’t worried about her first turkey, but just in case she and her partner consider buying a roast chicken next door.

Lori DeSanti, a real estate agency in Meriden, Connecticut, will also be making turkey with her husband for the first time, instead of going to her dad or family.

DeSanti isn’t preoccupied with turkey, she’s never been a huge fan and is focused on making a stuffing recipe.

It’s what I’m most afraid of ruining, she said.

Planning ahead might be important for another reason this year: to make sure you can get the right size bird, as gatherings should be smaller.

In the suburbs of Detroit, Robyn Dwoskin plans to get a turkey breast instead of a whole bird for his first attempt at Thanksgiving spread, as it will only be her husband, daughters and mother. She’s cooked turkey breasts in her slow cooker before, but hasn’t figured out what she’ll be doing for Thanksgiving yet.

I’m still denying that I’m actually doing Thanksgiving this year, said Dwoskin, who owns a social media engagement company.

Back in North Carolina, Hughey rethinks his game plan for the dinner he’s cooking for his ex-wife and sons.

Honestly, I hate to say that. I think about cheating, said Hughey, who owns a health technology company. I think my next stop is this place that makes a fully cooked turkey.


The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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