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Why you should start preparing your holiday turkey now: RRC culinary instructor

Global News / File

Planning on serving turkey at your family holiday dinner? A culinary instructor at Winnipeg’s Red River College says you’d better get started.

Chef Gordon Bailey of the college’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts told 680 CJOB that turkeys should be out of the freezer by now with only a few days to go until Christmas.

“It should definitely be out of the freezer by now, because you’re looking at, honestly, refrigerated temperatures to defrost a turkey, three to four days,” he said.

“So you’re gonna be behind the eight-ball right now if your turkey’s still frozen. There’s good news for those that might still have a frozen turkey. If you do it under cold running water, you’ll be able to defrost it much more rapidly than leaving it in the fridge.”

Bailey said leaving a turkey – or any type of meat – out at room temperature to defrost is never a good idea, as you might encourage bacterial growth.

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Chef Gordon Bailey. Red River College

To avoid serving a dry bird to your holiday guests, there are a few options you can try.

“No one wants dry turkey. You want to have a moist, delicious turkey, and there’s quite a few ways to do that,” said Bailey.

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“(Option) A is to roast it for the appropriate amount of time, and obviously that depends on the size of the bird… What you want to do is always go with the tried, tested and true, and use a probe thermometer and check the internal temp of your turkey. The Foodsafe Canada guide is right around 170 degrees, and that should give you a nice, juicy, plump tasty bird.”

Bailey said his preferred option to keep a turkey moist is to submerge it in a salty brine solution, so the salt disrupts the protein in the bird’s flesh and allows it to take on some water content.

Because a Christmas turkey can often be quite sizable, some homes may not have a big enough pot for the brining process. No problem, said Bailey – just head down to your local hardware store.

“If you have a pot that’s large enough, great, but what really works well is these 16 litre, 18 litre pails from your Home Depot. That’ll hold a turkey really well.

“All you’re wanting to do is cover the turkey with water. If it tastes kind of like ocean water, then you’re probably safe to use that for your brining liquid. If you add too much salt, you’re going to start to cure the turkey and that’s going to almost dry it out a bit.”

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…and if you’d rather go out for a meal this holiday season, Bailey said Winnipeg is becoming a bit of a culinary star within the national community of foodies.

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“I spent 17 years on the east coast, in Prince Edward Island, and just recently moved back five years ago.

“From when I left to when I came back, the dining scene has changed insurmountably here in Winnipeg. The amount of independent restaurants, the talent pool with the chefs, the young cooks the college is unleashing into this culinary landscape… it’s phenomenal.

“Winnipeg was always a decent city for food 20 years ago but now it’s becoming on everybody’s radar. We have some of the best restaurants, I wanna say, in Canada, for sure.”

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