oven fails, a power outage occurs or there just isn't enough room in
the oven, roasting a whole turkey in a conventional oven isn't the only
to get the big bird cooked
"There are alternate routes to cooking the holiday turkey safely," explains University of Nebraska-Lincoln food safety specialist Julie Albrecht. "From using an electric roaster oven to the outdoor grill, all these methods can produce a safely cooked bird."
Grilling turkeys also is becoming a popular cooking method. During grilling, a turkey cooks by indirect heat in an outdoor covered gas or charcoal grill and a pan of water should be placed beneath the grilling surface to catch the fat and juices that drip from the turkey as it cooks.
Turkeys that weigh 16 pounds or less are the recommended size for safe grilling. A larger turkey remains in the temperature danger zone of 40 and 140 degrees too long, thus allowing harmful bacteria to grow.
Because cooking is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach 165 degrees. In addition, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.
Albrecht recommends beginning with clean equipment and good quality charcoal. "Be sure to replenish briquettes every hour as needed to maintain a temperature of 225 to 300 degrees," she said.
"Cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals and the temperature of the outside air. Always use a food thermometer and estimate about 15 to 18 minutes per pound if using a covered grill."
"Cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature from the coals, and temperature of the outside air," she said. "Estimate 20 to 30 minutes per pounds, and as in grilling, do not stuff the turkey."
Deep fat frying a whole turkey also can be successful by using an unstuffed turkey 12 pounds or less in size.
"When it comes to deep fat frying your turkey, the main safety concerns are working with such a large amount of oil," Albrecht said. "Be sure to start with a vessel large enough to completely submerge the turkey in oil without it spilling over."
"Never leave unattended, allow approximately three to five minutes per pound and remove the turkey from the oil and drain from the cavity," she said.
Microwaves and pressure cookers also can be used to cook a turkey. Be sure to follow manufacturers guidelines in both situations.
When microwaving, whole or turkey parts can be cooked in a dish with a lid or covered with plastic wrap and vent the top. A 12- to 14-pound\ turkey is the maximum size most microwaves can accommodate. Stuffing should be cooked in a separate casserole.
When using a pressure cooker, cook turkey parts. As times vary, follow manufacturers' directions, Albrecht said.
One thing that is not safe to cook a turkey in is a brown paper bag. Instead, commercial oven cooking bags should be purchased.
"Using a brown paper bag from the grocery store is not sanitary, may cause a fire and may emit toxic fumes," Albrecht said. "Intense heat may cause the bag to ignite causing a fire in the oven and possibly ruining the turkey."
In addition, do not cook a frozen turkey in an oven cooking bag or in the microwave, Albrecht said. "It is unsafe to open the bag to remove giblets during cooking because scalding may occur and spilled juices and fat may cause an oven fire," she said.
Cooking an unstuffed turkey from the frozen state can be done; however, it will take longer than a fresh or thawed bird.
Source: University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.