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— Although Americans are eating more turkey, for many roast turkey is still a once-a-year meal and a lack of familiarity with the bird can lead to questions about cooking.

Robbie McKinnon, Pike County extension agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, has some answers. Her list of questions and answers is culled from the many phone calls and e-mails she has received over the years about preparing turkey.

According to the National Turkey Federation, about half of all the turkeys sold in 1970 were for holiday feasts, with the percapita amount consumed averaging about eight pounds a year. Today, the percentage of turkeys eaten for the holidays is around 29 percent, but the per-capita more than doubled to 17.6 pounds in 2008.

Are turkeys injected with growth hormones?

No, the turkeys grown in the United State are not given any steroids or hormones during the growing process because hormones have not been approved. The genetic improvements are a result of breeding, feed formulation and management practices.

Is a tom turkey tougher than a hen?

No. Hens are generally smaller than tom turkeys of the same age. Hens weigh less than 16 pounds and toms always weigh more than 16 pounds. Tom turkeys have larger bones and less edible portions. All commercially-grown turkeys are young and tender.

At what temperature should I roast the turkey?

Always roast at 325 degrees or above. Your unstuffed turkey will take about three hours if it weighs 12 pounds at 325 degrees, while a 20-pound bird would take about 4.5 hours at the same temperature.

How often should the turkey be basted?

Basting is done to produce a golden brown, crispy skin. Basting does not produce moisture or improve the flavor of the interior turkey. You actually lose heat byopening the door too often to baste, and that will increase roasting time. Keep basting to a minimum and do it during the last hour of roasting.

Why is turkey meat sometimes pink close to the bone?

Even when turkey is fully cooked to 165 degrees, very young turkeys have immature porous bones, which may allow red pigmentation to leach out into the meat. Smoking and grilling can also cause this reaction. If the bird is fully cooked to 165 degrees and the juice runs clear, the meat around the bones is safe to eat. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Does stuffing cooked inside the turkey taste better?

Stuffing cooked separately - known as dressing - can be just as delicious. The unstuffed turkey will cook faster, reducing the risk of dried-out, overcooked meat.

How long can the turkey set out before serving?

Don’t allow food to set out for more than two hours. All foods should be handled properly and refrigerated soon after the meal is completed. Leftovers should not continue to set out on the cabinet top and stove top. Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate or freeze all leftovers for later.

How do I make a roux for giblet gravy?

Cook flour in oil, butter or pan drippings. Cook the roux long enough for the color to deepen a little darker than the desired color of the gravy. The roux may be lumpy because the flour ratio is proportionately too great for the fat. Drizzle in additional oil while whisking until the correct proportion is reached. Stir the roux often until it’s white, blond or brown, depending on your taste. Darker roux produces deeper, richer flavor. Gravy continues to thicken as it cools, so make it a little on the thin side and it should cool to a great consistency.

Some of the information above is from the University of Illinois extension service. For food safety and nutrition information, contact your county extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.

Beef conference set at OzarkFrom Staff Reports

OZARK - Live calf demonstrations and a detailed look at government animal identification programs are among the agenda topics for the 2010 River Valley Beef Cattle Conference set for Feb. 16 at the I-40 Livestock Auction in Ozark.

The River Valley Beef Cattle Conference is a joint educational effort by the Division of Agriculture and Farm Credit Services of Western Arkansas.

The conference speakers are: Tom Troxel, professor and associate department head-Animal Science, for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture; Brett Barham, assistant professor and beef cattle specialist; Bill Roser, feedlot manager; Diane Hardgrave, livestock market reporter for the U of A Division of Agriculture; and Jim Robb, director and agricultural economist at the Livestock Marketing Information Center, Denver.

Troxel will address the many different government programs related to animal identification. Many producers are confused about the terms COOL, QSA and NAIS. This will be an opportunity to review the differences of these programs.

Roser and Hardgrave will use live calves to discuss and demonstrate the factors that influence the calf’s market value and how well they perform in the feedlot. Different types of calves will be examined in order to better illustrate the factors affecting selling price. In addition, the audience will have an opportunity to evaluate each calf and compare their results with the experts.

Robb will address beef cattle supply and demand plus a market outlook. He has written several hundred articles and newsletters on livestock marketing topics and is a widely traveled speaker.

A registration fee of $20 will be collected at the door. The conference is from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. More information is available at the county extension office.

News, Pages 7 on 11/25/2009

Print Headline: Turkey questions?

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