Tips offered for tasty, safe Thanksgiving Day turkeys

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— With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it is important to know the secrets to preparing the star of the feast.

Local chefs offer "Turkey Tips" to help prepare a traditional bird this season.

Some tips from the USDA on cooking turkeys: Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 F. Preheating the oven is not necessary. Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. For safety and uniform doneness of the turkey, cook stuffing separately in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the stuffing has reached 165 F. If you choose to stuff a turkey, you must use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. The temperature of a whole turkey must reach 180 F in the innermost part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing must reach 165 F. If the stuffing has not reached 165 F, continue cooking the turkey until the stuffing reaches 165 F. If the turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is also recommended that a food thermometer be used to test in several places, including the innermost part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing. For more safety tips, check out www.fsis.usda.gov...

Chefs agree that the key to cooking a great turkey this Thanksgiving is making sure it is tender and not too browned.

Bill Hamil, owner of the Steamboat Meat and Seafood Co., says to soak the bird for four hours before cooking it.

"If you put the turkey in 1 cup of salt to every 2 gallons of water, it will break down the muscles and tenderize the turkey," Hamil says. "This does add a lot of sodium to the bird though, so if you are on a low-salt diet watch out."

For those who are looking for an alternative to basting, Hamil recommends soaking a cheesecloth in salad oil, then laying the cloth over the breast of the turkey.

"This way you won't have to baste, but the turkey won't get too brown," Hamil said. For the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove the cloth and the turkey will be browned to perfection.

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